By Bill Buchanan
No wonder so many people choose to live in California. While much of the rest of the country digs out from the last major snowstorm and braces for the next, we have seen temperatures in the 70s and 80s here. Dallas made news last Sunday when ice and snow posed travel problems with many trying to get to the Super Bowl. Earlier that week some workers were injured prior to the game when they were hit by ice falling from the stadium. On Sunday I watched the game sitting outside on a friend’s patio, enjoying a flawless day. It is wonderful.
People in the South are going through some abnormally cold weather with ice and snow on roadways and bridges. Those in the Northeast and Midwest are enduring absolutely brutal weather. One of Ava’s cousins in Nebraska wrote to say that the wind chill was -37 below zero last week. Even writing that number makes me shiver.
When chatting with friends, I can hear the envy in their voices whenever the subject turns to the weather. “It was 18 degrees here last night. I guess it’s perfect out there in California,” they say, their voices dripping with sarcasm. “Well,” I answer, “not really. It was only 74 here today. We’re hoping some warmer weather will move in soon.” Chuckle, chuckle.
I cannot print what they reply to that.
I have lived in some cold climates, and do not exactly long for them. My first job out of college was in Missouri, just south of St. Louis. For someone who had lived his entire life in the South, the winter there was a shock. I was an advertising salesman, which meant a lot of driving on snow and ice. Sliding around in the car, desperately trying to avoid the other poor souls sliding around in their cars, got old quickly. One morning I was running late and didn’t finish drying my hair properly. I spent a considerable amount of time scraping ice off the windshield that day before finally arriving at the office. Note: It was then that I learned the definition of an ice scraper —- something that falls out of the glove compartment all summer, hides in the winter, and breaks when you try to use it.
As I was taking off my overcoat, I felt a strange sensation on the back of my head. I touched my hair to find that it was frozen. I didn’t even know that could happen. That was it for me. I chucked my briefcase, flung my coat to the floor, and announced to all present, “You are all idiots for living up here in this mess! I am an idiot, too,” I continued, “but the difference is that I will be gone from here this time next year!” The folks in office found my little rant amusing.
But true to my word, I did get transferred before the next winter. However, my transfer took me to Hot Springs, S.D. — which made Missouri look like San Diego. That winter, we were treated to 10 days in a row where the temperature (not including wind chill) was 10 degrees below zero or colder, dipping down to a nippy -22 degrees below one night.
My Southern friends asked me how cold that felt. I explained that when it was -22 below, no matter how many clothes you had on, you felt like you were sitting naked on a block of ice.
As if to add insult to injury, they called our little area of South Dakota “The Banana Belt.” The first time I heard this phrase I asked how you could possibly call a place where the current temperature sat at minus 5 below 0 with 6 inches of snow coming down “The Banana Belt”? The reply was that the Black Hills sheltered us from the “bad” weather —- and that it was currently colder with even more snow in both Rapid City north of us, and in Chadron, Neb., south of us. Hence, the term “Banana Belt.”
When I heard this, I didn’t know which to dread most —- the harsh winter ahead, or Midwestern humor.
Obviously, I survived, but I always kept an eye toward working my way to a warmer climate. And now when walking around Ojai enjoying our short-sleeves weather, I cannot help but feel compassion for those poor people in other parts of the country who have to shovel the snow off their roof. And, if I am honest, I sometimes feel the guilt of a man on vacation who lounges around out by the pool holding a margarita as those around him go about their daily labors.
Fortunately, this usually passes quickly.