There are some folk who don't see the gem inside my rough exterior who might consider me a hot head. To which I say a hearty "bite me". But let this opinion be a caution that within this blog may lurk items of a venting nature or perhaps those which might be considered a rant. So be it. Proceed with caution. You have been warned.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Winter in the Midwest and Abject Stupidity

When I moved to Iowa, no one told me that it was also fondly known as Baja Minnesota.

"Hey, you used to live in Illinois - what's the big deal?"

I'll tell you what the big deal is; blizzards. Not just snow, but piles upon piles of snow backed up by 40 mph winds and followed by days of below zero temperatures with -30 degree wind chills. Snow comes in from Nebraska horizontally. In Illinois a big snowfall is usually followed by kids sledding, building snowmen, ice skating on farm ponds. Not so in Iowa. After a snow in Iowa people of all age groups huddle indoors listening to the wind scream around the eaves and try to conjure up realistic sounding excuses for not showing up for school, work, church, or whatever other organization is fool hardy enough not to cancel their activities. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Whenever it snows in Iowa it first lays down at least a quarter inch of ice which arrives as freezing rain. Gotta love that when you go out to get in your car.

Ah yes, the car. There is a macho mindset in Iowa that nothing can stop commerce/business and if you can actually see the doorway to a place of enterprise it will somehow try to open no matter what the depth of the drifts in the streets. So one must climb into the vehicle and venture forth.

Problem 1: In Iowa snow removal does not start until the storm ends. That's right, if the storm lasts 4 days and deposits 28 inches of snow, not a plow, not a salt truck, not a sand spreader will creep from the city barns until bright sunshine is clearly visible and not a flake still floats in the air. Calls to the department of public works invariably brings the response "The main arteries were clear by 7:00 AM". This is little comfort as you sit on one of the aforesaid arteries hung up by the frame of your car in the middle of a 6 foot drift. Worse, the city employees trusted with the responsibility of clearing the streets suffer from "seasonal amnesia" where they forget from year to year what the white stuff falling out of the sky is and how to deal with it. Thus for at least the first two blizzards, no street clearing activities take place whatsoever.

Problem 2: All native born Iowans had as their last vehicle a horse and buggy. That can be the only explanation for their total inability to make the slightest effort to observe traffic laws and courtesies. Turn signals? Just rip that lever right off the column, Pa, we won't ever be using it. Changing lanes? Just change, if there is anyone behind you they'll look out for themselves. Turns? Just turn from whatever lane you happen to be in to any direction you wish, someone will look out for you. No parking places? Just park in the street and walk away - seriously, on any given day the streets are full of cars abandoned in traffic lanes while the owners run in for a donut or whatever. And all this is when the streets are clear, dry and in the light of day. When the snow starts, the seasonal amnesia sets in and as one, Iowa natives believe that bad weather driving consists of a single rule "drive as fast as you can and everyone else will get out of your way".

Let's face it, there's a theme here - which will turn up again and again in this blog and it is that the great majority of people are STUPID. Half the people you meet are below average intelligence - think about it - and that average has been falling steadily since the late 1800s (don't believe this? get hold of an 8th grade math book from the 1890s and look at the problems. Give these to the high school student who needs a picture of a burger on the key of the fast food cash register in order to ring up your order and see what results you get.) STUPID I tell you, STUPID.