Archived Story

Snowbirds want to live here but not visit

Published 9:56am Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Column: Tales From Exit 22, by Al Batt

Cold snap.

We suffered a cold snap.

That sounds too easy.

Polar vortex.

That sounds scarier.

The wind howls. Meteorologists talk about the “wind shall factor.” The wind shall blow. We suffer breeze freeze.

It makes a fellow shiver.

If people can tell if you’re a man or a woman, you’re not wearing enough clothing. Winter turns each of us into a well-rounded person. It’s from the bundling up.

If life were a basketball game, winter would be the Globetrotters. We’d be the Washington Generals.

The day groaned and crunched. It was all white, as if the world had no boundaries. The day carried the stamp of Minnesota. A snowplow drove by. There was little snow remaining on the road, so I think it headed past as a warning to other snow.

Winter teaches us things.

Electric blankets cure bedwetting.

I learned strategy in snowball fights. I was a proponent of the second-snowball plan of attack. I’d throw a snowball towards a foe. I didn’t lob it. I threw it at a very high arc. As my worthy opponent watched the snowball fly far overhead, I’d drill him with a second snowball and snickered at my cunning.

Winter gets to that point. You know the point. It’s when sitting and watching the grass grow sounds exciting. Winter is an endurance event.

When winter begins treating us as a baby treats a diaper, a friend flees the state. He makes a left turn, then a right turn, then left, and then right. He heads to Texas. He likes it there. There are no secret handshakes. He calls himself a snowbird. Some who stay home call him a quitter. He knows better than to leave. He played the children’s game, “Duck, duck, gray duck.” In Texas, they play, “Duck, duck, goose.”

They are wrong in Texas. They know it, but it is difficult for them to admit it.

He claims he didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. He doesn’t believe that below zero is the IQ of anyone who spends a winter in Minnesota. I think that he is worried that he might lick a flagpole if he stayed here.

We are not held captive. The exits are clearly marked.

We don’t live in “fly to” country.

The snowbird believes that Minnesota is a nice place to live, but he wouldn’t want to visit here.

Winter is just all white with me.

If it were not too cold to wear a T-shirt outside, I’d wear one that said, “Winter. It is what it is.”


The ringtone racket

It will never be like this again.

That’s what I thought the first time I went to work for a cellphone.

It was a Nokia and its ringtone was an iconic ditty, a descending arpeggio based on the “Gran Vals” by Francisco Tarrega that was inspired by Frederic Chopin.

Nokia cellphones became thicker than your favorite grandmother’s gravy.

The de-de-de-de, de-de-de-de, de-de-de-de-deeee quickly became a ubiquitous sound that was comfortably familiar to some, exceedingly annoying to others.

I switched the ringtone on my cellphone to an odd one. It was because of my mother’s dog. It was a nice dog. Seemed happy being a dog and had no other aspirations. It wasn’t one of those noisy dogs that are prone to fits of barking for no apparent reason. It refused to bark at rumors. Its specialty was barking at a knock at the door. It would do some impressive barking when that happened. That was OK. The barking stopped the minute the knocking subsided. The problem was that if my mother was watching a TV show and someone knocked on the door on that show, the dog ran to the door of my mother’s house and barked. That’s why I switched the ringtone on my phone to something odd and uncommon.

I listen to the radio a lot. Something on the radio often had a cellphone that produced a sound similar to my ringtone. It was that Gran Vals that was so prevalent. That sound caused me to grab for my cellphone like Mom’s dog barking at the door.

I have employed a good number of different ringtones through the years.

Some were pleasant, some were vexing.

I’ve learned by trial and error.

The sound of a cat coughing up a hairball makes a great alarm clock, but it proved displeasing as a ringtone.

I won’t divulge what my current ringtone sounds like.

But every time my cellphone rings, an angel gets his wings.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.