My dogs told me to eff off this morning. I think my wife did as well . . . though she didn’t really mean it. She just gets in a mood when it gets down to 44 degrees below zero.
My dogs got attitude because I made them go outside. Both Abby, our pug mix, and Bone, our cranky old American Bulldog, decided that they would pass on going out this morning and would just poop in the house. That’s not how it works. Abby had to be physically carried to the door and placed outside. Her eyes said it all as she went over the snow mound and did her business.
I wasn’t even done loading the Keurig before she was ready to come in. She side-eyed me on her way in. I called for Bone. He just blinked and pretended to be in a coma. He is good at coma. I started to get grouchy myself as the cold seeped in through the open door. I went to get Bone. He is too big to carry, but not too big to drag. He glared at me and got off the couch and made his way to the door. He took two steps out the door and peed all over the deck. Then he turned around, looked me right in the eye and dropped his doggy logs on the deck. He wiggled a few times and walked back in. With a vast amount of dignity he waddled to the couch and resumed his coma.
I made the coffee and went upstairs. “Good Morning!” I said brightly. I thought a little cheer might get some of the gloom off the morning. A noise came from under the covers that vaguely sounded like “eff off”. I was not surprised. Out household really doesn’t do mornings. “What?” I said.
My wife’s head appeared from the pile of Eli and pillows surround her. Eli, our youngest, hasn’t been getting in our bed as much lately. However, when the world is frozen he seeks warmth and finds his mommy.
“Good Morning,” she said with little enthusiasm.
Our mornings are spent mostly in denial. We just aren’t morning people. It gets worse in the winter. It gets much worse when Mother Nature gets this twisted sense of humor and makes your back yard colder than the blast chiller contestants use on the Food Network show “Chopped” to save their failed ice cream.
We usually take two cars to work, even though I work in her law firm, because we have different schedules and I try to get home before the boys get home from school. This morning she left with the boys and dropped them at the bus stop. I was just stepping out of the house when she called and told me she was coming back so we could ride together. It is our mutual stance that harrowing and scary ordeals are best when shared.
Going outside at -44 is like going deep sea diving. When I was an aircraft mechanic with the Air National Guard, we would put on heavy coveralls and gloves and headgear at these temperatures. I always felt like one of those guys from the movie “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” as I plodded around in my winter gear at 40 below zero.
It’s a little different now. I wore heavy fleece gear and my normal shoes this morning. My wife was dressed similarly. Driving to work in our truck was like taking a submersible deep in the ocean. Things just seem different. Visibility is cut down considerably by fog and haze. We don’t wear heavy clothing but we keep it handy at these temperatures just in case we have to get out of our submersible unexpectedly.
The local media has made a really big deal out of this cold snap. We are expecting this to last for several days before it warms up just enough to snow some more. January has been a very “weathery” month for us. We had a big dump of snow around the New Year and now it has gotten cold. Words like ‘Legendary’ and ‘Epic’ have been thrown around. I just call it January. You see . . . I lived through the Winter of ’89. I realize how much of a codger I just became by simply writing a sentence that used an apostrophe and a number to describe a point in time. I get it.
The Winter of ’89 has achieved legend status. It has been highly exaggerated and turned into much more of an event than it really was . . . but it was really, really cold.
I won’t look up the actual numbers but I remember almost a month of -30 with three weeks of -40 and several days of -50 with the accompanying ice fog and frozen pipes and dead cars.
Regardless of the official temperatures in the Winter of ’89, people who lived through it will tell different stories. That is because of a rarely talked about phenomenon that can be found in our area and is prevalent in the winter. I call it the ‘That’s Nothing!” phenomenon. Briefly described it involves one person mentioning how cold it was at there house according to their thermometer. Let’s say one person mentions that it was -34 at their house. Somebody will invariably yell a version of ‘That’s Nothing!’ and announce that their thermometer said -37. Somebody else will lower the number and somebody else will lower that number . . . you get what I am saying. This phenomenon was wildly common during the winter of ’89. Telephone apps and online weather sites have made this phenomena a bit less common, but I am sure that it still happens.
The thing about the Winter of ’89 was that we got through it. Just like we will get through this cold snap. We haven’t had a prolonged -40 episode, that I know of, in several years. That doesn’t mean, however, that it doesn’t get cold in Alaska. Each year the temps drop into “Oh My God” range. They just haven’t stayed there in awhile.
This cold snap will be a learning experience. People who haven’t seen this before will learn how to drive, work and just live in it. The learning curve will be steep, but doable. Even those of us who have been here 30 years can learn something new. Like just today I learned that doggy logs freeze to the deck instantly. That is definitely information I can use.
Thanks for reading and sharing. Happy New Year to all our friends. I promise we will talk again soon on This Side of the Diaper.