It’s cold but not snowing: The sky has betrayed me

Monika Sweeney/The Miscellany News.

On Saturday, the fourth day in that dastardly month we call “February,” I awoke at 10:15 a.m. I adore sleeping, particularly because I was isolating after a COVID-19 exposure and had  nothing else to do. Out of curiosity, I checked the temperature outside, thinking it was chilly in my room—it was SIX degrees. Six. “0 °F, was established as the freezing temperature of a solution of brine made from a mixture of water, ice, and ammonium chloride (a salt),” Wikipedia informed me. Why the physicist in question chose a weird brine as the basis for temperature measurement, I have no idea. We should switch to Celsius, except for when it’s hot, because then Fahrenheit is more dramatic. But I digress. On Feb. 4, I could count on my hands how many degrees above “brine freeze” the temperature in Poughkeepsie was. And yet I looked outside, not to a wintry New England wonderland blanketed in snow, but to a browned Joss Beach and the Sex Tree drooping like a sad Muppet. This is unacceptable, and here’s why.

I’m from Atlanta, a Georgian born and raised. The coldest winters I ever witnessed in childhood were generally above freezing, and the entire city shuts down for a week when the snow total reaches multiple inches. While the summers down South are a scalding, swampy nightmare vision of God’s armpits, the winters are generally pretty calm. Most days hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, if not warmer. My body has yet to adapt to the kind of regularly sub-freezing weather that New York experiences. As my list of colleges narrowed down years ago, and heading northward seemed more and more likely, I had to reckon with the reality of temperatures being much colder than I had ever lived through for extended periods. My dad, who grew up in New Jersey and worked in Boston for some time, gravely informed me that the winters at Vassar would be unlike those I’d faced in the balmy climate of Georgia. So why brave the cold? Beyond the advantages of Vassar as a school (piddling in comparison to how inhospitable the environment is), what was the upside of going north?

Snow was the upside, and snow is the reason why I’m steaming mad at the kind of temperatures February has brought us. I believed Vassar was the place I’d sled with my pals down white-blanketed hills onto the glittering ice of frozen ponds, our laughter filling the air with plumes of steam. I believed in sipping warm mugs of hot chocolate with a legion of mini marshmallows adorning the top, looking at fat snowflakes drifting dizzily downward to the quad. I believed in lacing up the fur-lined snow boots I spent far too much money on before trekking to local restaurants, where I’d walk in the door and the beaming owner would greet me by name: “Hey, Jim,” they’d all say (my name is Jim in this fantasy), “You want your usual steak and eggs/beef vindaloo/falafel bowl? We love you,” to which I’d respond, “You bet I do! It’s a real nor’easter out there!” I’ve always dreamt of saying nor’easter to describe the weather. But the plunging temperatures this February has brought include no nor’easters, no howling blizzards nor gentle washes of snow. The only snow that’s fallen has come in sputtering flurries, impotently unsure of itself. It melts immediately upon hitting the ground, despite the temperature never getting above 30 degrees, because it’s ashamed of its performance. As well it should be.

Adding to my bitterness are the pictures I saw in mid-December of snow falling over our picturesque liberal arts college campus the day after I left for winter break. Are you fucking kidding me? I thought I was lucky that all my exams were essays; I thought I could get home to finish the semester in the comfort of my childhood bedroom. Instead, I woke up on my first morning home to discover my friends playing in a pristine wintry landscape while I stayed inside in 50-degree weather to write a six-page paper about transhumanism. I got the worst of both worlds then, and now the sky can’t even muster up a half-decent snowstorm to let those of us who simply wanted to see our families frolic in fields of white.

Forget April, T.S. Eliot; February is the cruelest month. And unlike most of the people who say that, I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day. My relationship with my boyfriend isn’t the problem—it’s my relationship with the weather that’s the problem. We can’t take drinks with ice out of the Deece lest they freeze solid. We get halfway to frostbite on a walk to Blodgett. We look around us and see only steel-gray skies and tired bodies trudging their way to nowhere in particular. I, for one, feel betrayed by the troposphere. And I hope you all do, too.

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