In Minnesota we just had our first snowstorm of the season. I was surprised by how everyone here reacted — or didn’t react — to the weather. I’m fairly new to the state. When I woke up Sunday morning we were experiencing, according to the radio, near-blizzard conditions with an estimated 10 to 15 inches of snow. High for the day: 16 degrees.
I assumed my 9:30 a.m. my yoga class for mid-lifers would be canceled. I emailed my yogi, who replied, "It’s on." I figured what the heck, I’d try driving the 10 miles to class.
When I stepped outside my bungalow the snow was really coming down. My landlord was in his Bobcat plowing my driveway. “Am I crazy to try driving in these conditions?” I asked him.
“Why wouldn’t you?” he replied, with no trace of irony.
Getting to class meant going very slowly and gripping the steering wheel the entire way. Despite the storm, the freeway, I-35, was filled with cars. People were heading to church, the Vikings game and holiday shopping. When I got to class, the studio was full.
Afterward I dug my car out of the snow and inched home. As I walked in my front door, the phone rang. It was my friend, Chuck, who has lived in Minnesota all his life. We had made plans to go to a holiday concert by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus that afternoon at the University of Minnesota. I figured that wasn’t happening.
“Pick me up,” he told me, “we’ll go together.” He was at a coffee shop in South Minneapolis. A Lutheran, he had just been to church.
“But there’s a blizzard out there," I said. "Surely, the concert will be canceled.”
“This storm is nothing,” Chuck replied. “Did you get tickets?”
They say in Minnesota that everybody ignores the winter weather. If they didn’t, no one would ever do anything. A storm like this would have shut down Boston, where I moved from, or New York, where I once lived, too. But in Minneapolis everyone was saying how wonderful and beautiful the first snowfall was, and that such an early storm was a good sign there’d be plenty more to come. The local news channel said the storm was great for the economy because people love to do their holiday shopping when it snows. While driving, I had to be careful not to slide into bicyclists who were out doing their errands.
Chuck and I got to the concert as it was starting. The 10-mile trip from midtown Minneapolis to the University of Minnesota was arduous. We got there on time, as the new artistic director, Ben Riggs, greeted the audience. He just moved here from Denver. “When I got up this morning," he said, "I thought it was a snow apocalypse and no one would make it. But as I look out I see the auditorium is packed.”
The woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder. “What is he talking about?” she asked. I told her I was new in town and had the same reaction as Riggs.
“We all know how to get around in this weather,” she told me. “We don’t drive over 20 miles an hour and we don’t tailgate.”
When I got home that evening, my young landlord greeted me. He was plowing my driveway again. “I see you've been out all day,” he said. “You’re a real Minnesotan now.”
Maybe I am.
When I got in my house the phone was ringing. It was my friend, John. "Do you want to go to a German restaurant tonight for dinner?" he asked. "Sure," I replied, "I've been too busy today to shop for food." With that, I readjusted my scarf and headed back out. It was still snowing.
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