We knew it was going to be a hard winter.
And up until last week, it seemed as if everyone had agreed to hunker down and just do this.
I was impressed with the resilience of the people I know who faithfully shoveled their driveways, wore their ski hats while watching TV and decided they weren't going to let this dastardly winter spoil their optimism for life.
But that was before last week.
Suddenly, every time I answer the phone I am treated to weather forecasts from everyone I know. "Can you believe," they shout, "that next week is going to be colder than this one?"
When I walk into a store or a restaurant the first thing that someone pale and pasty says to me is, "I'm just really getting tired of this weather."
I'm all for the complaining. Optimism is overrated.
This is the winter that will test your faith. It wants to eat you up and spit you out into spring half the person you were before it started. And suddenly, I can hear the collective sigh of northeasterners exhaling everywhere I go. The "let's just do it" crowd is wilting.
Every Wednesday night for two years I went and had chicken wings with my friends, but that came to a sudden end three snowstorms ago. People are shopping less, entertaining less, spending less and they're certainly smiling a whole lot less.
I am reminded of a book I read when I was younger called "The Long Winter." Laura Ingalls and her family bravely faced the hard winter of 1880-81 in their little house in the Dakota Territory. Blizzards covered the little town with snow, cutting off all supplies from the outside. They had to make a dangerous trip across the prairie to find some wheat when the food ran out.
I feel like Laura Ingalls when I'm on my way to Wegmans. I plan my shopping trips like I'm about to make a dangerous journey across my own prairie; it's a big deal to venture out and get supplies. One day I ate rice and crackers because starving seemed a better choice than actually having to pull a Laura Ingalls.
When I shovel snow in minus-10 degree weather I expect a badge of courage. And unless someone is coming to visit, half the time I don't even bother. I don't want to be outside in the polar vortex.
And what's a polar vortex anyway?
"The bitter cold that a polar vortex is pushing into much of the United States is not just another winter storm," says CNN. "It's the coldest in 20 years in many areas."
In case you haven't Googled it, the polar vortex is an area of low pressure in the upper atmosphere that is occasionally forced south of its typical position. And here's the part of the definition that kills me: "A significant piece of the larger spin can break off and plunge south into the U.S."
So, what we have here is a broken polar vortex.
And while we're busy complaining, can we pause a moment to blame Canada? Canada has a large cold air manufacturing plant and we're all waiting for their union to go on strike. I once heard a comedienne suggest that we build a wall across the Canadian border to prevent winter in the United States and I thought it was a splendid idea.
Misery loves company and we're not alone in all of this: Chicago has been hit with 73.4 inches of snow, a good 46.5 inches above normal. As far as average temperatures go, Chicago is at its third-coldest season on record.
Erie, Pa., is number one on the list at just over 120 inches of snow so far, followed by Syracuse; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and finally, balmy Buffalo. All of these cities, of course, get lake effect snow.
You'd think Old Man Winter would eventually play his last card, but March isn't looking much better. Just five days into the month and the number of states experiencing an unprecedented March chill now stands at 17. Green Bay, Wis., reached 24 below zero Monday, marking its coldest temperature of the winter.
Experts advise staying active and optimistic until things warm up.
As for me, for the first time in my life I joined a gym. That's a good sign that the vortex is truly broken.