500 Words At A Time: Shades of Weather

Nothing better than turning on the weather report to see that winter has arrived an hour away and to know that in an hour…whoops, that weather report was a half-hour old…and winter has arrived in force. There are two seasons here, hot and cold. Between hot and cold is the transition from one temperature extreme or the other.

Hot is the worst and the shortest amount of time. You have survived the mild, but wet season from cold to arrive at hot shortly after the last class of the year ends. Your mind and body are done with classes, done with the cold, done with the wet, and if you are from Michigan done with the ugly transition from white snow, to pollution covered snow, to tiny piles of pollution and snow, then the mud phase, and finally green. Unless you live on campus where the grass takes a bit longer to come in, but eventually by the time you are satisfied that another cold snap, sudden snow squall, or miserable cold rain storm will not show up it is hot.

I have not lived in truly hot places on the planet, but I have been stuck here for four summers. Summers in Big Rapids, in campus housing, are miserable and joyous. Joyous because the students are gone, but I have written about this numerous times. Miserable, because the housing units we are in do not have air conditioning or central air or even old fans. Instead, we have a house fan, which is giant fan the sound of which drowns out all noise, as it pulls air from outside inside and takes the inside air and pushes it out. What does that mean when the temperature is 80 to 90+ degrees?

Are you familiar with a convection oven? You have probably seen the commercials where the hot air circulates to evenly cook the food. I do not want to be evenly cooked. Yet, that is the hot season here. Thankfully the hot season is only a few weeks.

“Winter is coming.”

-Stark House Motto

That is great. Here the motto is “POLAR VORTEX!” I didn’t even know polar vortexes existed until we moved here and we are no where near the polar. Yet, three out of the five years here there has been a polar vortex of varying strengths. Ferris State University is thought of as a walking campus; thus unless you will literally freeze to death stepping outside, the doors remain open.

If you happen to live in the dorms on main campus, I guess I can understand that line of thought. If you live 10 to 15 minutes walking distance from the nearest building, that line of thought can piss off. Polar Vortexes do not last all of winter, which means much like the hot season for a few weeks walking around is miserable as your sinuses freeze. The worst part of winter around here has been how the grounds crew handles the snow and ice.

Depending on where on campus you are the snow and ice removal varies from excellent to “I could die walking here.” Excellent snow removal seems to be reserved for the “special part of campus”-pharmacy, allied medical, and optometry buildings where there are heated sidewalks. Main campus and the environs around main campus seem to have second priority with better snow and ice removal closer to the center of campus. Last on their list is family housing where we have seen inches of snow pile up before anyone comes through to remove the snow.

Every winter we learn to walk on snow packed so dense that it becomes ice. Learned how to drive our car through ill cleared parking lots, to maneuver and park around snow piles in such a way that our car is not mistaken for one of the cars that never moves and is buried under a pile of snow one one of the days that they do snow “removal.” Like the holidays, the weather around here has not directly affected education, but has shaded the impressions of our time here.


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