Last week, I called an old friend who moved to the suburbs of Chicago to wish him and his family a happy new year in their new home. When he answered, I noticed that his voice seemed to have a teensy bit of an edge to it.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on what might be wrong as we chatted, but I couldn’t help but notice stony silence after I mentioned that it was 78 degrees here on the Carolina coast.
“Did you hear me?” I asked. “Seventy-eight degrees in late December. Have you ever? We’re wearing SHORTS!”
I plowed on. “Are you still there? I think we have a bad connection. What’s the temperature in Chicago?”
“F-f-f-f-f-fourteen,” he said.
“Did I stutter?”
“Well, actually, yes, you did …”
“Oh, I did? My bad. I’m so very sorry. You’ll have to forgive me. I find it difficult to speak clearly because my teeth are chattering. And my teeth are chattering because, well, I am freezing to death in my own living room. IN MY OWN LIVING ROOM.”
“But at least the snow is so lovely,” I said, trying to be consoling. “We wouldn’t mind seeing some of the white stuff around here.”
“If you love it so much why don’t you marry it?”
Suddenly, my normally good-natured friend had turned into a churlish 10-year-old boy.
“Do you want to know what month-old snow looks like? DO YOU? It’s nasty. It doesn’t glitter or glisten or any of that Christmas card claptrap. It looks like the whole city is covered in a ‘Duck Dynasty' beard. I HATE IT HERE.”
“Look, I realize I don’t know anything about it really …”
“Now you’re talking,” he barked. “Just before you called I was watching TV and, you know what? I CAN SEE MY OWN BREATH.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’re exaggerating!” I said. “You sound like you have a little cabin fever. I’ve heard of that happening when it snows a lot.
“Hey! I have an idea. Why don’t you go outside with the kids and build a snowman?”
“A snowman? A SNOWMAN??? Wow. Why didn’t I think of that? Last week we built an entire snow village complete with its own idiot. Which reminded me a lot of you now that I think about it.”
OK, maybe we weren’t ever actually that close.
He went on for a while, something about a near roof cave-in because his “numbskull neighbor” borrowed his shovel and didn’t return it, how his wife had taken the kids and gone to LIVE WITH HER STUPID MOTHER, how he spent an afternoon trying to match the shape of the lump on the street to the shape of his car (as best he could remember it), how he had twisted his back while he was shoveling snow from his walkway and now he had to walk everywhere in the shape of an “S.”
“S as in snow!” I said, brightly.