It’s winter, it’s cold, it snows

By Mike Murphy

A long time ago, back when, believe it or not, people used phones to actually talk to other human beings, it seemed that it snowed a lot more than it does today. Maybe it was just the fact that I was shorter as a kid, but I recall walking down sidewalks that were more like tunnels during the winters when I was growing up in Omaha. Snow was piled so high that the city had to post avalanche warning signs along the sidewalk.

My dad was pretty fanatical about keeping our sidewalks shoveled. And back then we didn’t have any of these modern high-tech shovels that resemble some sort of Star Wars weapon. They’re not even called “shovels” anymore. Now there’s the Back-Saver Lite Wate, the Penguin Snoboss, the Ergonomic Mountain Mover, and the Wovel which looks more like it’s meant to plow the north forty.

For some reason, I have a real hard time imagining my dad saying, “It’s snowing, son. Let’s break out the Penguin Snoboss.”

The truth is that it’s really a wonder I’m not bent over like Quasimodo from shoveling snow with one of those solid steel coal shovels which weighed more than I did as a fourth-grader. You had to be careful with those things so that you didn’t accidentally take out a chunk of sidewalk cement while shoveling.

Of course, snow blowers had not been invented yet, though I know darn well that Dad would not have wasted the money on one since he had five boys in the family. Actually, we boys were lucky Dad splurged on a lawn mower and didn’t make us cut the grass in the summer with scissors.

On the plus side, all that snow when we were kids was an economic boon. Early in the morning after a good dumping of snow we would eat breakfast, grab our shovels, and head down the street going door-to-door looking for shoveling jobs. Never see kids doing that anymore. In fact, ask a kid today if he shovels snow and he’s likely to respond, “Is that on Xbox?”

Today it seems as if the media is just now catching onto the fact that in the winter it’s supposed to be cold and snow a lot. In fact, weather people sort of act like a kid who suddenly learns to ride a bike and you can’t get him off of it. What’s worse is that meteorologists seem to be constantly looking for new ways to terrify us by making a cold front or snow flurries sound as threatening as some sort of zombie invasion.

I think The Weather Channel has to be held somewhat responsible for this development. First, simply by being a news outlet completely devoted to the one thing that people love to talk about but are totally helpless to do anything about — weather. Well, if you’re going to get people to watch your channel, you better have something exciting to peddle, like BAD weather.

The weather does not even need to be currently taking place; it can be 30 days into the future. It can be something as vague and uncertain as “a massive front over Siberia which could be our next source of imminent danger, so better stock up on food, water, and batteries so you can stay tuned and listen to our updates every five minutes while huddling with the family in the basement and stuck for a month with that crazy aunt who keeps repeating the same story about ‘the big one of ’47.’”

It also seems as if a thermometer reading of minus 10 degrees isn’t cold enough anymore, now we have to be further tormented with something called “wind-chill,” defined as the perceived decrease in air temperature felt by the body . . . blah, blah, blah. Or, what used to be more simply and colorfully referred to as “freezing your butt off.” So why doesn’t the weather person just say that: “Hey, if you go outside today you’re going to freeze your butt off.” Okay, got it. So now let’s move onto something important like sports.

In addition, we can’t just have a snow storm nowadays. No, it has to be a “monster storm” or “titanic blizzard” or, when meteorologists run out of single-word adjectives, “the third storm of the century this week!”

Another way in which The Weather Channel is guilty of creating high anxiety over looming winter storms is that the channel came up with the idea of naming storms, starting with “Winter Storm Athena” in November of 2011. There is even a Facebook page called “Stop The Weather Channel from naming storms.” Several people have posted sarcastic comments like “When will we start naming sunny days?” and “Next will be individual snowflakes!!”

I have to admit that some of the snow storm names people have come up with are amusing. One can’t help but chuckle at names like Apocablizzard, Snowzilla, Snowbama, and Edward Snowed In. I even made up one recently with a political connotation: Trump Dump.

Mike Murphy of Pocatello is an award-winning columnist with accolades including an Associated Press first-place award in column writing and a first place award in a national writing contest sponsored by Nissan Corp. His articles are syndicated by Senior Wire.