I’m not sure if I threw my back out. After this past winter, I don’t have the strength to throw out anything.
During the last arctic blast of winter – which delivered a dumping of snow FedExed overnight from the Ural Mountains directly to my lumbar region – I did something to my back. All because of shoveling what amounted to six or so inches, but felt like I had hoisted a team of wet Siberian Huskies that had been dipped in sleet.
My shoulder blades are now threatening to dislocate to Florida.
In Chicago, where winter isn’t officially over until July, March is the tipping point. By then the snow blower is usually out of gas and no coddling will bring it back to life. Like a foul-weather friend, I run back into the arms of my spurned shovel. We’re planning a cruise together once my spine is realigned.
In my neighborhood, the first sign of spring is when you spot a desperate man hugging a wheezing Toro and attempting CPR. Minutes later, he will be seen shoveling the driveway while his wife nervously peeks out the window clutching a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
Here in the Midwest, we are cynical enough not to be duped by hints of spring. A refreshing aperitif of a 70-degree day will be followed by a numbing sub-zero chaser. This is usually accompanied by what our local weathercasters enjoy referring to as “a light, wintry mix.” This makes the forecast seem like a side order of seasonal vegetables. In fact, it’s an apocalypse of freezing rain and hailstones that will send your emerging daylilies into the witness protection program.
Each spring, as reliably as the return of the migratory Marshmallow Peep, the tabloid entertainment shows air the same clip of a sun-kissed Christie Brinkley squeezing in one last slalom during the Aspen Supermodel Downhill Invitational. Sporting a cheery parka without salt stains, she can be seen breezing around a powdery mountaintop looking impossibly rejuvenated.
I usually catch the Christie segment on the heels of a major Midwest snowstorm after spending six hours in the alley trying to shovel out a parking spot the size of a welcome mat.
My designated uniform for snow removal is the same grubby parka I wore in high school. It has managed to retain gas fumes from the last four decades of plowing. My parka is so loaded with fossil fuels that it may be responsible for global warming.
And here’s an inconvenient truth: In reality, there are only two days of perfect San Diego weather in Chicago. You will have a sinus headache during one of them and be stuck in the house unable to lift your head to look out the window.
The other day? You’ll be sequestered in a distant relative’s basement attending a middle-school graduation party you can’t get out of. By the time you leave at sunset, the only thing you’ll have to show for a stellar day is that queasy feeling that comes from eating half a sheet cake covered with blue frosting.
But all is not bleak on the weather-beaten front. This year, Daylight Savings Time came three weeks early. And not a moment too soon. I can use the extra hour of daylight to locate a chiropractor.