Higgins: Polar Vortex testingWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Once more we’ve managed to survive a true test of some of the worst mother nature has to offer. A level 3 snow emergency was up for days to protect us from the desire to go to jobs that we normally have to drag ourselves out of bed for. Amazingly however, some still risked the cold, the snow and potential citations to reach vital jobs like those at grocery stores so they could sell bread and milk to the rest of us (doing likewise) to survive the testing period.
(Someone will likely come along later and explain the properties of bread and milk that do this, as opposed to say … frozen dinners and coffee.)
Others, seeking their measure by the elements, sought physical trial by shovel (or if luckier, snow blower) to uncover the sidewalks and driveways that they were legally obligated to (and did it again after the plows of those ordering their clearing re-covered them through their efforts). Some few even took advantage of this spate of wildly inclement weather to don electrically-heated snowsuits and test themselves in pursuit of unconventional (if not unhinged) leisure activities.
In fact, the survival effort during this winter storm tested us as a nation, with temperatures in the South dropping to levels only normally seen in Ohio this time of year. Those in the Buckeye State meanwhile, braced themselves for a chill so low that it could normally only be found in places like Minnesota or the Northern Plains.
The Weather Channel granted this weeklong mini-Ice Age with the special title, “Hercules,” while most of the rest of nation simply knew it as the “Polar Vortex of 2014.” (Personally, I was simply grateful that some inept copywriter didn’t attempt to force something like “Wintergate” on us.) Few seem to realize however, that testing was taking place.
In days past when most automobiles were tractionless rear-wheel driven conveyances whose only hope of movement in such weather involved straining the rear suspension with the addition of dead weight, would they even have been tempted to test their fate? Without government intervention, would they have failed to comprehend (like so many do today) that today’s front, or even four-wheel drive vehicles have little or no additional road value if all those wheels are on ice?
On the other hand, how many questioned the need for local governments to issue Level 3 travel restrictions, lest the unwary (or just plain stupid) attempt to navigate largely impassable roads? Should they instead have questioned the gall of local authorities believing that they have the power or ability to in effect declare martial law and order citizens off the streets unless or until given permission to return to them? (Just for our safety, of course.)
What about testing in the days ahead when cars drive themselves (Google is already experimenting) and new “safety” devices become a part of every vehicle? Will this technology make the roads more passable, more complicated or just more controlled? Will they include an ignition interlock that can be remotely activated by those in authority to prevent vehicles in range from starting while such restrictions are in effect and until another signal is issued by said controlling authority?
Will our mobile devices soon become as annoying as our TVs, with constant broadcasts of emergency weather information and travel restrictions? Using the GPS chips in such devices, will they some day admonish us if we attempt to venture out, ignoring such warnings? Will they eventually simply report us to the proper authorities for such violations? (All in the name of safety of course.)
This has been the first (and with luck, the last) winter test of the year, but few seem concerned about how we scored. I suspect in fact, that the next squirrel moment will distract even those few, as they go back to what’s truly important – the latest update of “Duck Dynasty.” Soon all that will be left to show for this most recent exam will be the “I Survived the Polar Vortex of 2014″ T-shirts (purchased as participation trophies, regardless of grade).
Each time in the future that another of these significant weather events occur, however, another test will occur and a couple of the answers will likely continue to prove unsatisfactory. One will be an expectation of the exercise of common sense and self-reliance that the species has used over the years to guide our choices. The other, the loss of a bit of the freedom that comes with each submission to government safety rules and regulations.