When we — and by “we” I mean “me” and the only other person in this company of 500 people willing to go outside — walked into the warming house at downtown Saint Paul’s fabulous “Winter Skate” pavilion this afternoon, it was as if we’d rescued castaways.
The two workers inside were huddled over two Buddy Heaters. The normal propane heating system wasn’t working. The coffee maker had stopped working because the water line (inside the warming hut) had frozen. And, worst of all, we were the first humans they’d seen all day.
It was -5 and it fell to two from-out-of-state ringers to uphold the image of the hearty Minnesotan.
The ice was perfect; not a blade had touched it all day. The sun was delightful. The air was like CPR for boredom. This is the way winter was meant to be experienced.
But not by Minnesota, apparently.
The rink usually closes down at the end of the Winter Carnival (its last day is Sunday). Last year, Saint Paul kept it open for an additional two weeks so NBC could feature it as part of Hockey Day in America, creating the illusion of a people unfazed by the challenges of the place they’ve chosen to live.
“I haven’t been out of the skyway system in four days,” a colleague joked this afternoon. Perfectly understandable; he grew up here.
Two years ago today, I was in Moorhead preparing for coverage of the Red River flooding. It was -10 below and I wrote this:
I know what you’re thinking: This winter can’t end soon enough and thank goodness it’s warming up. It was -10 this morning, and we may not see that again until next year. Winter is a punch-drunk fighter; that was his/her last shot. Now that I know it’s leaving, it’s easier to miss it already.
Here’s a picture I took of the area just south of Moorhead earlier this week. Look at the blue of the sky. Feel that sunshine. Listen to the snow squeak as you walk on it. It was about 9 below — the kind of temperature that gives you a sense of accomplishment when you walk from the house to the car and live to write about it.
You can’t turn the heater on “high” because of the whine of whatever mechanics are going on under the hood that protest the burden. But it’s OK, because the sun coming through the car windows provides enough heat to survive, even though your toes let you know you’re still alive.
You can’t do that when you’re standing on a crowded light-rail car with broken air conditioning… as we’ll soon find out.
Write if you get work, winter.
Winter relishes a good fight. But today, it was bored, too. Minnesota had given up.
(Photo: Linda Fantin. Native of Wyoming)