I wish I could find the special statement released by the National Weather Service last night. For the moment the NWS abandoned it's usual bland recitation of temperature ranges, wind chills, and predicted snowfalls and indulged in some truly dramatic language, as if the scale of the approaching weather had flustered the meteorologists to the point that they lost some of their usual composure. The prediction went something along the lines of "the coldest temperatures in twenty years will come sweeping into the region with full force on Monday and Tuesday."
Something about that twenty year gap jogged my memory and I realized that I remembered the last time we experienced winter of this magnitude. It was almost 20 years ago exactly, the long weekend of Martin Luther King Day, 1994. I was a 20 year old student at Andrews University in Michigan and it was the worst winter weather I've ever experienced.
Here's I how I reported it in my pen and paper journal from Tuesday, January 18, 1994:
We've been experiencing record low temperatures and absolutely brutal weather. The highs are below zero and with the wind chill factor at negative 40 to 50 and it has been snowing almost continually since Thursday night. Monday was a holiday anyway but school was closed today and, along with the whole town of Berrien Springs, will be closed tomorrow.
The first part of this seven day weekend was spent watching six videos (that must be some sort of record and I felt positively sick afteward), reading three books, and tending to the myriad things that have gone wrong due to the sub-arctic temperatures--the car hasn't started since Sunday night, the hot water pipes to my apartment cracked Saturday night & have yet to be repaired, for awhile the garage door was opening itself, and the door to the garage is stuck shut. I haven't been out of the apartment since Sunday and I feel I'm going slightly stir crazy particularly now that I've run out of things to do. I finished my last book this morning. . ., my homework last night and I get out to the video store, and besides I don't think I feel like watching any more videos for awhile. For awhile I was reduced to reading old Reader's Digest until I remembered this book of African-American short stories I got from The Loft. . .
Mostly I just feel tired, mentally, physically, spiritually. Too much inactivity.
I just now realized that this pretty much describes life before the internet (Or at least before it became ubiquitous. A couple of entries later, I was marveling over getting online for the first time and "talking" with my friend J Carlos at Southern Adventist University via a rudimentary chat room.) If I'd found myself in similar circumstances today I would have had the entire web at my fingertips. I would have whiled away the hours on Facebook, binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, and reading all the articles I'd been meaning to get to on Slate.com.
I often tell my students that the last time I was bored was in the winter of 1994 and it's this particular storm I'm referring to. Today between our smart phones, tablets, and even old-school laptops, I don't know that boredom is even possible anymore.
But maybe that's an overstatement. I think what I missed most during my isolation while that epic storm raged was human contact. Who knows if the record-shattering low temps will materialize (already the worst of the snow forecast for tomorrow will likely miss us) but if, if the whole city does shut down for a few days, I'll won't have to hole up alone this time; I'll have my wife and kids to keep boredom at bay. As exciting as the internet may be, there's nothing like real human contact to make the passing hours a treasure rather than a chore.