Minnesotans and the folks that live here have a great deal of pride. And I suppose it is rightfully so. There is a certain amount of bragging rights you earn by living in a place that easily has temperatures of 15 below in the winter and wind chills well below that. It is no easy task managing a snow pack for half the year and all the freezing, wet messiness that comes with it.
I laugh in the face of this pride, or I have at least historically laughed in the face of it. I roll my eyes with the rest of the east coasters at the ho-hum boringness of the midwest lifestyle. “Minne-where? Where is that? Is it somewhere in the middle?” I shirked at the thought of moving to a fly-over, one of those states in the middle of the country that they don’t bother teaching about in geography on the coasts because, after all, none of those states really matter. They are all kind of the same and blend together anyway. But yesterday, it happened. Crap.
I work at the University of Minnesota and managing the campus in the winter has been a bit of a challenge. The sidewalks are generally not super clear, especially this year with it snowing just a little every day or every other day for a while. I’ve almost bit the dust a few times on my way to my office because of the packed down snow and ice that is inevitably on the roads and sidewalks. So, for Christmas I received a nifty little present called Yak-Trax. They are worn on the bottoms of your boots and keep you from slipping and sliding. Those have really helped. And when I hear that it is going to be cold (below 10) I make sure I layer up. Long underwear, wool socks, boots (my cow-girl boots with rubber tread-they make me feel like I’m giving a little sass to Old Man Winter), jeans, shirt, fleece,down jacket, scarf, hat (or as my Minnesota friend calls it “stocking cap”), hood with Eskimo fur pulled up over said hat and gloves. And off I go, usually walking 8 blocks or so from the stadium parking lot to my building. If it’s below zero, as it has been this week, I pay a little extra to park in this underground garage that is only about 3 blocks from my building. (I do however always feel like there is a really good chance I am going to get mugged in there, but I’m pretty sure that’s the Jersey in me talking.) And I have done this, without much complaining, all winter.
I usually listen to the radio through my headphones as I walk (totally antisocial I know but no one talks to you on campus anyway-see my post about MN nice). Yesterday, as I emerged from the underground parking deck, the weather guy on the radio came on. “It’s 2 below in the Twin Cities with a wind chill of 20 below.” “Brrrr…..,” I thought, but I had on all my layers, so I was feeling pretty toasty. Then as I approached my building, the national news came on. “Chicago residents are being warned to stay inside. Spend as little time outside as possible. It’s 8 degrees in the Windy City with a windchill of 5 below” “Pshhht,” I thought as I walked along, “they’re not warning us to stay inside and it’s colder here.” I looked around PRIDEFULLY as I considered myself and the bustling campus around me full of people all going along, living our lives despite the absurdly cold temperatures. There were so many people out and about that if it weren’t for the extra layers we were all wearing, you’d have thought it was spring. “We just keep on living here,” I thought. “We know how to just keep going.” YIKES. I stopped myself as I realized I may have just had a moment of Minnesota pride, a feeling like, whether I like it or not, by sheer necessity, I’ve become a “Brave one of the North.” Aw man, how did THAT happen. I better move SOON!