Weather that Will Kill You

Beachfront snowdrift in front of Lake Michigan ice floes.

Beachfront snowdrift in front of Lake Michigan ice floes.

Chicago got hit by 19 inches of snow last weekend.

It was, reportedly, the city’s 5th-largest snowstorm on record. It didn’t really feel like it. I feel like I can remember three or so storms to match it in the 15 years I’ve lived here, and the snowdrifts don’t come close to the ones that fill my memory from my childhood in Minnesota. (Of course, I was shorter then, so maybe that skews things a bit.)

Tree with icicle branches

Tree with icicle branches

In any event, I’m happy to report that the storm didn’t seem to have much impact on city life. Plows and road salt exist, and we’re a few weeks before a mayoral election, so there’s no way storm response is going to get botched.

It did have a massive impact on visitors to our fair city. You see, over the weekend I was working a freelance gig editing stories and monitoring social media for a sizable conference* in town.

Social media was kind of an embarrassment. In addition to passive-aggressive bullshit that sometimes seems to make up this industry’s primary mode of communication (they would send strongly-worded Christmas cards), there was genuine terror at the snow. Many declared they would not be leaving their hotel rooms (despite the well-plowed roads and free shuttle buses that travel them from said hotel’s doors to the convention center), and one even claimed that the organizers of the not-a-conference were trying to kill her. There were no small number of demands that future conferences not be held in places that are too cold or too hot. (The organization has a major non-conference in winter, plus an actual conference in summer, so both are issues.)

Snowy and icy Lake Michigan approaching a large snowdrift on the beach.

Snowy and icy Lake Michigan approaching a large snowdrift on the beach.

I’m overly sensitive to this kind of thing, since said organization is my former employer, and members had a direct link to drop this kind of whining on me all the time, which they used a lot. So by the end of the weekend, my nerves were a bit jangled.

The lack of that kind of attitude is something I deeply appreciate about the OCR world. It’s pretty incongruous to complain about something as trivial as getting a bit muddy, since that’s what we sign up for. The ethos of figure-out-a-way-to-do-it that pervades is one that I like. Sure, there are actual problems that don’t have easy solutions, but on an obstacle course you simply can’t turn things like a bit of snow that isn’t impairing road travel into them. I suppose there are still some trivial and anti-constructive complaints—overwrought responses to medals and the like—but if they’re widespread, they at least haven’t flooded me yet.

Snow and ice on Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan can’t really produce icebergs yet…

Plus, sometimes you can see neat things in heavy snow.

*It wasn’t really a conference; it’s technically a meeting. It’s a distinction that isn’t particularly useful in the current day, but the organization is full of pilkunnussijas** who like to have lengthy debates about what the distinction means and what is permitted and prohibited at each.

**Finnish for “pedants,” but also the best word ever, because it literally translates to “comma-fuckers,” and I’ve known too many.

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