Monday, February 02, 2009

Groundhog Day

     Well, it's Groundhog Day kids, and you know what that means. For one day we throw out thousands of years worth of instinctual knowledge gleaned from watching the sky and hundreds of years of scientific experimentation and record keeping and let a small rodent predict our weather. This is a bold strategy on our part I think, especially since it is so deeply flawed. But we will get to that in a moment. Let me take a short moment to note that, yes, there are many, many groundhogs who are forced to predict our weather on this day. But I am going to focus on one in particular, and that is the most famous one, Punxsutawney Phil, who unfortunately saw his shadow this morning assuring us six more weeks of winter.
     Of course we are going to have six more weeks of winter. Let's think about this. It's the second day of February and no matter how you define winter spring doesn't start until at least the middle of March when the Vernal Equinox rolls around and you can stand an egg on its point. So if Phil decides that he didn't see his shadow, then that's not a smart prediction. Because to say that spring is going to start now would really throw things all off kilter. I mean, I know know that tons of people in the northern latitudes are sick of temperatures that start with the word "minus" but spring arriving in early February would not be good. It would not be good at all, because then we would have to hottest, most scorchingly uncomfortable summer in the history of man. It would be like living in the Sahel but with way, way, WAY more humidity. You wouldn't be able to buy enough air conditioners.
     And honestly, why wouldn't Punxsutawney Phil or Staten Island Chuck or Dunkirk Dave or Spanish Joe (who also sounds like a legendary pool player from the first half of the Twentieth Century, doesn't he?) or any of their groundhog brethren want winter to continue for another six weeks. Because here's the deal. Groundhogs hibernate. They basically get to spend the entire winter lying around in little burrows that, if you are a groundhog weatherman, I am sure is filled with straw and probably even a blanket and whatnot. They do what smart animals do in the winter: They curl up and go to bed. So in the fall they stop shedding for a little while, and then they eat a gigantic like 56 course meal, and they curl up and go to bed. They do it about Thanksgiving time, kind of like people do. We both gorge and then take a nap. Except they don't wake up until it gets warm again. GENIUS! Who wouldn't want another six weeks of winter if that was your gig? I mean, for Phil, when he comes out he is desperately searching for his shadow because that's like hitting the snooze alarm for him. If it's going to be spring now he is going to have to get up. Screw that noise.
     Plus, let's be honest. The groundhogs are probably pissed at us. Just think about it, it makes sense. No? You don't agree? Well I do. Here's the deal, if you are sleeping peacefully in your little room, and then all the sudden the door swings open and some weird guy with a white Rollie Fingers moustache in a tophat who claims to speak "Groundhogese" yanks you out into the frigid morning air, you are going to be a little disgruntled as well. Especially when he wants you to start answering questions right away. "Do you see your shadow? Are we going to have six more weeks of winter?" Geeze, just shut up. I haven't even had my first cup of coffee or a waffle yet. God. Can't you wait like ten minutes for me to get my contacts in and brush my teeth before you start hounding me about a long-term climate prediction? I don't blame the groundhogs for continually condemning us to six more weeks of winter. We just keep pissing them off. And every once in a while they predict that spring will arrive early, so we get false hope, but then then we still have to wait six weeks until winter is gone because, oh wait, spring doesn't show up until March regardless of what the rodent thinks. But we are dumb enough that even though we've waited six weeks since February 2, we still lick out fingers and stick them up in the air to find out where the wind is coming from and say "Yep, Spring is here early this year." Idiots. We are all idiots.
     Then, let's not forget there is the simple fact that he is always going to see his shadow. Because even when there are clouds in the sky, there is often a lot of sunlight that peeks through. I have seen my shadow on a cloudy day. And, in Phil's case anyway, there are always a ton of TV and newspaper cameras looming around, and all of those renobs have big lights to make sure everyone can see the schmoe they assigned this story to. So of course, with all the natural and artificial light bouncing around, of course Phil and his boys are going to see their shadows. It's like putting all the light bulbs in your house on the same side of the room. Of course there are going to be freaky shadows all over the place. This probably contributes to the groundhogs' stunning 39% accuracy rate at predicting the weather. That and the fact that they are groundhogs and have never even heard of El Niño or La Niña. SO why are we even bothering to listen to them? Why do we even get excited about it? I mean, there are lots of fine holidays coming up on the horizon like Valentine's Day or President's Day or St. Patrick's Day a little farther out, if you are Irish or a binge drinker. So why Groundhog Day? Why not I guess. We need something to brighten up out February. I mean, we are still in for six more weeks of winter. Punxsutawny Phil said it would be so.

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