The Prune: Severe weather disturbance is a communal event

by Todd Sharp

Last winter….

It’s -25 degrees, the wind is blowing 23 MPH and the skin freezing wind chill is -49 degrees.

Oddly, I find it comforting to be standing at my desk writing about this horribly extreme weather rather than sitting in front of a fireplace staring at the possibility of a long, slow day checking my phone for emails, Facebook posts and the latest political shenanigans.

I have always liked working on the worst weather days.

I was up all night watching the river rise during the floods of ’98 over both highways 23 and 26 in Rosendale, then headed to work early in the morning.

The bitterly disturbing record setting wind chill of -92 in 1996 was my first day, at a new job, at the Action Advertiser in Fond du Lac. I wore chopper mittens that first day (everyone knows that mittens are warmer than gloves).

Bob Carew, the president of the company, made it a point to tell me these mittens weren’t proper work attire. I wore them anyway as the excitement of the day, the struggle to survive and a chance to surprise customers by showing up was much more thrilling than sitting home, wondering what stories I would miss.

Three days later, still winter…

We’ve been blessed with what Ric Damm has called a “bipolar vortex.” It’s going to be 50 degrees tomorrow. 84 degrees difference in three days.

Last week …

July 19th. It’s the hottest, most humid and uncomfortable day. So intensely oppressive, it nearly stops me from walking the short distance from my chair to the fridge for a beer.

Pungent summer smells cling to the water molecules and provide the sense of smell as distinctly summer and identifiable as fresh bread or your grandma’s house.

The choice to live with the extremes of our climate is exciting and conversational, bringing us together as we struggle through the coldest, hottest, wettest, windiest, worse days imaginable.

It has a certain communal joy.

Our days have similarities. We overcome hardships. We fight extremes and delightfully, hopefully, live to tell about it.

That makes Wisconsin so lovely.

Editor’s note: Todd Sharp, who sells advertising for the Green Laker, Express and The Ripon Commonwealth Press, removed his chopper mittens long enough to type this column.