Winters here and there

I don’t suspect that my own experiences during our recent weather difficulties were much different from anyone else’s. I do think, however, that I suffered at least a bit less here, thanks to many learning experiences I had during 23 long, long-ago Chicago area winters. 

You would think that a geographic place where very bad winters are the norm, not a surprise, would be fully prepared for them. But at least during the time I lived there, we residents often compared our home city, not too favorably, to Minneapolis’ foresight and preparation for deep cold and deep snow to match: That city KNEW what would come and was ready for it; ours always maintained that maybe the current year might not be as bad as the last one… 

I lived on a straight street with eight houses in a row, each with a covered carport but no garage. On many winter days, I would wake up early enough to get warmly dressed for being outdoors, and go out to shovel the driveway so that I could back the car out and make it to work. Street cleaning was always good, but sometimes too good: I’d shovel out my drive, go back into the house, get undressed, take a shower, dress for work, put on a warm winter coat (I left my sheepskin one as a gift to a friend when I moved to Dallas) and go out to start the car — which I had left with the hood partially up and a light bulb burning inside, thanks to a long cord running from my kitchen’s most slightly open door. That’s when I almost inevitably found that a snowplow had come through while I was dressing, and I had to shovel-out all over again…

Here, it was different: no need to shovel because my car was stuck in the garage; its door is powered by electricity, and I had none. But I had learned much else: I’d already covered all outdoor water connections at the first whisper of what might be in store, and left the faucets throughout the house running at a slow drip. I also emptied the contents of my freezer into several large, heavy-duty plastic trash bags and set them outside my front door. When I brought them in a couple of days later — after spending more than one of them away from home — everything was still solid!

(Words to the wise: Take note of all the above, and take action the next time a winter storm threatens. Don’t think that it won’t ever happen again. And don’t ever again make fun of people who believe in climate change!)

Now things are pretty much settled down, and our various experiences tucked away into our memory banks, to be brought out and retold for years to come, just as I’m now telling you mine. Here is the crowning story of my past winter life: One bitter night, when the snow had finally stopped and a bright moon was shining above us, I and the seven other homeowners in our row all went outside to shovel out our own driveways. We waved and laughed as we worked. But soon realizing we couldn’t lift a full shovel up high enough to put its snow load anywhere but back down, we all waved to each other again, threw our shovels into the snow piles, and retreated to indoor warmth. And that night, someone came down our block and stole all our shovels! So, another warning: if — and when — any of this should happen here again, take your shovel back inside with you!

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