Wednesday, March 02, 2005


It has done nothing but snow in Michigan for the past week. Every morning, I wake up to another blanket covering my driveway, my deck and my car, and I have paid neighboring teenagers almost daily to shovel my drive. There are two of them and they greet snow with eager enthusiasm, knowing they can rake in a few bucks because of it. I can't recognize them, because they wear hats and hoods and heavy coats, but I know them. One of them looks like Darth Vader, black, dyed hair, tattoos, earrings. The other one is more like Clay Aiken, prim and polished.

They work hard, though, and I always breathe a sigh of relief when the snow is gone. It makes driving almost impossible. I was creeping through our small town the other day when suddenly an avalanche of snow fell onto my windshield from the top of my car. The windshield wipers immediately froze up and stopped. I couldn't see a thing.

I managed to pull over on the side of the road and got out and clawed at the ice that had immediately formed around the wipers. It took awhile, but I finally got them going again. Then I discovered the spray of windshield washer fluid was doing a good job sprinkling the passenger window, but was spraying nothing on the driver's windshield. I solved that problem by reaching up to the top of the car and flinging snow onto the windshield. Sometimes I am amazingly innovative. One has to be, in order to survive.

Snow isn't all that bad in December, and perhaps even January. But, by March, it has become an irritant. It isn't white. It is a dismal shade of gray. The sky is also a dismal shade of gray. The trees are barren black limbs in the foggy horizon. The earth is frozen as hard as granite, but the snow is wet and slushy, horrible black liquid that soaks your boots and drips onto the floorboards of your car as you climb in.

You are depressed to the very center of your being, the marrow of your bones. Even when the sun shines, which it seldom does, the air stays so cold it is almost as though the sun is taunting you. "Ha. Ha. See what you're missing! Well, I'm not warming you up, nosirree!"

If you've ever wondered what eternity is like, move to Michigan in the wintertime. Our winter is forever. Every minute is an hour. Every week is a month. We try to enjoy life. We hold parades, with the audience standing on the curbs, wrapped in several layers of wool, shivering, drinking hot chocolate, noses dripping. We have Groundhog Day festivals, when some silly little animal proclaims there will be six more weeks of winter. More like months, usually.

Kids love winter. They like to go sledding and throw snowballs and build snow forts. I can remember mushing through snow with great delight, rolling in it, enjoying it. But as I get older, I get colder. I take each snowflake as a personal insult. I hanker for Spring, for sunshine, for lilacs, for tulips pushing through the ground.

Drive South. Reach Georgia. Step out of your car and let the warm air permeate your cold bones. Breathe deeply, because the air won't slice your lungs like a iced knife. And revel in the golden sunshine. Of course, it's not all peaches and cream in Georgia, even though it's the Home of the Peach or some such nonsense. If you are driving, you will have to go through Atlanta. This is like joining the cars at the Daytona 500. I mean, the entire world is driving cars in Atlanta. The city never sleeps. They just drive around, every one of them, and you have to weave your way through them.

But, the truth is, climatewise, the South is far more comfortable than the North. Yet those Southerners will tell you they yearn for snow. They want to see the ice clinging to the trees and the sun turning the frigid world to a wonderland of diamond-like glitter. They MISS the winter!

We all know people who claim their favorite season is wintertime. They have these big red or orange suits that make them look like astronauts heading for outer space. Only their noses are visible, red and dripping, as they take off on their skis or their snowmobiles and are invigorated by the chill. They are almost always obnoxiously hearty and cheerful. They like blizzards. While people like myself sit in easy chairs, wrapped in blankets, nibbling chocolates, watching old movies and the History Channel's life of Hitler, they are chugging through the snow, chortling, revving the engines of their little Skidaddles, zipping around like crazed beings.

Such people should be banished to Antartica. just as the British sent the criminals to Australia. There, they could get their fill of sleet and snow, and allow the rest of us to moan and groan as normal people should.

One problem about winter is that it seems to be the favorite season for appliances to just stop working. Either the furnace goes out or the water will freeze up, or the snowblower will refuse to blow. It's inevitable. The furnace is my pet peeve. When it goes out in the wintertime, you are doomed. You will wait in a frigid house, warmed only by little heaters or a fireplace, and you will wait for a long while. Finally, that blessed repairman arrives, bringing with him his soggy footprints over the carpeting, but welcomed as no arrival before him. With luck, he can get the thing started again. Then you pay the hefty bill, but you are warm again.

I carry an insurance policy that I pay along with a fuel bill. It covers everything imaginable, except the thing that goes wrong. For instance, my water heater is covered, but the pipes are not. My water heater has the stamina of an old warhorse, but those pipes are made of Kleenex.

But, on a cheerier note, winter can't stay around forever. Eventually, Spring will come and bring some sunshine to warm our bones. Then we can stop cursing our ancestors for settling in the North and get on with our lives. Then, too, we can start complaining about the heat and humidity.