The other day, I got a letter from one of my pen pals, who happens to live in California (the warm part). She said something along the lines of "The winter here is getting bad because I had to wear a jacket outside and sweatpants to bed." I wanted to send her back a howler (happy potter fans?). Don't worry, I'm not really mad at her, I just came to realize that people that have lived in warmer climates their entire lives really don't know what winter is like. They picture winter as pretty snow, romantic fires, and hot chocolate. Sure, winter includes those things, but it turns out, life actually goes on during winter and there are several things we have to put up with that aren't exactly mentioned in the "Dream Winter Scenario".
1. Wind Chill
I wouldn't be a proper Midwesterner if I didn't mention wind chill. It is literally the bane of people's existence around here. We call the wind chill the "feels like" temperature. This is the temperature that your skin feels when it goes outside. It can be pretty ridiculous. For instance, I woke up this morning to this:
Oh, but look, the sun is out! That makes it so much better, right? Keep in mind, they don't cancel school around here until is gets to be around -25 wind chill.
2. Car Parts
Did you know that parts of your car may actually not work in the extreme cold? Going out to your car, starting it up, and driving away sounds like one of the easiest jobs ever. However, in the cold, it's not that simple, on occasion. For example, when it's -18 degrees windchill, your engine has to run for a little while to work properly. I think I use half of my gas in the winter just letting my car run in the parking lot. On top of that, windshield washer fluid is only guaranteed to work until a certain temperature. For your information, -18 degrees is too cold. Lastly, do you remember, a long time ago, to high school chemistry class, when you learned that warm air moves into the area with cold air? Well, that happens with your tires too...
3. Ice Scraper
If, by some miracle, you get your car started and ready to go in the morning, chances are, you'll have to scrape the windows. This is basically an every morning thing. Some mornings are easier than others, depending on how heavy the frost was, but your ice scraper is pretty much your best friend in the winter. Don't waste time on the $1 ones. Spring for the one with the long hand and the snow brush.
4. Snow is Ugly!
I know, I know, I'm popping the winter dream bubble. But, I live in a city. Snow is only pretty while it's falling. Then, people start driving around and it gets disgusting. This is what snow really looks like most of the winter:
5. Black Ice
Such a fun part of winter! Black ice is a term for when a very thin layer of ice forms on the roads. It's so thin that it's basically impossible for drivers to see. However, it is just thick enough to prevent your car tires from gripping the road, causing your car to slide in pretty much any direction it feels like. If you've never experienced sliding sideways through a stop sign, then you probably don't live in the Midwest.
6. Road Damage
Thankfully, I live in a city with an excellent snow removal team. That is one thing that I don't mind paying taxes for! The snow plow drivers in my town, after a snow storm, get out onto the roads around 2 a.m, so the roads are basically clear when it's time for everyone to commute to work. The snow plows use pounds and pounds and pounds of rock salt to melt ice and snow off the roads. Rock salt is amazing! However, the combination of the rock salt and the heavy plows, destroy the roads. The roads in the winter become riddled with pot holes. That's why you hear that joke "The Midwest has two seasons: Winter and Construction."
7. Filthy Cars!
Rock salt not only destroys roads, it makes your car filthy! You can pretty much expect your car to look awful from the day the first snow falls until the day it's warm enough to get a car wash. Usually, from about November to March, your car looks like this:
8. Winter Road Conditions
Luckily, the great state of Illinois, and I'm sure other states in the Midwest, have a winter road conditions map. This becomes something people check often. It tells you exactly what to expect when it comes to driving somewhere. When the map is green, you don't have to leave early to go to work, as there is no snow and ice to worry about.
Hooray! The roads where I live are clear!
Well, I hope you enjoyed my little winter rant. It's all in good fun. It's off to work for me!