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Local

Back in my day, it was never this cold outside

Weather is not something I think too much about. There’s nothing to do about it when it happens, there’s no way to avoid it. In the fall and spring, there’s usually a week when I would like to know in advance if I need a sweater or if it will be too warm by that afternoon. I inevitably guess poorly on those days.

I’d like one of them right now, though.

It’s tempting to look back and remember the days when physics and the weather were different. We’d get 10 feet of snow in the winter and the terrain was such that we had to walk to school uphill both ways.

Back then, they never cancelled school for anything, and the first recorded snow day must have been sometime in 1997 or thereabouts because we never got one except during those blizzards known only by their years.

It’s an easy reaction to protest school cancellations because of cold – the roads are safe enough, after all, and gasoline-powered buses should still start in this weather.

And even if the kids don’t come to school, every teacher ever has asked for more planning time – usually during a presentation they don’t want to sit through on an institute day. Right now the schools are free of kids and every other distraction.

Government buildings are shuttered, as are courts. That hasn’t happened since FDR and the Depression to get things back on track.

Well, except for all of the other times the government shuts down because of childish bickering in Washington.

But there is a valid excuse to complain about the weather. On a day like today, where the walk from the parking lot to the office takes a cup of hot coffee and turns it lukewarm at best.

Keep everything open as long as we’re warmer than Yakutsk, I say.

It may be colder in Illinois than it ever has been before, but that’s hardly a reason.

But if my coffee is affected, well, that’s just a bridge too far.

It seems others agree. Mail service is being delayed in some areas because it is too cold. Grundy County Administration Building and Courthouse also closed Wednesday because of the cold weather. I assume it’s because, without hot coffee, modern society cannot function.

There are not a few stories out there saying coffee helped influence the Enlightenment.

As coffee houses popped up around Europe – and especially England – well-to-do and educated people gathered to share early forms of newspapers and discuss the hot topics of art, science and philosophy, while drinking coffee.

Samuel Johnson frequented these houses at the same time he wrote the first English dictionary.

Of course, the buzz was pretty nice, too.

Coffee was one of the staple products that helped develop international trade, as well, as it became popular in places where it could not grow. The area that is now Haiti was one of the richest colonies in the world in part because of its trade in coffee, sugar and tobacco.

In the 400 to 500 years since coffee became popular in the wider world, we’ve seen scientific advancement, industrial and technological revolutions, and the invention of important things like antibiotics, the internet, and rock ’n’ roll. Coffee may not be the sole reason, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

So, of course, hot coffee is one of the gears that keeps the machinery of civilization in motion. Why even bother coming into work if it’s not going to be available.

But in recent years, we’ve managed to limit snowfall to moderate amounts and conform our topography to make sense outside of an M.C. Escher painting. Now, we generally walk uphill in one direction and downhill in the other, unlike tales from the world that once was.

It’s supposed to remain below freezing through Friday, although temperatures will feel downright tropical when it hits 20 degrees. Keep the coffee warm.

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