Get a Grip – It’s Just Snow
“Is it snowing where you are?” the excited telephone caller from southern Maine asked. “It’s just raining where I am.”
Yes, I said, it’s snowing. It does that every year around this time here in the western Maine mountains.
“I can’t believe you’re getting snow,” continued the caller, one of several that day, all of whom were apparently unable to detect the slight hint in my vocal inflection meant to convey that I was busy working and didn’t have time to waste on an in-depth discussion of the inch of snow on the deck that would almost certainly melt in the next two hours. “Is the driving OK? Do you think people will be skiing?”
Yes and yes, I said, amping up the vocal inflection to let a trace of annoyance seep in. People around here would drive to happy hour during a nuclear attack and would go skiing in July if there were a heavy dew. Actual snow, even if it’s a mushy two inches, prompts a frenzy of early season exhilaration among downhill enthusiasts that might lead someone unfamiliar with local customs to conclude the mountains had been coated with a combination of federal stimulus checks, free Michael Jackson downloads, and OxyContin tablets.
The first measurable snow of the season fell on Oct. 13 here in northern Franklin County. While several inches are still visible on the higher elevations, the mushy little piles that accumulated that morning in the yard vanished by early afternoon. I spent the day successfully resisting any impulses to find the snow shovel, dig out my insulated boots, or get my winter parka out of storage.
Not everyone is as reluctant as I am about rushing the season. The Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry announced it was the first mountain in the eastern United States to open, offering lift access to one trail. A spokesperson said Sunday River was expecting 100 people this weekend.
I suppose there are idiots who go swimming in the ocean in April, too. Maybe the same idiots. Hard to tell with all that blue skin.
Speaking of blue skin, Rumford now has another tourist attraction. (No jokes about not knowing it even had one.) Everyone in town has painted themselves blue, and they all plan to run naked through the streets during the annual Painted-Blue-And-Running-Naked-Through-The-Streets Festival.
Sorry, I made that up. I’m still kinda cranky about the stupid phone calls about snow, and when I’m out of sorts, I tend to tell fibs. Happens quite a lot.
In any case, there really is a new blue thing in Rumford. It’s a 400-pound fiberglass model of Babe the Blue Ox, famous sidekick of Barney the Purple Dinosaur.
Still cranky, apparently.
In reality, Babe is the faithful companion of Paul Bunyan, the legendary lumberjack, noted in song for dressing up in women’s clothes. Or maybe that was another lumberjack.
Rumford already has a Bunyan statue (although it’s dressed in men’s clothes), and local development types figured a ten-foot-long ox would make the town more attractive to the type of tourists who travel around the country getting their photos taken in front of oversized objects of all sorts.
There are said to be more of these folks than there are people who call their friends in places where it’s snowing to ask if it’s snowing there. (What? The Weather Channel is out of business or something?)
Nor are the here’s-a-photo-of-me-standing-next-to-a-statue-of-the-world’s-largest-bowl-of-potato-salad crowd the oddest demographic group a town can attract. They’re nowhere near as weird as the wife-carriers.
About 2,000 people showed up at Sunday River on Oct. 10 (before it snowed) to witness and participate in the tenth annual North American Wife Carrying Championships.
For those unfamiliar with this event, wife-carrying is just what it sounds like. A husband carries a wife through an obstacle course. Fastest time wins. Winning team gets to paint themselves blue and run naked through the streets of Rumford.
This year’s victors were Dave (carrier) and Lacey (carryee) Castro of Lewiston, who used what news reports described as the “traditional Estonian carry” (which looks like one of the positions rejected by the editors of the Kama Sutra) to defeat forty other couples, including Joe Decker of San Diego, said to be “the world’s fittest man.” Which doesn’t explain why he and his wife finished eleventh, way behind Castro, who has never even been proclaimed the world’s second fittest man.
Which brings us to this week’s health tip. If you and your wife want to be in the same tip-top shape as the leading competitors in the wacky world of wife-carrying, you would do well to exercise caution in places where toxic chemicals are most likely to accumulate. And exactly where are those places?
According to a new study, conducted in ten states, including Maine, by Physicians for Social Responsibility, one of the spots you’re most likely to find toxins would be …
Even socially irresponsible ones.
The study found that health-care workers tend to soak up stuff like lead, mercury, and the kind of blue paint usually associated with running naked through the streets of Rumford. So whatever you do, don’t let any of those people touch you. They’re walking hazardous waste sites.
Let’s suppose you’re one of those nefarious types who’s been dumping that kind of poisonous residue into the environment. There’s good news for you this week in the event you’re apprehended in the act of pouring a fifty-five-gallon drum of green glowing garbage into Sebago Lake. While you will still be sent to the Maine State Prison as punishment for your crime, that facility will soon have a new warden, one who’s expected to institute many reforms.
No, not wife-carrying contests.
Patricia Barnhart is currently the acting warden at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, Mich.
As in Tom?
As in thumb screws?
As in hang by your thumbs?
Until we’re certain about the derivation of that name, you might consider storing your toxic leftovers in the basement.
Or you can dump them outside the house of the next idiot who calls me to ask if it’s snowing.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re smart, you won’t mention the weather.