Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the tag “winter”


Mud is a season. In North Dakota, it follows Deep Freeze, which lasts about half the year. Spring is for sissies. In North Dakota, they have Mud.

When I arrived in North Dakota this time, I was excited because the weather was going to be unseasonably warm. I wouldn’t feel the sensation that the skin was cracking off my face when I went outside. I could walk, not skid, down the stairs off the plane onto the tarmac. I wouldn’t risk frostbite and death while looking for my rental car.

I strolled off the plane and went to pick up my rental car. They didn’t have a reservation. My liason at the locums company had forgotten to make it. I am so well known at the Hertz booth there that they call me “Alabama”. They simply pulled up my old info from my million previous rentals, and billed the car to the usual company billing number, no questions asked. They handed me my keys and I went happily out to pick up my car, secure in the knowledge that I would not turn into a pillar of ice while looking for it.

I dragged my luggage up the sidewalk towards the rental lot, which is unmarked, unpaved and unlit. Ahead of me, I could see what looked like a large puddle so I detoured into the road to get to the parking lot.

The puddle was not a puddle. Sometimes a cigar is NOT just a cigar. The “puddle” was a massive swamp, over a foot deep of pure mud. The whole parking area, which is glare ice all winter, had thawed in the warm snap and the permafrost was now perma-mud.

Everywhere, mud covered cars were sunk into the muck. There were two other rental patrons whose tires were spinning in the slime, finding no purchase, because there was nothing but more mud below.

It was pitch dark out there, what with the no street lights and all, but the gleam off the mud was unmistakeable. And I made the most intelligent decision of the night – I left my luggage on the pavement and made no attempt to drag it into that field. If I had, archeologists might be excavating it centuries from now, commenting on the sociological implications of lace thongs and jewelry making tools.

I contemplated opening the big suitcase and getting out my snow boots to wade into that mud, but that seemed like just too much trouble. I stepped as lightly as possible onto the mud, and with a SQUELCH my shoe pulled off my foot. Wily me, I was ready for that and promptly put my foot back in it. I began questioning the boot decision. I squelched my way to the car and climbed in, leaving huge fecal looking mud smears on the rug.

Without pausing for my usual seat adjustment/mirror adjustment/car charger/glasses routine, I started the car. I wanted to get onto the pavement and collect my luggage before it was run over or stolen. Or sucked into the La Brea tar pits.

At least I knew not to gun it. I have done a bit of driving in my life, and I knew gunning it would slew mud everywhere and dig me a deep slimy trench from which I would never emerge. I started the car and put it tentatively into drive. I gave it a little gas. Nothing happened. A little more gas. Nothing happened. A little more gas: a familiar skewing slipping sensation told me that I was about to dig myself into a hole if I wasn’t careful.

I tried putting it in reverse. Same sequence of events. Only in reverse. The car wouldn’t budge. I cursed the rental company for not including cat litter in the car supplies.

I saw a big fella walking up to my car. I reckoned he saw I was stuck. He told me he would push the rear of the car while I slowly gave it some gas. He pushed. I accelerated. The car slid forward a few feet, hit a slight upward incline, and started digging into the mud. He indicated he would push from the front, and I would try it in reverse. Same outcome.

We surveyed the lot and identified an area where the mud appeared to be at least a bit more solid. We would aim for that area and I would try to turn the car around there and take a run up the little hill to the pavement. Nope.

We were both swearing politely when a second fella showed up. I love chivalry! I have never believed for a moment that it was dead. With both guys pushing and shouting “JUST DON’T BACK OFF THE GAS!!! DON’T BACK OFF THE GAS! WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T BACK OFF THE GAS!”, I managed to slush the car onto the pavement! Triumph over the elements! I even remembered to collect my luggage, even in my manic excitement at having defeated the mud. As I pulled off, the one fella hollered, “HEY! Welcome to North Dakota!”

I yelled back, “No shit! And I was just happy it wasn’t 17 below!” I was extremely relieved, not just by my escape from an untimely mud embalming but because the bigger fella didn’t fall over dead while pushing the car. He had a great big beer belly and was puffing and panting after pushing that car. I just kept thinking, Lord, please don’t let him have a heart attack. I do NOT want to administer CPR on my knees in this mud!

As I drove up the road, I could hear the rattling and spattering of the mud off the chassis and wheels of the car. I kept fighting a belief that if I slowed down, I would be forever mired in a corn field.

I began to wonder if I was just a big ole weenie, whining about some mud in a parking lot, until I got to work the next morning and heard the nurses ranting about The Mud. There was no talk about budding leaves, or flowers, just MUD. One has a stress fracture and has had to wear a Hefty bag over her boot to just cross her yard. She can’t get a cast because it will get muddy and wet.

In North Dakota, the chirping of birdies has been eclipsed by the thawing of the permafrost and the release of primeval mud on a scale worthy of triggering mass extinction. Spring, thy name is MUD.


White Out: Snow On Alabama

Snow In Alabama!

Things A Southerner Has Learned About Northern Winters

1.  It is very difficult to push the key’s unlock button for the car with thick gloves on.

2.  Ice is very slippery.  It strikes fear even into seasoned Northern winterers.  They describe a universal knuckle whitening clutch on the steering wheel when driving on fresh ice.

3.  Ice somehow can gradually disappear, even when temperatures remain below freezing.  I don’t know if it sublimates, if they put out chemicals that change the melting temperature of ice, or if the heat of the tires on blacktop eventually melt it.  Where does it go?

4.  As I may have mentioned before, soft drinks left in the trunk of the car explode, and make diet Coke-sicles that hang off the lid of the trunk.

