Hey, you OK up in frigid Fargo?
My friends in various parts of the country watch The Weather Channel just to see how cold it is where I live. Most of them are natives of southern New England, where a cold winter day is 20 degrees; where a snowstorm is a few inches that melts qu...
My friends in various parts of the country watch The Weather Channel just to see how cold it is where I live. Most of them are natives of southern New England, where a cold winter day is 20 degrees; where a snowstorm is a few inches that melts quickly into road slush. Winter? They ain't got a clue.
December's weather in Fargo and North Dakota made news across the country. The Weather Channel had people in Fargo and Bismarck, broadcasting live as blizzards roared over the state. My friends in relatively warm climes took note.
"You OK up there?" asked an old friend who recently migrated from New Hampshire to North Carolina. He was calling from his deck, which overlooks the lake, where he'd just returned from a wetsuit-warmed swim. Swimming is his primary exercise.
"Yeah, Bob, I'm fine," I said patiently. "We're prepared for cold up here, you know."
He didn't buy it. "I saw the Weather Channel guys standing in a blizzard in downtown Fargo," he said. "Looked awful!"
"Well," I ventured, "it was quite a storm. But nothing we haven't seen before. No big deal."
He still wasn't buying it. "No big deal! You've got to be kidding!"
"No big deal," I repeated. "We expect this stuff, and we're prepared for it. You know, our cars are winterized, houses built well, cities have lots of snowplows. All that."
No sale. "But you can't go outside when it's 20 below zero, can you?"
"Of course you can," I said, a little less patiently. "You put on a winter coat, for God's sake. You wear winter boots and gloves and a scarf. Geeze Bob, you lived in New Hampshire. You know what cold is."
Long pause from the lakeside home in North Carolina. "You know, Jack," he mused, "when I lived in New Hampshire, I thought it was cold. Where I lived in New Hampshire - you remember, the south part - nothing like Fargo. But what you get out there - how do you take it?"
"One day at a time," I said. "One day at a time."
I wanted to say we're heartier, we're tougher. Our good character is defined by the harsh weather. But I don't believe that myself, even if it is the winter mantra of coffee shops, service club luncheons and church breakfasts.
Besides, when we describe ourselves in such a way, the inference can be we're better than people who live in other places; or at least, they are not as good. But it's not true, as anyone who's lived in other states or traveled a lot knows.
As for my friend, Bob, he's a good guy and would be a good guy no matter where he lived. I find the same is true for friends in Virginia, California and New Jersey. Yes, even New Jersey, where we all know nearly everyone is corrupt ...
So, to my friends who worry about me and mine in wintry Fargo: Don't. We're just fine, thank you, even as we curse and growl at winter's worst. Even as we wrap ourselves in the fiction that it builds character to dig through hip-deep snow, suffer frostbite on the short walk from parking lot to office door or drive white-knuckled through a blizzard.
Readers can reach Forum Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org