January 26th, 2019
Michael is a young novice at our church, St. Rita’s in Racine. He is in training to become an Augustinian priest. He’s a tall, twenty-seven year old, with a very red beard. He comes from Long Island, New York, so he has some experience with winter weather. He certainly has seen more of it than the other novice, Enrique, who was from the Dominican Republic. Enrique was bundled up like an Eskimo as soon the temperature dropped below freezing.
Enrique left St. Rita near the end of December. Michael has remained with us. The weather in December was remarkably mild. Michael got cocky. He said,
“So this is the infamous Wisconsin winter? It’s not so bad.”
My response: “Just wait.”
The fact is that Wisconsin winters are fickle. Some years the cold and snow start right at Thanksgiving. During some years (like this season), Decembers are so warm that there is no white Christmas. But there is always a reckoning. That occurs usually around the last week of January. That’s when we get hit with a monster snowstorm, and that is when the temperatures drop below zero, and they stay there for a while.
I worked for a trucking company for twenty-eight years. I spent most of those years running the early morning dock operation. The loading dock at a trucking company has a roof, but is not really enclosed. There were 179 doors on our dock and they were all open. Essentially, we worked in an outdoor environment. Snow blew across the dock, and the forklift wheels ground it into ice. Gusts of wind blew paperwork around. Whatever the outside temperature was, that was our room temperature. I remember pre-dawn walks on the dock where I could actually see a difference in the air quality. It was so cold that the air seemed thicker, almost fluid. In the intense cold nothing worked. Forklifts and trucks wouldn’t start. People and equipment moved slowly and painfully. A guy ran me over with his forklift during the winter in 2009. The best part of that experience was going to the hospital so that I could be warm again.
I am convinced that hell is a cold place.
Just as an aside, our son, Stefan, had a teacher named Ann. Ann was in many ways a remarkable woman. In her youth, she worked for a year in Antarctica. She drove the shuttle truck from the helipad to the research facility. Ann told me once that every member of the team at the facility had to go outside at least once a day, regardless of the darkness and the cold. They had to go out, even if it was only for five minutes. Apparently, this rule was in effect to prevent cabin fever and potential homicides. People would dress appropriately, brave the elements, and then rush back into the building before they died. Ann used this experience when she taught at the Waldorf School. The kids in Stefan’s class always went out for recess. Always.
It is now 3:39 AM. I just took my daughter’s dog outside. There is a blizzard out there. Shocky and I decided to return indoors rather quickly. According to the weather report, there will be eight to twelve inches of fresh snow on the ground before this storm ends. After that the temperature will drop like a rock. The day after tomorrow is predicted to have a high temperature of minus thirteen degrees. That is a just a little warmer than the surface of Mars.