Doing the math in winter

Everyone knows you have to be smarter and tougher than average to survive the North Country winter. It’s Darwin, pure and simple. The folks who walk on the thin ice, who drive on the bald tires, who go out to make snow angels after drinking tequila, they are likely to get bred out of the line.

It’s a tough time. Not only are the days too short, everything takes more time. You have to struggle into the Frankenstein boots, the fat gloves, the moon-suit and the stupid hat with the pom-pom. You have to drive slower–after you brush off the snow and scrape the windows. Half your calories go to just keeping your core temperature warmer than, say, a corpse.

Math fail. Photo: Greg Gjerdingen, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Math fail. Photo: Greg Gjerdingen, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

It’s a pain in the butt, so you learn to do the math. There is an optimum speed at which to drive in any road conditions that will keep your car between the snowbanks and still get you there in time for dinner. Those who can’t manage the calculations in their head keep the tow truck operator’s children in college funds.

There is a minimum amount of snow shoveling that will allow your car to blast through the end of your driveway and make it onto the road. If you miscalculate by 10% you find yourself a foot short of the road with all four tires off the ground. And of course if you shovel too much too fast, there’s the heart attack.

And travel on foot requires its own set of delicate calculations. If you can’t balance watching where you put your feet with watching what’s coming down the road, you’ll either break a hip or be lost beneath a beer truck. They call it situational awareness, I believe, in the military.

So study up on the odds and we’ll all make it safely through to spring. And cultivate good relations with your neighbors. The odds are good that when you get caught out doing something stupid, they’ll be around to help you out.  They may shake their heads and laugh, but they’ll help you out.


7 Comments on “Doing the math in winter”

  1. Laurena Will says:

    Good Morning – so Dale, were you following me around this week when I miss calculated the bank a the end of the driveway by say, oh, 10%. And then the neighbors had to come over and help me get all 4 tires back on the ground? 3 women of various generations laying on our bellies (getting soaked) with the necessary tools pushing and pulling the ice and hard packed snow out from under the car. Yes, I might have made it had my tires not been bald thus preventing me from the full running start thru the end of the driveway. Loved it, especially timely

  2. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Chainsaw and a monster truck with a winch. Git’r dun. Just sayin.

  3. michael coffey says:

    what a great post, Dale. Yes, we Adirondackers are all a little more evolved! A sentiment that can’t be heard too often (and isn’t). Happy holidays.

  4. Dale Hobson says:

    Hi Laurena–

    No, I wasn’t following you. What you detect in this essay is the authentic voice of personal shameful experience. I underestimated 10% myself this week. But thanks to a head-shaking laughing neighbor with a snowblower, I was only 15 minutes late for work. Math fail.


  5. Molly Nichols says:

    Love your post!! We are a tough bunch up here and usually take it all in stride!! My stupid moment of the week occurred when I was trying to free a small tree from the deep snow. I forgot the vegetation is much less pliable in the winter and of course the branch sprang up and smacked me right across my face!! I don’t think anyone saw it, though, so maybe that’s good!!

  6. Mark, Saranac Lake says:

    Is that 10% on the first try or 10% on the fifth try? If I can’t blast over cement mound left at the end of the driveway by the highway plow in four tries, I’ll actually go get the snow shovel.

  7. Mr. Wakiki says:

    Or stay home and listen to NCPR>!

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