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Fargo, ND was recently awarded the title America’s Worst Weather City by the Weather Channel.  This dubious honor is something I voted for three times, told my friends to vote for and filled me with pride when I found out that the place I spent eight years of my life is now considered the hardest to live in.  I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with being tough, but there it is.

Only problem, one of the custodians at work, independent of this contest, has picked up on the fact that Fargo, and North Dakota in general, has very miserable weather, and won’t stop talking to me about it.

At first it was funny, “Fargo is so cold!” “Yeah it is!”  har har har.  But now it’s getting really old.

I’ll be sitting at my desk working or on break, and he’ll come up to me and say something like:

“My dad was stationed at Minot Airforce Base.  He used to do the trick where he’d throw a glass of water outside and it would be frozen before it hit the ground… he was just miserable, after that he wanted to go to Vietnam.”

“Man, I can see why you left–48 days of below zero temperatures!  Who can live like that?  What’s wrong with people that they stay there?”

“Do your parents still live there?  Do you ever have to go visit them or do they just come here?  If I was them, I’d come here.”

This is officially out of bounds.  As the old saying goes, you can’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile  in his shoes.  Or my versions: You can’t make fun of my parents because you haven’t had to live with them, and you certainly can’t make fun of North Dakota unless you’ve been there.  You haven’t earned it.  This is a rule that is very important to me.  This is a rule that has lead me to read many, many lousy books so that I can hate on them with authority.  Although I know his good-natured ribbing is intended to be good-natured, it has gone too far.

Let me dispel a couple myths about Fargo:

  1. Yeah, it’s cold, but it doesn’t feel that cold.  I lived in Fargo for eight years, and during that time, I barely wore gloves.  This wasn’t because I was a moron or wanted frostbite, I just didn’t really need them.  In talking to another North Dakotan who now lives in Providence, both of us have increased the amount of weather “gear” we own since moving east.  There is a constant blanket of snow in Fargo from November-April, and that makes it feel warmer, plus, it’s very dry.  I feel colder in New England than  I ever did in Fargo because here the air here is damp and it gets into your bones.  Also, New Englanders don’t seem to know how to heat their houses properly.
  2. It’s kind of an adventure.  My brother put it very succinctly recently when we were talking about the impending flood.  “It’s that ‘we’re all in this together’ bit. You put out sandbags, you work with your neighbors, and you know that everyone is putting up with the same thing as you so no one whines about it.”  Stoicism in action.  Whenever I try to make plans with baby-having best friend, she usually says something like, “well, I won’t be able to go then, we’ll probably be under water.”  But she never says it in a ‘woe is me’ way, it’s just a fact of life.  Every winter, there will be blizzards and every spring there will be a flood.  There might be a couple days of anxiety and a “Floodwatch!” graphic on the local news, but life goes on.  In Rhode Island, you get a few snowflakes every year, and everyone flies into a panic.

I may be romanticizing my time in Fargo, and I certainly don’t want to move back there, but I’m also sick of people who don’t know anything about it calling it Frozen Hell on Earth just based on looking at some numbers.  If you are a person who is terribly interested in slamming Fargo to everyone within earshot, please, go visit it first.  After you’ve been, I will join you in mocking the overabundance of strip malls, and that desolate stretch of road between 32nd ave and 45th street where you seem to run out of city and then meet up with civilization again, or the ridiculous Multiband Tower, which looks more like a blue wart on the Prairie than a tower of any kind.  But making fun of the weather?  It’s just unimaginative.

I do not care for snow.  It is heavy, and inconvenient, and makes the cuffs of my pants soggy since my short little legs are never long enough to use up all the inches in my inseam. Even my near constant wearing of heels because I cannot walk well in flat shoes (yes, it’s weird) doesn’t stop my pants getting sodden and heavy and blechy.  I do not like shoveling or scraping off my car, but there is nothing better than spending an evening sitting on the couch, reading while it quietly snows all around you and the cold feels less intense and the nightime isn’t as dark and depressing.

Rain is nice too, but snow is quieter.

Last year there was a “blizzard” in Rhode Island.  I drove all the way to Newport, not knowing that this was coming, and then 1 hour into our work Don the appraiser informed me, “I got gas, I got my hair cut, I got bread and milk– I’m set.” This was the first I’d heard of the Rhode Island need to buy bread and milk before any kind of serious weather activity, but I still think it’s weird.  The blizzard, which in North Dakota would have been called “a dusting” or “Tuesday” dumped 6 inches and created such a panic that it took me 8 hours to get from Newport to Providence, a trip which usually takes me 45 minutes.  Thankfully, I had a full tank of gas and a sandwich, or I would have been much more uncomfortable.  As it was, I kept listening to disc after disc of a crappy audiobook, and wondering why I wasn’t home yet.

When I did finally achieve my street, it was pristine– a perfect, untouched blanket of snow with the streetlights reflecting peacefully off of it.  It was bizarre, and apocalyptic.  Eventually, I passed two people dressed in full winter-weather gear trudging down the middle of the street.  They stopped and gawped at me like they’d never seen a car before.  It was The Road Warrior, but with snow.

I got stuck in my own driveway, and went inside to reflect on the day with a frozen pizza and a bottle of wine.  In that moment, I was very apprehensive about my adopted home of Rhode Island.  The weather phenomenon I had been most worried about was hurricanes– blizzards are no big deal to me, but I supposed if everyone else goes into a panic, it doesn’t do me much good to stay calm.

The following week at work, all anyone could talk about was the blizzard, and I really don’t feel I got as much sympathy as I should have.  I kept explaining over and over that this amount of snow was not a big deal, I’ve seen way worse, and then older co-workers would describe “the big one” back in the day, and look at me like you poor kid, you have no idea.

“But, once we were without power for 36 hours,” I protested, “In -20 temperatures.  I watched my brother slowly go insane.  We did shadow puppets for five hours– maybe longer– time had no meaning!”


I have learned, you cannot tell old people about weather, because they’ve always seen more than you, and simply do not care to hear you prattling on.

So a while ago, I was at the gym, and CNN was telling me all about how the Midwest was buried under feet of snow.  Instead of feeling smug that I wasn’t in that situation, I felt a bit jealous.  Of course, when I talked to my parents and brother they informed me that “yeah, it was about a foot or so, no big deal.”

I just really want to sit in my reading chair, wrapped in my Slanket, and watch the snow fall. I don’t want to do anything else with it– make a fort, shovel it etc. I just want to watch it for an evening, and then I’ll be good.  I wonder if that will happen, or if I’ll end up having to drive in it again.