Thursday, December 10, 2009

On shoes, cars and cold weather

Chicago largely dodged a bitter winter storm this week that dumped tons of snow on Iowa, Wisconsin, parts of Illinois and then blew into New England. "Blew" being the operative word inasmuch as this storm was accompanied by wicked, whipping winds.

We got lucky because, on Tuesday night, it rained in between snowfalls, washing the first batch away. But, Chicago weather legend Tom Skilling assured us, Chicago got a total of five inches of snow out of the storm, a storm which set records for low barometric pressure -- lower even than the barometric pressure recorded in the storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald.

(The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down/
of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee."/
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead/
when the skies of November turn gloomy....

That'll be in your head all day today, won't it?

Skilling must have been right because it's cold this morning -- 2 degrees Fahrenheit -- and, with the stiff breeze still blowing, the wind chill number may be academic, but the bridge of my nose froze just the same. This is our pattern in Chicago: After it snows, it gets really cold. At least for awhile.

* * * * * * * * * * *
The Curmudgeon household has been forced to adapt to the changing conditions. Youngest Son wisely decided that he probably shouldn't be driving to school in the snow, not right away. That was the good news. The bad news was that yours truly had to get up and drive him.

The worse news is that he and some of his classmates are having informal workouts in anticipation of the coming baseball season at 6:00am. I had lunch Tuesday at 9:30am.

The happy consequence of Youngest Son not driving is that Long Suffering Spouse has had use of a vehicle all week to get to and from school.

We don't live far from the parish school and Long Suffering Spouse has been perfectly content to walk home most days pulling her little cart behind her with papers to be graded. But the little plastic cart doesn't pull so well in the snow. Having a car this week has been a boon for Long Suffering Spouse.

The car shortage in the Curmudgeon household has been exacerbated by the ongoing recession. You may have read about this. It's been in all the newspapers. And it's impacted our household, too: Middle Son's auditing job, which was supposed to start in June got pushed back to August... then it got pushed back to October... and now it's been pushed back to January. Middle Son found work instead selling TVs and other electronics at a major department store in a nearby mall. It's a part-time, Christmas-only job -- although he had to endure three interviews and a drug test before he got the position.

And, though the mall is nearby, it's not so nearby that he doesn't need a car to get back and forth.

The auditing firm may really, truly, finally be ready to welcome Middle Son. With all his downtime at home, he's picked out a car he's itching to buy (an American car, I am pleased to say) and that will alleviate our car shortage if he gets it and while he scrapes together enough cash for a security deposit on a place of his own. He's hoping to have additional confirmation this week.

His mother and I are hoping too.

But I mentioned "shoes" in the title of this essay and not since.

Shoes are my adaptation to this beastly weather. My lawyerly wingtips are not particularly effective against snow, ice and cold and they react rather badly to salt. So when the weather gets like this, I reach for my workboots -- the kind of boots that persons with actual hand-eye coordination wear to real construction jobs.

Granted, these are not particularly stylish -- but I was never in the running for a GQ cover at any time in my life and this is Chicago, in winter, where sartorial considerations may be sacrificed (should be abandoned) in consideration of the grim struggle for survival.

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