“It’s a different kind of cold.” So said my fellow passenger upon disembarking from our flight on Tuesday. We had just arrived in Minneapolis, where on Sunday my beloved Philadelphia Eagles will play in Super Bowl LII against some other team whose name escapes me. (I think they have a new quarterback, Tom somebody?)
Standing on the jetway waiting for our bags, the cold hit like, well, the Philadelphia Eagles’ vaunted pass rush. Other passengers lamented that they had not brought warmer jackets, while I took secret comfort in my preparations: Multiple layers, a knit hat and gloves, and a long, hooded coat.
By this point, a thought has probably popped into your head: Every time a newsworthy event takes place in a cold-weather city, some smart-alecky writer from out of town who has no original ideas decides to compose a tired old “How cold is it” article. I know what you’re thinking, but this is one of those stories.
How Cold Is It In Minnesota?
I’ll premise my dispatch by saying that the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are not as cold as New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. Two reporters for the New York Times went exploring there earlier this month, having been exiled there by an angry editor (or Donald Trump). However, as the coldest major metropolitan area in the Lower 48 states, the Twin Cities also happen to be hosting one of the world’s most prominent sporting events later this week—something that won’t happen on the top of a mountain.
All that said, how cold is it? It’s so cold that the monitor at the airport gate listed Tuesday’s forecast as “Very Cold.” Not “Partly Sunny.” Not “Cloudy with a Chance of Flurries.” Not even “Cold.” But “Very Cold.”
It’s cold that my agent at the airport rental car counter mentioned what seemed like half a dozen times that she had SUVs available. She didn’t say it outright, but the subtext seemed clear: “Ya hoser, dontcha know yer drivin’ in a tundra?” I selected an SUV and left the airport, only to discover the vehicle lacked a critically important component in any winter driving environment: Windshield washer fluid. I suppose this makes the rental car company a bunch of hosers for not filling the washer fluid tank, and me a hoser for not checking that before leaving the airport.
It’s so cold that the light poles in downtown St. Paul have cozies on them. In Philadelphia, the “Crisco Cops” covered light poles with grease to keep people from climbing up the poles after last week’s NFC championship game (which didn’t work). But here in the Twin Cities, authorities seem so deathly afraid that some child will turn himself into the second coming of Flick from “A Christmas Story” (a film taped in the downright balmy climate of Cleveland) that they commissioned a series of cozies to prevent it. Sure, each of the street poles have unique designs for their cozies, so it looks like a nice public art project—but we know what the deal is.
It’s so cold that on Wednesday, a Super Bowl volunteer called the weather “beautiful.” This on a day when Minneapolis got a couple inches of snow in the morning, another couple inches after dark, and the mercury never exceeded the freezing mark all day. Granted, the sun did come out for much of the afternoon, but calling a sub-freezing day “beautiful” seems a fitting commentary on the soft bigotry of Minneapolis’ low weather expectations.
It’s so cold that, if I were a betting man, I would call Vegas and place a wager on how many Philly fans—and in this case, they will all be Philly fans—will end up in the hospital by week’s end with some form of frostbite, hypothermia, or exposure.
It’s so cold that St. Paul holds an annual winter carnival designed to celebrate the cold. According to the carnival’s own website, the event originated in 1885, when “several Eastern newspaper correspondents” visited and “return[ed] home to report that Minnesota, in general, was another Siberia, unfit for human habitation.” See, I told you this article wasn’t an original idea—the concept goes back at least 133 years!
St. Paul’s civic leaders “decided to retaliate” by throwing the carnival. While I fail to see how Minnesotans standing out in the cold at a winter carnival constitutes “retaliation” on Eastern journalists, it does represent a great reason to drink copious amounts of hot chocolate—to stave off the cold.
The First Coming of ‘Frozen’
It’s so cold that the ATMs at the winter carnival come in little booths, with portable heaters atop each. Whether the heaters are designed to keep the ATMs thawed, the guests thawed, or both remains unclear. But good luck trying to operate a camera, text, or perform other dexterous tasks while either wearing gloves, or with fingers exposed to the elements.
It’s so cold that the Toro Company, known worldwide for their snowblowers, has its world headquarters down the street from my hotel. That might explain why the Winter Carnival has an Autonomous Snowplow competition as part of its “festivities,” a concept that never occurred to me, but a machine of profound usefulness in two places: The Twin Cities and Siberia.
It’s so cold that the winter carnival features an ice palace, made entirely of—surprise, surprise—blocks of ice. Every night, the ice palace features a light show synchronized to a musical score. You’ll never guess what Disney movie theme song features prominently in the production. (If you think it’s a song from “Moana,” think again.)
It’s so cold that the ice blocks of the ice palace have hundreds of pennies frozen to their sides. And it’s so cold that one of the blocks has an entire fish frozen inside of it, which given current conditions probably won’t thaw until May. Memo to the FBI: If you’re still looking to find Jimmy Hoffa’s body, you might want to rummage through the ice palace’s remnants whenever springtime hits. That is, if the springtime hits.
At this point, I should probably stop and point out that the good citizens of the Twin Cities seem like very nice people. Civic leaders have gone to great lengths to put their best foot forward, to the point that the volunteer greeters at the airport when I arrived almost outnumbered the arriving fans. Their warmth, geniality, and hospitality already have me contemplating a return trip to Minnesota.
In July. Makes me warmer just thinking about it.
Mr. Jacobs is founder and CEO of Juniper Research Group, a policy consulting firm. He is on Twitter: @chrisjacobsHC.