Thursday, December 20, 2007


Alright, I know this is going to make me sound like a hack comic, but honestly -- really, truly, seriously -- WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH THE WEATHER AROUND HERE LATELY?

I've lived in Illinois all my life, and thus am no stranger to winter weather. With relevant and profound apologies to James Taylor, I've seen snow and freezing rain. I've seen frost-bitten fingers that I thought would never mend. I've seen heating bills that I could not comprehend... but I always knew one day winter would end. This year? I have my doubts.

By calendar standards, winter is only a few days old -- and I'm already rooting for its demise. If this keeps up, I may be forced to drastically alter my views on global warming.

It started a couple weeks ago with that dandy late afternoon snowstorm. I'm all for a mild whitening of things, especially this time of year, but there's one teensy little problem. As much as I appreciate fine German engineering, my Beetle is NOT known for its arctic off-roading capabilities. Add that to my apartment sitting atop a steep driveway atop the Rock Island hill, and those two inches of snow meant that I couldn't get home from work that night for several hours until the plows had done their job.

We'd barely gotten back on track from that snowfall when forecasters sounded the panic alarm once again. I usually react to these warnings with a resounding "hmpf." Like I said, I'm no wuss about winter weather. I was only seven years old in 1978, but I still remember having to tunnel our way out of the house after the record-setting blizzard of that winter. I grew up in the country, and with a dad who would have taken me to school on dogsled rather than willingly submit to a snow day. No measly frozen water is going to impact MY day.

Yet in all the bad weather I can recall over the years, the one thing that doesn't ring a bell is the phrase "crippling ice storm." But thanks to our icy surprise last February, it's at the tip of every local meterologist's tongue now. There's no two ways around it: that storm last year sucked. I was trapped without power for the better part of a day, and I was one of the lucky ones. So when word came last week that another menacing ice storm was a-comin', the Quad Cities united together for the one thing we're well-trained and talented at: PANIC.

The news was already telling us to stay home at all costs. Schools had already been cancelled. The National Weather Service was telling people to prepare their "winter survival kits." What, exactly, should a winter survival kit consist of in this modern age? A pointy stick with which to kill passing polar bears? Instruction manuals for "Extreme Makeover: Igloo Edition"? The rules and regulations of professional curling? I was dubious, but perhaps I DID need to stock up on some supplies.

I headed to the grocery store, a fine notion were it not for the other 98.53% of the Quad Cities who had the same idea. Shelves were emptying. A woman walked by carrying what appeared to be a cubic ton of toilet paper to the register. I even saw a beleagured manager attempting to explain to a customer that sidewalks would not benefit from the sprinkling of water softener salts. Based on the checkout line length alone, you would have thought Neil Kastor had called for an 80% chance of the Apocalyse.

And there I was, stuck in the middle of it all. But hey, if enough ice DID manage to plop down and cause a problem, I wanted something slightly more filling than the three packets of taco sauce and one can of tomato paste that comprised my entire inventory of provisions.

I got home and downloaded the first season of "How I Met Your Mother" onto my iPod -- if the power did go out, I still wanted entertainment options. Satisfied with my prep work, I went to bed and had nightmares of opening my window to scenes of pure winter carnage.

Hours later I awoke, took a gulp, and opened my window to scenes of... rain. Not freezing rain. Not evil rain. Not witness-the-wrath-of-Nature rain. Just rain. I drove problem-free to work and spent the rest of the day in disbelief that half of my co-workers had pulled no-shows due to the weather. Due to the rain.

And yes, before you yell, I know it was a bad storm. People died in other states, and that's awful. Even some of the QC metro area lost power. But in Rock Island, it was just some crummy rain. I didn't get to call in to work, I didn't get to see any gnarly wrecks. It was the most underwhelming "crippling ice storm" ever. I hate storms, but if it's gonna happen, it might as well shut the city down for a day or two or it's just no fun.

But now, especially after the dumping of snow we got last weekend, I'm ready for it to end. Granted, a friend of mine just got back from a trip to the Caribbean with photos of holiday palm trees and surfing Santas, and that just seems horribly wrong. Christmas should be white, chilly, and wonderful -- but on Dec. 26th? Let it thaw, let it thaw, let it thaw.

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