Last summer while I was traveling north into Maine through New Hampshire I stopped at the Maine Visitor Center just across the border to pick up some tourist literature. I struck up a conversation with one of the travel hosts and he inquired where I was from. When I told him MINNESOTA his immediate reaction was…“oh, it’s sure cold up there.” My response was it can’t be any worse than it is in Maine now, can it?
A few years back I was at the Detroit airport on a lay-over and a similar conversation came up with a bartender. When he heard I was from Minnesota his instinctive reaction was…how can you guys live up there? It’s so damn cold all the time. At first I thought he was joking…but his dead-pan face indicated he was completely serious. Correct me if I’m wrong…but Minnesota can’t be that much colder than it is in Detroit, I responded. His retort was…oh, yes…we’re much farther south than you are…just look at a map.
It must be about four years ago I was riding in a Las Vegas taxi cab and the driver asked the same question. When he heard Minnesota he got all excited. Asked me if I knew where the city of Red Wing was. Of course, I live about 35 miles from the city. Turns out this African American gentleman of about 60 years of age had a lifelong adventure he was scheduled to live out in Minnesota in just two weeks. His plan was to go snowmobiling and to ice fish—two activities he had never even remotely experienced but wanted to before he died. He couldn’t talk any of his friends into going with him…and neither would any of his sons tag along. Everyone told him he was a fool for doing it because he will probably end up dying in the cold. He said to hell with everyone and booked the trip anyway. Literally spent thousands of dollars in warm weather gear, lodging, guide services, a new camera outfit, etc. so he could enjoy and remember this exciting, albeit, frigid experience in the North Country.
As my wife and I sat in the back seat of the taxi we could not believe what we were hearing. First, most people from our country travel to Vegas to get away from the cold for a few days. Helps to break up the monotony of a long winter. Here we were now sitting listening to an older gent excitedly explaining to us how he was going to Minnesota to live out a lifelong dream to experience wintertime fun. He just couldn’t wait to stand on a frozen river or lake and try catching fish through a small hole in the ice. And the anticipated thrill of driving a snowmobile for hours and hours was just about getting the best of him.
That’s when my wife and I had to sober this poor guy up with some harsh facts. Truth is, that year when we left the airport in Minneapolis the pilot told us that it was actually warmer in Minnesota than it was in Vegas on that particular day. Everyone aboard the flight booed…but it was the truth. There was no snow to be found…heck, that year you would be hard-pressed to even find any safe ice to walk out on for fishing. The perception lots of folks have about Minnesota and how cold it is often times just does not compare with reality. As this poor taxi cab driver soon learned when he finally arrived in Minnesota…there’s a definite difference between perception and reality.
I fault those old Sears Die Hard Battery commercials of the 70s and 80s for creating much of this false perception. Remember the commercial where they were in International Falls, MN and they purposely left the car outside in the -40 degree extreme cold, but it started right off. Hell…that must be a damn good battery if it performs like that. Hell…Minnesota must be a terribly miserable state in the winter to live if they all must use Diehard Batteries just to exist.
Truth is Minnesota winters as of late have proven very wimpy by most accounts. Seriously, again this winter most of the usual winter activities have been curtailed because winter has once again failed to rear its ugly head. Been happening like this now for several years. I don’t know if I’m a full fledged believer in global warming quite yet…but I’m starting to think that something has to explain what is going on beyond mere coincidence because Minnesota winters sure aren’t what they used to be like for severity.
So, the next time you take pity on someone for living in Minnesota or for having to travel to this great state in the wintertime…just remember, perception does not necessarily equate with reality. Now, where did I put down my sunglasses and tanning lotion again?
© 2007 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Allowed Without Prior Permission.