In keeping with the feelings generated by our latest snowstorm (about ten inches) and the fact that most of us will soon be out running around in the stuff, it seems like an appropriate time to let all of you outsiders know what makes New Hampshire natives tick.
Without a doubt, we are a strange group that engages in activities which are hard to explain to the casual observer.
Winter Insanity (Granite Grumblings; Life in the “Live Free or Die State”, 2011) is a piece I wrote a while ago when I felt a need for therapy during a particularly long winter.
Glenn K. Currie
Down south they love to show pictures of the winter storms that assault those of us who live in New England. They know it’s good for the tourist business, and it also reinforces their notion that most of us are crazy.
After three months of weather like we have had this year, there may be more than a little substance to the insanity charges. All you have to do is look at some of the video of recent storms, and you can see ample cause for thinking that people might be on the verge of some kind of breakdown.
I see tortured souls with glazed eyes peeking over head-high snow banks, and cars upside down on median strips. There are pictures of snow-clogged roads where you need Lojack to find the car you parked the previous night, and icicles precariously hanging over entrances, promising instant death to the unwary. And let’s not forget the bursting pipes causing picturesque frozen waterfalls down the sides of unsuspecting homes.
Even in ordinary times it is hard to refute that at least some of us may be a few shingles short in the roof department.
One clear example is the image that many of us project by the clothes we wear. Sure, we feel we are being practical, but to the outside world we conjure up visions of Johnny Carson in red plaid. Headgear is the most visible part of our winter dress and sends a powerful message to others. The mix of psychedelic ski hats, earflap caps, mufflers, face masks and ear muffs (sometimes in combination), makes us look like a bunch of hicks (and yes, I am aware that is the look that many of us are going for). When this is combined, however, with the multi-layered, double-wide, coat look, we have a presentation that causes others to speculate about our sanity. I even wonder myself sometimes, since I have heard of people slipping on the ice and lying there for hours because there hands can’t reach the ground and there head is too muffled up to yell for help.
And then there is the general skepticism with which much of the world views our choices of exotic winter sports. Let’s analyze why some might say we are crazy for participating in some of these.
Snowmobiling- Think about this. Bikers (perhaps not the most solidly-grounded group to begin with) put away their big hogs for the winter because they figured out, probably after years of study, that riding around in 10 degrees below zero wind chill isn’t the most fun in the world. But some of our citizens love nothing better than to jump on snowmobiles, stare frostbite in the face, and head out across frozen lakes, where they risk becoming submersible popsicles. The ultimate pleasure, I am told, is to race these noisy vehicles into the wilderness, where they can enjoy the quiet beauty of a winter wonderland.
Ski Jumping- Here is a sport where the objective is to go downhill as fast as you can in order to launch oneself off a take-off pad that sends you flying off the mountain. You then try to execute a controlled crash a few hundred feet below so that you don’t kill yourself.
Snowboarding- This appears to be a combination of downhill skiing and demolition derby. Participants get out on the side of a mountain, strap a board to their feet, and then slide down the mountain while dodging trees, skiers, and other snowboarders, most of whom are fifteen year old kids. These are kids who have not yet learned fear, relish being out of control, and will not be eligible to drive a car for another year; at which point, they will become the most dangerous people on the highways.
Polar Bear Clubs- This is supposedly a sport. It consists of screaming, near-naked people who run across the snow in the middle of the winter, dive into ice cold water, jump around for a couple of minutes turning blue, and then drive to the nearest hospital.
Snowshoeing- Participants in this growing sport snap on a pair of clown shoes, and then go wandering in the deep snow into the most inaccessible parts of the forest. This is only good news to the hungry carnivores who live there and like warm-blooded mammals who are slow afoot.
Ice Fishing- This sport involves sitting in a smoke-filled wooden hut, huddling around a hole in the ice and waiting to freeze to death. Once in a while an unsuspecting fish will be caught because the poor fish couldn’t imagine anyone being stupid enough to sit out on a frozen lake all day holding a long string.
I could go on but I think you may be getting my point. The message we are sending to the rest of the country could be misinterpreted and lead to the conclusion that we are all idiots.
Now some of you are probably smiling and thinking that you would never get tarnished with those accusations because you go to Florida in the winter. This is not necessarily an indicator of superior intelligence and doesn’t really help our reputation. Let’s analyze Florida for a minute. This is a flat, hot place covered with swamps, parking lots and golf courses. The average age is 106, and it is the only place in the world where the sixteen year old driver is in a low risk insurance category. No one uses the beaches, it is suggested that golfers wear helmets, and the only time people smile is when the 6 o’clock news shows the latest New England blizzard.
The single valid reason a person would go to Florida is to watch spring training, which only occurs in March. The rest of the year, a trip to Florida is almost prima facie evidence that the winter has indeed made you crazy. You say you are going there to see Mickey Mouse? Think about that for a moment. You are hopping on a plane and flying 2000 miles to see a fake mouse. That will certainly convince the skeptics.
I guess you can see why some people get the wrong impression about us. They don’t understand that all of this is just a way of blowing off a little steam as we enjoy the challenges and rewards of being hardy New England residents.
I know that, personally, I find these long winters very relaxing. They give me the chance to appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons and to be a little more introspective. And I have found a winter sport that makes a lot more sense than the craziness that attracts some of you. I have become a major participant in the art of indoor bike riding. I just hop on my stationary bike and log in the miles. This gives me all the exercise of riding a real bike, and I don’t have to go anywhere. I can just pedal and pedal…and look out the window at the snow…and I’m still right here…looking at the snow…and pedaling…