Let the record show that March 4 was the first day of 2015 on which the weather was comfortable enough for me to walk to the gas station to get a mid-shift coffee.
Even after I first started driving here, I’d always bundle up and walk the quarter-mile or so to the handful of dinner options near the office, rather than using the car. I was still paranoid about “warming the engine up” properly, you see, so I figured I’d be better off just hoofing it to Wendy’s or the Chinese place, cold weather or not.
That changed this winter, whether it be through indifference about my car’s mechanical wellbeing or just plain laziness. But for the first time today, we all got a glimpse.
Spring is coming!
The mercury hit 46° Fahrenheit today (or 7° C) according to my in-car thermometer, which is the warmest we’ve seen in months. The world reacted immediately – the snow on the roof started a steady drip as it melted, frequently trod thoroughfares went from frozen to puddles in a matter of hours.
I flirted with the idea of wearing shorts to work before conceding that a) the aforementioned puddles would ruin whatever shorts-appropriate footwear I chose to put on, and b) I have no idea where any of my shorts are anyway, so that was a lost cause.
But leaving the house in nothing more than a T-shirt, light hoodie and jeans, and not needing any further layers, was liberating. It was quite the odd reminder that there is life outside of the frozen tundra we’ve had the last couple of months.
My documentation of this season has been pretty dismal in comparison to my efforts last year, and for that I probably owe all of my long-suffering readers an apology. To be fair, I felt somewhat like I didn’t have much to say about it, given I had gone through one last year and survived.
But this winter was quite a bit different. Last year, the cold was utterly brutal, but the fluctuations are what (I think) made it worse. Freezing temperatures would give way to sunny days where the mercury was just above freezing, so everything would begin to melt again … then it’d refreeze once the sun went down and the wind came in, leaving ice everywhere. We had plenty of rain, freezing rain and heavy snow, all spread out across the three winter months.
This time around, for much of the early part of the season, the ground was bone-dry. We got a couple of solid snowfalls around Halloween, another load near Thanksgiving, but apart from that, there wasn’t a great deal of accumulation through December or January. I mean, Christ – it was like 50° (or 10° C) on Christmas Day. This is “winter”?
In February, though, that changed pretty quickly. We had so many snow dumps in such a short period of time (something in the neighborhood of three to four feet in a couple of weeks) that public works crews couldn’t keep up with plowing.
Now, in March, there are 10-foot piles of bulldozed snow in parking lots all over Augusta and Hallowell. It makes driving a whole new challenge when you’re reversing almost totally blind until you’re out of your driveway and past the snowbank blocking your vision of oncoming traffic.
I still get asked quite frequently, mostly by customers in the bar, how I’m dealing with the weather. They’ll probably still be asking me that in 10 years. Obviously this year it’s been easier on me in the sense that I mostly know what to expect, and I mostly know how to remain on my feet on ground that isn’t completely free of water-based weather accumulations, but it’s also been a whole new set of learning curves.
For instance, I now live up a fairly steep hill. From April to December, that won’t really be an issue. But with all the snow we’ve had, suddenly it’s a precarious task to get from the bottom to the top without slipping and sliding halfway up. Thankfully I’ve learned that my car’s “Sports” mode – a semiautomatic transmission, essentially – is actually useful for that sort of thing. Who’d have thought?
And then there’s the life lesson that makes me smile every time I think of it. When I bought my first pair of L.L. Bean boots, last February, I was in somewhat of a rush and ended up getting them a half-size too big for my feet, even in thick socks. Because of the extra room and the lack of “security,” I only wore them a handful of times before relegating them to the back of the closet, vowing to trade them for a better fit the next time I was in Freeport, where the Bean’s flagship store is.
But lo and behold, I figured it out. The larger size lets me slip them on and off with far greater ease than I’d be able to manage if I were to have got them in my own size. I can’t count the number of times this winter I’ve thrown them on in three seconds to race out to the car for something, or even when I’m just heading to work and can’t be bothered stopping to lace them up. Perfect.
As for spring coming, though, I’m definitely getting ahead of myself. Sure it was above freezing today, but it’s set to drop back below 32° tomorrow for the foreseeable future. Remember all that ice on the ground from last year? Yeah, it’ll be back. Tonight, probably.
I’m not anxious for the warmer weather – hell, I kinda want it to stay cold and miserable well into April, so that my trip to Mexico really feels like an escape – but being reminded that it exists sure is a nice feeling, even if for an afternoon.