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It’s late February, which means the citizens of Michigan have descended into a seasonally-induced depression. Parents are depressed because school has been cancelled every other day this month while the rest of us are depressed simply because it’s February and we live in Michigan. Every day we scrape the frost off our windows, look at the clouds overhead, and ask one simple question: why do we live here?
In places God tends to favor—Iowa, for example—the sun shines in the winter. It feels like we haven’t seen the sun since the Eisenhower administration. The sun’s appearances are so disorientating some people begin to maniacally charge around like bargain hunters entering a WalMart at 4am on Black Friday. Others simply sit alone and weep.
It used to be winter made us tough. A seismic shift has happened and we’ve changed. When I was a kid, back when I walked 40 miles to school and attended classes in my locker, it would take a 20 or 30 inch snowfall overnight for school to be cancelled. These days, school is cancelled if the barometer twitches. Seriously, school was cancelled recently on a 40 degree day because it looked like rain. Soft is what we’ve become. We’re also given to weather hyperbole. A front that brings three inches of snow is now named like a hurricane. What used to be called a cold snap is now a polar vortex. A day of heavy snow becomes a snowpocalypse.
I am particularly taken with the word “snowpocalypse.” I love the manipulation of language to meet our need to exaggerate. With nothing else to do because school is cancelled, I’ve thought of a few more “O-pocalypses.”
• Togopocalypse – the impossibility of memorizing all the countries in Africa
• Cheetohpocalypse –knowing that no matter how completely you delicately lick the orange grit off of your fingers (making a delicious paste), in half an hour you’re going to notice your pants have orange streaks on them
• Frodopocalypse – the disappointment that comes after watching any Elijah Wood movie other than The Lord of the Rings trilogy
• Moepocalypse – the way you feel the morning after staying up watching a Three Stooges marathon.
• Slowpocalypse – getting stuck driving behind someone whose head barely reaches the steering wheel
• Ringopocalypse – “Act Naturally” followed by “Yellow Submarine” followed by “Don’t Pass Me By” followed by “Octopus’s Garden” on the Beatles channel
• Blutopocalypse—spending an afternoon wondering what Bluto’s deal is, and why he hates Popeye so much, and sadly realizing his behavior towards Olive Oyl is at least sexual harassment if not sexual assault, and concluding with a sigh that if you worked with Bluto you would have to report him to the Title IX coordinator
• Banjopocalypse –Good news! Your teenager is taking up a new instrument!!!
• Gopocalypse – Flomax
• GrouchoChicoHarpopacalypse – realizing no one will ever be that funny
• Dr.Nopocalypse—you go with your older brother to a drive-in movie for a James Bond triple feature: Thunderball followed by Goldfinger followed by Dr. No. It starts to lightly rain midway through Goldfinger. Your brother runs the windshield wipers every few minutes for the next two and a half hours. Of course he drains the battery. Of course the car won’t start. It’s three in the morning. You find a pay phone and call your dad. He rescues you but finds none of this close to amusing and silently smolders all the way home. Yes, this really happened. Thank God he thinks it’s funny now
• JalapenoHeatWaveDoritopocalyspe—the certainty that you should have stopped while you could still feel your tongue
• Pimentopocaplypse—the troubling discovery that the serviceable pimento, so helpful in cheese and olives, has no nutritional value and cannot be counted, as you were doing, as a dietary staple
• Fauxpocalypse—Chicken Little syndrome
• Romopocalypse—the prediction by Tony Romo that the world will end on a Tuesday afternoon at 3:06 in 147 years because the defense is playing a cover two zone but disguising it look like man-to-man
• Where’sWaldopocalypse—condescendingly wondering how people could waste so much time on that stupid game as you sit down at the computer to add to your world record consecutive game winning streak at Spider Solitaire
• Bozopocalypse—Five-year-old me, running with a plate of cupcakes to put on the table of treats for the kids in the studio audience, tripping over a thick TV production cable. The cupcakes go flying. The ever-smiling Bozo frowns while jumping out of the way. I cry so hard my mom takes me home and I miss being on the show. This happened in 1963. I can hardly remember anything else from those days, but I remember the shame and failure and embarrassment of that. Wow, did this get unfunny in a hurry.
The weather does this. It warps our minds and confuses our spirits. Soon, it will be spring. Soon, the winter will be past, flowers will appear, the time of singing will come, and the voice of the turtledove will be heard in our land. But not yet.
The long-range forecast calls for a cold, snowy March.