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It’s ‘slow down and hibernate’ month

My apologies beforehand to the Capricornians and late-month Aquarians out there (A proper February Aquarian, here), the drivel that follows is certain to rile you, get your blood simmering.

If you haven’t looked at the thermometer outside, however, you might think some platelets on the hot-plate is a good thing. It’s January, fergawdssake, and anything that raises the heat is a good thing. You’ll thank me later.

Believe me, it’s not you January babies that drives my lifelong gripe: your dreadful birth month was not your choice, I assume. Because it is a wretched month, the worst of the twelve, by far. A lingering, tortuous wasteland of ice and cold that makes me wish I had a bear’s biology (and a bear market’s rewards) such that I could just sleep my way though all 31 days of it.

A new year, a new start, aren’t we all so optimistic and yadda yadda yadda, the same tiresome canard we’re subjected to year in and year out. Hello?!? It’s freaking cold and it’s freaking cold and it’s ... a new start? Feh. It feels like December to me, except colder, cruddier and without the festive feelings, holiday parties and family get-togethers.

No, January feels frozen in time, static and unchanging.

Not everyone in my household shares my anti-Januarian sentiment and the brood seems content to pile on the snow clothes and frolic in the arctic environment. Like so many around here — “January! Freshies and few tourists!” — they take to the slopes with a fevered alacrity that Dad can’t appreciate.

Of course, they’re on kid time, that affirmation of Einstein’s theory of Relativity, where every day stretches into infinity until they fall out into instant slumber and only a day at Disneyland gives them a true sense of how fast time actually passes. If they resent January at all, it’s because it’s a long, long way from summer break, even longer from next Christmas. They don’t share the old man’s aversion to the so-called new start.

One of the reasons I sneer at the whole new start concept is that I’ve never in my long life seen it applied realistically: in my experience, no one else seems to make it past the first week of the new year before the bad habits return with a vengeance. That same cynicism prevents me from making a new year’s resolution. If I’m going to change something about myself, I don’t need “Auld Lang Syne” as a soundtrack.

Not that I’d mind a little change here, there and everywhere. I could do without the nasty smoking habit, I could eat more healthy (i.e. jettison the microwave) and spend less time on the Internet.

I know if I didn’t procrastinate with laundry, it wouldn’t get to the point that giant piles of laundry didn’t loom over me like some biblical leviathan ready to consume me with one large swallow. If I broke that chore into little chunks, I’d know instant serenity. Thic Nhat Hanh would have nothing on me: “The path to inner peace is to do the whites on Monday...”

That path to inner peace would only carry me so far, however. The old Zen Buddhist saying states that the way to enlightenment is to “Chop wood, carry water,” but says nothing about “Break your back moving tons of January snow.”

Likewise, it remains silent regarding the idiots on January roads.

This year marks a quarter century I’ve lived in Colorado as an adult (29 years total), all of them driving in winter conditions. Although I don’t recall the learning curve, I do remember my first pirouette in an intersection as being hugely instructive in learning that road conditions demanded some adjustment in driving. No sudden movements (accelerating and decelerating), slow it down a little bit, follow a little bit farther than usual, watch out for curves, hills, icy patches and morons.

Oh, and out-of-state plates (especially ones from snowless states) — steer clear, they’re more dangerous than suicidal deer.

The ones moving at five miles an hour, both hands gripping the wheel, face planted against the windshield and mouth agape in utter terror... they’re to be expected and pitied. An annoyance, but I have to appreciate that they’re here spending their money, even if they’re slowing traffic down to a virtual crawl. God bless em’ and I wish them a safe journey as I find a dry patch of passing lane to finally move on.

Just frightened children, they are, and I can’t be overly concerned with having my commute reduced to a snail’s pace (having also learned to give myself extra time to get wherever I’m going).

While the white-knucklers might make me a little late wherever I’m going, it’s the real idiots who make me fear that I’ll never make it there alive. These are the drivers who apparently say to themselves, “Oooooh, inclement weather and icy roads! I can drive twice as fast!”

That these drivers almost exclusively drive really, really big trucks speaks to a certain amount of overcompensation for something they probably lack (I mean, aside from the obvious intellectual capacity to realize that they’re a menace).

I picture them snarling behind the wheel, saying out loud, “I’ll show you I know how to drive in the snow and ice!”

No, in fact you’re showing not just the exact opposite, but also displaying what a self-centered sociopathic simpleton you are. If you dump your rig in a ditch, that’s your business, have a ball digging out, paying a well-deserved increased premium along with that fat towing fee. What concerns me is that I’m hauling precious cargo, my three reasons for keeping it safe and sane when on the road, and your knuckleheaded insistence on proving something (whatever it is) puts that precious cargo at risk.

That serious stupidity was evident last Sunday night as I returned home from the grocery store. In my usual weekend scatterbrained approach to the big Sunday meal, I’d forgotten a few ingredients and the grocery trek was essential, imminent.

We’d had a couple of inches of the white stuff out at Hatcher, something I’ve learned to expect. People could be walking around in shorts and flip-flops downtown and we’ll get a few inches of snow up in Hatcher. Indeed, by the time I’d reached the store, it was clear that not much had hit the ground to the south of us.

However, what was also clear was that what little snow we’d received had quickly iced over and slowing things down was the prudent course; the one or two fishtails I’d experienced pulled my foot well off the gas pedal.

Naturally, those same thoughts hadn’t occurred to the drive-fast dimwits, the evidence being the tire tracks off the road and the big pile of churned up snow where the front end had its face plant.

Oh yeah, dumbbell in a ditch.

It’s January and nothing has changed.

My continued struggle confirms that the new year is just as miserable as the old year, maybe more so. Of course, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll go to my grave with the hacking cough, these palsic sneezes and throbbing headaches due to sinus cavities in revolt. Four out of five doctors say I’m doomed.

The life-long condition of the Colorado Crud, however, I’ll survive; like slow out-of-state drivers, it’s a minor annoyance. Three more weeks of January and high-speed pinheads? I’m not so sure.

jim@pagosasun.com