Stevieslaw: My Voices Column for February

“You can do It!” The Emergency Laguide to Surviving February
“I’m a good person,” was the first thing my Cousin Lou told me when they wheeled him to my car at the local emergency room. “And I have a reasonably healthy sense of humor,” he continued. “But I have to say that when it comes to irony, I like it better by the spoonful than by the shovelful.” Actually, my Cousin Lou is the “salt of the earth.” Every year, on the second Wednesday of January, he gets up at five in the morning to drive his friends and neighbors, Maude and Mindy, to the local airport so they can catch their connecting flight to Dulles and travel on to Maui. While they are out and about in the gentle climate of Hawaii for two months, Lou watches their house and digs them out as needed. As a reward, Lou gets a few pounds of high end Kona coffee, to which he is understandably addicted. This year, after he had helped them in with their luggage, he slipped on some black ice on his way back to the car and broke his nose and left ankle. “Not fair,” he said, knowing that was silly. “And I still have February to contend with.”
Ah, in State College Pennsylvania, we all have February to contend with. And although we are a hardy bunch, it is clear that nearly all of us would take issue with T.S. Eliot, who penned “April is the cruelest month,” in his poem, The Waste Land. Indeed, a recent poll of Central Pennsylvanians give the two things they dread most in life as political ads on TV and February. In a climate where winter can last from Thanksgiving to the first of May, you might wonder why we would single out the month of February as the most horrible of the bunch. In fact, that question is bandied about, by the hollow-eyed, despairing people who have realized they are in for it for another year, in the hallways, by the water coolers, at the coffee shops and bookstores, and in the produce department at Wegman’s where the “winter crutches club” meets on Sundays. Sure, February is such an odd month that we have to add a day to it every four years, but I believe that the dread is inspired by the almost total lack of sunshine that is characteristic of the month here. Last year, we had 28 minutes of sunshine spread over February’s 29 days. To combat the despair, we at Stevieslaw are compelled to publish “You can do it,” the Less-intelligent-than-average-American Guide to surviving February. In the guide, we will give you more than 100 strategies to making it through the month, including:
1. Embracing it: A family we know invested their entire retirement income in sporting goods and clothing so they could spend all of February immersed in winter sports like skiing, ice skating, speed skating, cross country skiing, ski jumping, ice fishing, and 14 different kinds of sledding. They renamed their house the “defrostation” station and would often collapse in their front hallway—too exhausted to give February, or for that matter simple grooming much mind. Note that this option requires really good health insurance, with the platinum emergency room rider an extra special priority.
2. Disguising it: When the South Bronx, in New York City, destructed in the 70’s and 80’s, the city painted every remaining window in the burnt out, abandoned structures with colorful flower pots poking out from imaginary window shades. From the Cross Bronx Expressway, as you coaxed your car forward with the hope you would never break down here, you could admire the colorful buildings. We will provide you with simple plans for painting your windows and doors so that you will never know that February roars outside. Paint a room with sunshine and flowers: Another with a clear sky over an imaginary creek not yet a victim of pollution: A third might depict a sky full of stars rather than sleet. Use your retirement money to hire your cousin Harvey—who hasn’t held a steady job since 1961, to deliver all your needs while wearing summer appropriate attire. Have your pizza delivered by a guy in a flowered shirt sporting a ukulele!
3. Fleeing it: Spend your retirement money to get out of Central Pennsylvania in February. This option will take careful planning as “Worst Journeys” magazine—named for the book by Cherry Garrard about the ill-fated Scott expedition to Antarctica, now lists most travel options in tea-partied America as barely manageable—or as they put it—like traveling in Albania by oxcart. Some routes—such as the trip from State College to an airport in New York City over the George Washington/Chris Christie Bridge are no longer passable for democrats, liberals and most independents. In the guide, we will teach you how to get to a warmer clime by bus, train, auto, airplane or thumb safely and efficiently. Often, this will require that you leave the region in mid-October.
Buy the guide soon so you may carefully consider your physical, spiritual and medication options before the dead, dread of February overcomes you and you are left broken and empty to stare at daytime TV as both you and the sky outside changes slowly from gray to grayer.

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