Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Monday, February 11, 2013

Embarrassed for Minnesotans

I'm just a little bit embarrassed for Minnesota today.

Time was when it would have taken a two-foot snowstorm and/or -30 degree temps for a week or two before we'd get at all concerned about the weather. We delighted in being a state that could stoically bear anything and everything the weather gods could throw at us. Not any more, it seems; we've become a state of wimps, judging from the evidence of the last two days.

Over the weekend, the local television news stations were touting a serious and dangerous winter storm bearing in from the southwest. When I looked at the details of the forecast, though, I was rather taken aback: 3-6" of snow, mixed with a little sleet.

And in the event itself, the situation for even more tame—about 2.5-3", maybe.

Now, this is starts to qualify as meaningful
 snow. In my day, we thought nothing of
walking to school barefoot in weather like this.
Not like today's wimpy youth. 
This is no "storm," for crying out loud.  It's barely even a snowfall worth mentioning. Surely back in the day (which is to say the 1950s through 80s) we would barely have given this little bit of weather a second glance. It's no more newsworthy than a full moon once a month. But for the last decade or two, Minnesota has become almost as nervous about the weather as, say, Charlotte NC. It's starting to be embarrassing.

In recent years, the typical evening news forecast of a local television affiliate dedicates a full 15 minutes out of  a thirty minute broadcast to hysteria about the weather. And it isn't just a winter phenomenon; in the summer months, we're now quite hysterical about the incredibly faint odds that we will be sucked up by a tornado during one of the frequent thunderstorms that plague the midwest from April to August.

These days, it's really not uncommon now for Minnesota schools to close if we get a foot of snow, and for mothers to huddle in the basement with their kids if there is a report of a possible tornado 200 or 300 miles away. Back in the days of Geezer youth, on the other hand, I remember exactly zero days when we closed school for snow; and a pending thunderstorm was an opportunity for kids to gather in the yard in excitement and stare with wonder at the sky, hoping desperately that we might see a funnel cloud.

Now, Minnesota has always been overly fascinated by the weather. It comes from our farm heritage, where favorable weather could bless your family's financial stability, and a terrible storm might mean utter bankruptcy. But the traditional farmer, while obsessed with the weather, was and is still a pretty stoic guy. What in the world has lead to this recent collapse of Minnesota weather stoicism?

It is, I think, partly because we have universally become a nation feeling entitled to continual comfort. Our cars these days have dual climate controls—as though it's too much to ask a husband and wife to agree on the temperature settings. We have leather seats that heat our asses in the winter, and cool them in the summer.  It seems to escape people that it makes sense to feel cold when it's cold outside, and to sweat when it's hot. Bad weather is uncomfortable, and hence we feel entitled to complain about it a lot,  since we believe our right to never-ending comfort is inviolable.

Secondly, though, and maybe more importantly, I blame the news media. The networks and local affiliates seem quite desperate for drama these days, and since there is weather every day they must make good use of it for the 24-hour news cycle. Minnesota is not a state where there is a lot of traditional drama, so we make full use of weather to feed the news cycle beast. There is nothing so obvious as the disappointment of a television weather forecaster who must acknowledge that the "storm of the century" he'd been predicting was a flat-out lie.

I hate to say it, but we Minnesotans are on the verge of losing our reputation to the folks in Massachusetts and Connecticut, who didn't complain much at all when they were just belted with 3 ft. of snow. They will complain loads about the Celtics and Patriots, but bear an ice storm very nicely.

Suck it up, fellow Minnesotans. I want to hear no more complaining about the weather this year. Or at least not until ice-fishing season starts next November.


  1. Minnesotans are supposed to be a stronger breed than most of us in the U.S. Out here in sunny Southern California, we don't really have much weather at all. It's pretty much always mild. If there is a 10% chance of a quarter inch of rain here, all the news channels start there "Storm Track" or "Storm Watch." It's both amusing and pathetic at the same time.

  2. I hear 'ya. When all else fails, trot out the weatherguesser and his "Storm Trackers". Here in Texas as you might imagine snow IS a big deal. Not that we're afraid of it, but that it is just DIFFERENT. I've seen reporters on the street pointing down at a tiny dusting of snow, trying to stretch this weather phenomonen in a 3 minute segment. It's ridiculous!


  3. As a former member of the news media, I plead "guilty as charged." I can remember the day when a rain storm moved through Phoenix, Arizona . . where I worked then . . and the next day the "relatively new" news director chewed everyone's butts because we didn't lead the newscast with this huge weather story.

    I grew up in North Dakota. I knew storms and blizzards and such. This was just a sudden heavy rain. But from then on, we always covered any kind of "out of the ordinary" weather event like it was the Second Coming of . . . Elvis. (Bet you thought I was going to say someone else!)

    It has become ridiculous. Even with this huge snowstorm in the northeast, as an old North Dakotan I'm saying . . "So . . .???"

  4. As usual, Mercurious has spotted a tell-tale symptom of social erosion. Certainly the media (and fear-mondering in general is a pricipal culprit here. But I also see at work here evidence of a basic human need being ignored. We need a sabbath. Traditionally, this has been provided on a weekly basis through a variety of faith traditions, but the religious aspect of it is not what is of essence here. We may need time and space to commune with our deity of choice, but what is more certain is that we need TIME OFF from things. We need time in which nothing is planned, nothing is expected of us, and in which we are free to sit ponder, brood, or otherwise take a thankful psuchological breather.

    It is my theory that one reason so many people rush to invoke the exuse of weather to cancel things is that we have become too incessantly scheduled. We no longer have a socially-enforced day of rest (I now realize how foolish I was to criticize businesses being closed on Sunday in my youth) and so the "snow day" emerges as one of the very few moments in our frantic lives in which we feel free to knock off and do nothing without fear if implied reprisal from one corner or another. As much as it bugs me to have things cancelled, there is something a bit psychologically cozy sitting at home (or in the office if you ignore the silliness and come in anyway) in a swowfall-induced calm, peacefully thinking about whatever comes to mind, thinking that if anything "productive" happens that would exceed expectations.

    Has "snow day" become our new (and numerically insufficient) sabbath?

    1. Interesting theory, Professor. And interesting that you see my "thing" as spotting signs of social erosion. That, I thought, was really your own bailiwick. I pale by comparison to your mastery in this arena.

      You have a point, though, about us perhaps looking for any time off excuse possible, since our routines no longer allow any.


  5. Please please please send some of that snow here to KY :)

  6. Blame TV news and their "Stormgasms." And they can always find a news whore willing to cry about how hard the weather is on them.