The basement files: Life, the universe and everything … at 42 below


What the heck was that nonsense? Pardon the pun, but that was not cool Mother Nature, not cool at all. It was colder than Mars for crying out loud! Now, I may be a born and bred Minnesotan with the body-type of a walrus (see: shaggy whiskers and “insulation”) but 50-below? That’s like getting hit across the face with that legendary brass brazier that witches have a penchant for wearing this month of the year…or so I’ve been told. It was so cold the hair on your head, among other places, can freeze solid. It was officially too cold, and it made me a little crabby, so sorry in advance. I’m suffering from a touch of cabin fever, and I’m all out of cabin aspirin.

Monday, I think we can all agree was pretty brutal. Heck, the Governor closed all the schools in the state, and even Stillwater closed on Tuesday! Which surprised me because, well let’s be honest here, Stillwater Area Public Schools never close, they are well known, or dare I say infamous for it. I know, I attended it from K-12, and drove bus for them through college, and we worked through bitter cold, blizzards, and worse…flu outbreaks! Yeah, we drove through the worst of it, even when we probably shouldn’t have, and every other district surrounding us was closed. Ok, enough 834 bashing for now, just remember your bus driver come the end of the year. Those folks are troopers, sleet, snow, barf, they plow through it all and get no respect, throw em’ a gift card or something, they deserve it.

Another thing that bothered me this past week is the constant reminder that we are “hearty Minnesotans,” followed immediately by stories about “preparing for the cold.” Does this contradiction bug anyone else? On the one hand, we are “Minnesotan,” we live for the cold, we embrace the cold, we live the cold… but apparently don’t know how to deal with it. It’s insulting. So, let me ask you, who is the target audience for the nightly news, or even a local newspaper (which before you forget, you should re-up your subscription!)?  That’s right, adults. Ever try to get kids to watch the news?

Now I still, for some reason or another, have some faith in the common sense of man. Which is why I had to just sigh and shake my head when I heard some talking head on the television say “the first thing you should do when it’s cold outside is to make sure you have a jacket.” Have we fallen so far as a society that adults need to be reminded to put on a coat when it’s cold? “Wow, it’s really cold outside…I’m going to take off my pants and go get the mail” said no one, ever. You got to give your viewers and readers more credit than that. I do, I am fully confident that all my readers wear pants when they get the mail.

This could also be counter-productive. Telling someone not to do something, no matter how rational it sounds, will always come off as a “dare” to someone. “Wear a jacket? I don’t think so! You’re not the boss of me!” I’m even guilty of this to a point. I hear it every year, “dress in layers.” No. I will wear what I want to wear that will keep me at a comfortable level, and should I venture out into the cold I have a heavy-duty winter jacket that will keep me warm in the deepest parts of Siberia. Layers are just a waste of clothes, (and my theory is that it’s a giant conspiracy by Big Detergent to get you to wash your clothes more, but that’s a different column,) but how are people going to know that “I’m with stupid” if I’m wearing another shirt, hoodie, sweater, and overcoat on top of it!

Perhaps I’m letting this bother me too much. Perhaps I’ve let the weather get to me, or perhaps it’s not just the cold that’s bitter…but at least it’s over now, the days are getting longer and heck, we’ve got temps above zero! The end is in sight folks, summer is just around the corner…or south of the equator if you feel like travelling.

Chris Hamble is a freelance writer and humor columnist serving newspapers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is a lifelong Stillwater resident.