5.  Weathermen are frequently wrong.

6.  A blizzard is almost more about the wind than about the snow.

7.  Scraping ice off your windshield is like scraping glass off of more glass.

8.  Your car windows freeze closed and you can’t open them.

9.  There are many different kinds of snow.

10. The wind will blow the hoods and hats right off your head.

11. The dry weather makes the blankets on your bed crackle with blue sparks.

12. They say the dry weather causes an increase in paper cuts.  I believe it.  I have the paper cuts to prove it.

13. You have to go through a careful checklist before leaving any building.  You have to have things that you need to access organized in your outerwear so you don’t have to fumble around looking for things with clumsy gloves in sub-zero temperatures.

14. If you dress correctly, you really don’t feel that cold.  Especially after scraping ice.

Things I Have Learned In North Dakota

1.  They actually expect you to know North, South, East and West when they give you directions on how to go somewhere in town.  Seriously?  Nobody from the South knows what direction they are headed.  That’s because in our part of the country, a lot of the roads are laid out along old carriage trails, and they wind, and curve, and double back on each other.  So telling me to head North is like telling me to close my eyes and pick a direction.

2.  Soft drinks are referred to as soda pop.  In the South, all soft drinks are called Cokes whether they are or not.

3.  They actually DON’T talk the way they do in the movie Fargo.  At least not in this part of North Dakota.  It’s more a Midwestern twang.

4.  They have two seasons:  Shovel and Swat.

5.  The state bird is the mosquito.  The state tree is a telephone pole.  (Thanks to Rose Chimera, who filled me in).

6.  It is freaking cold.  And there are no trees, or hills, or anything to block that howling wind.  It’ll whip the hood right off your jacket.

7.  Catholic hospitals don’t do birth control.

8.  The process of fracking is turning small North Dakota towns into boom towns.  People are pouring in for work and they can’t keep up with the housing.  They can’t even put up trailers fast enough.  And a lot of these folks don’t know how to drive on snow and ice.  Driving is now dangerous in the winter just due to all the out-of-towners who don’t have a clue.

9.  WalMart can’t have a pharmacy.  In North Dakota, pharmacies must be owned by the pharmacist who runs them.

10. Serious Note To Self:  12 packs of soda pop forgotten in the car trunk explode.  Violently.  And you can’t get the soda pop out of the car, or expect it to dry up because it is frozen solid and stuck to the carpet.  Not sure how the car rental people will respond to this.

11. I think I may be coming down with the flu.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

Here in Alabama we don’t get much snow.  So the first time we got a little, our little daughter was very tentative about going outside.  She tested the snow with all her senses; here we have her tasting her first snowflakes. 

Amanda Tastes The Snow

Winter Kills

Since my early twenties, I have hated winter.  This, not coincidentally, corresponded to a time when I spent a year in Washington, DC doing research and I was so much farther north than I was used to being in the winter.  Winter started in September and hung on until April.  I have never spent so much time in the cold and grey.  I was miserable.  I was actually studying Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) at the National Institutes of Health while I was there.  Doctor, heal thyself.  I learned that not only was I depressed but it was seasonal; it got much worse in the cold and dark of winter.

I am completely nonfunctional in winter.  I hate the cold.  No matter how warmly I try to bundle up, the cold seeps in through the gaps.  Cold somehow feels like it might be fatal; summer heat is uncomfortable but you never feel like you might die of it.  I feel like I might die of the cold.  I can’t even persuade myself to get out of my car to go get groceries.  I am so drained of energy by the dark cold greyness, and so miserable from the chill that it takes a superhuman effort to get out and walk through the parking lot.  And getting up for work in the dark and leaving work in the dark is just so depressing.  As soon as it gets dark, it feels to me as if my day is over.  So I can get things done in the evenings in the summer, but in the winter, when I get home I just want to go to bed.  I don’t have the energy for any projects besides doing things that are absolutely necessary. 

I love the fall.  I’m not sure why, since the days are getting shorter, but there’s a feel to the air with the sound of football games on the radio in passing cars and and the beautiful colors of the leaves.  Fall just has a melancholy beautiful feel to it, but all along in the back of my mind is the sad thought:  winter is coming. 

My husband seems to get upset with me more in the winter, since my motivation is so far down and it is so hard for him to get me to do things around the house.  That in turn discourages me and makes me feel even less like getting things done, so it is a vicious cycle.  My daughter seems to perceive my sluggishness also.  I tend to gain weight in the winter.  I also want to shop to cheer myself up, but it is so cold outside that I can’t even get myself to do that.  I have tried taking melatonin and all manner of things to rectify my winter blues, but nothing seems to work.  The only things that make me better are warmth and sunshine, both of which are notably lacking around here in the wintertime.  I also tend to care less about my appearance in the winter and spend less time shaving my legs or getting my toenails done.

At any rate, winter is coming and I am filled with dread.  I always irk my husband by turning on all the lights in the house in the winter time, in hopes of getting myself out of a funk enough to get things done.  I have not been in very good shape this summer, to be honest, and the winter blues will only make this worse.  This may be a very bad winter for me.  I need to move somewhere else in winter.  You would think living as far south as Alabama would not be too bad, but all I know is if I went farther north I would be worse.  I can usually keep my head up more or less through the holidays, but after they are over there is nothing left to cheer me.  The stretch between New Year’s and March when the weather starts to change are the longest three months of my life every year.  I have often wished that they would reverse Daylight Savings Time and add extra sunlight hours to the winter instead of taking them away.

Winter is coming and I am trying to prepare myself.  It may be an interesting study to see how my blog posts evolve throughout the changing seasons.  I am thinking the winter posts may be even more humorless than usual.  I will do my best to keep my chin up, but it will take a superhuman effort.  I wonder how many others are seasonally affected and how many others lose enthusiasm and productivity when the days are short and the nights are long and cold?

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