Johnson: Coping mechanisms for the cold days of January

FARGO - It's a cold one out there. That simple observation is painfully true every day in January.

Ryan Johnson, Features Reporter, The Forum
Ryan Johnson, Features Reporter, The Forum

FARGO – It's a cold one out there.

That simple observation is painfully true every day in January. It's especially applicable when the temperature drops below 0 and even a tauntaun would risk frostbite if it left the couch.

We're residents of one of the coldest climates in the world, but North Dakotans and Minnesotans have an innate ability to downplay the brutal reality of this time of year. Maybe it's our hatred of talking about problems, or it could be a passive-aggressive version of bragging about our hardiness.

Whatever the cause, we're good at finding some kind of a silver lining on days when it's colder on the porch than inside a freezer. Here are five ways of getting in on the passive-aggressive action as a coping mechanism for the cold days of January.

"It's a dry cold." This riff on Southerners' insistence that 120 degrees really doesn't feel too hot because the humidity is low is a perfect way to start.


While much of the country stays inside on hot days, air conditioners on full blast, we hunker down in the winter and wait for the spring thaw. The lack of moisture in our Arctic air might not make the temperature feel any better, but it can't hurt.

"At least it isn't snowing." North Dakotans could spend their morning defrosting a kitten's paws from a parking lot, replacing their dead car battery and amputating a few frostbitten fingers and they'd still be able to make this proclamation without a hint of irony.

Some might say it isn't snowing because it's too cold for snow to be possible, but they'd never say it aloud to another North Dakotan - it's probably best to keep it inside and not trouble someone else about it, right?

"The sun is out." Cold temperatures are bad enough, but things get downright depressing after a few cloudy days.

A single sunbeam won't counteract life-threatening wind chills, of course. Still, a little sunlight can make that penguin shuffle out to the car much less daunting. Just don't leave any skin exposed.

"It's not windy today." This one is a lie because it's constantly windy here.

Instead, we really mean the wind is not gusting, and that makes all the difference in wind chill values. Twenty below is cold, but it's nothing compared to the feeling of 40 below on a breezy day.

"It keeps the riffraff out." This proverbial phrase is overheard in every cafe and convenience store, promulgating the mistaken idea that our brutal winters somehow keep our population limited to only the noblest, hardiest and most modest humans to ever grace the planet.


It's a bit elitist, so I instead think of "riffraff" as referring to something we really don't have to deal with in January - bugs.

Enjoy these rare days when walking outside isn't an invitation to be swarmed and stung and bitten by weird critters that want to drink our blood and eat our food. It's the perfect time of year to enjoy an insect-free picnic, even if the food will freeze before we can eat it.

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