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.