February is usually the month of the year when rhetorical questions start to feel as if the person asking them is being ironic.
As if a simple “hey, how’s it going?” can not only be answered with a verbal “fine”, but also with a mental eye roll that poses another simple question: “do you really want to know?”
As we are tangled in the throws of yet another year’s winter blues that has once again seemingly stretched with each five-day weather forecast into the “oh god, not another guitar solo” section of the song; we can only hope for the grand finale of cold weather and the end to another SAD-saturated hibernation in our homes as we flip the pages on our “Far Side” calendars and dream of June.
I got an email recently from a reader that posed a simple question that made me rethink my prose and made me pose a philosophical “why am I here” kind of thing.
The reader asked, “Do you enjoy living on the Eastern Shore? I ask for two reasons. A. You seem unhappy when there are thousands of people there in the summer yet, B. You seem unhappy when there is no one around in the winter and complain that the town offers little to do for locals and is ruining its chances at drawing more visitors with the leader’s daily decision making. I can only wonder which it is, as I also wonder why would people want to visit a place where its locals are so unhappy?
I replied with the simple “not all locals think or feel the way I do” type of form letter, and tried to give the Chamber of Commerce answer. I explained to the reader that though I may write from a very disgruntled point of view at times, I am simply trying to achieve two things: A. Explain to the tourists that life does exist here on “Mars” post Labor Day and it isn’t always a “Cheeseburger in Paradise” kind of thing, and B. Because I love this area and have planted roots here, I don’t want people to get a free pass for screwing it up because they are greedy. There are few writers in this area that are more than literary “fluffers” for the main culprits that seem determined to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot (or in most cases a condo)” as Joni Mitchell once sang, so if I can write something that make a few people uneasy or create a “beer cooler” conversation then I did my job.
I realized that much of living here is about “getting through” the seasons rather than living or existing within the seasons themselves. Without getting too philosophical on you, one has to look at a usual season in Ocean City and judge how those that live in this area view or approach it.
Obviously, summer is King around these parts. We look forward to summer as much for the warm weather and money making probabilities as we do occasionally getting a chance to dip our toes in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean that kept us here in the first place.
There is something calming about the ocean, yet how often do you really see it in the winter or in the summer, even though it can be just a few feet or miles away?
There is such an anticipation of the summer that we probably spend the majority of the spring preparing for it like it is a hurricane sweeping in and we are short on plywood and duct tape. Then, it seems that we essentially hold on for dear life and hope that the craziness that ensues between Memorial and Labor Day doesn’t get the best of us this year.
So we wish the winter away and hope for spring. Then spring goes by like a flash in the pan to prepare for summer, and then summer gets here and we start praying for the fall.
The fall is the one time of year that everyone seems to enjoy around here in complete and glorious harmony, and I wonder if that is the sense of our summer vacation?
At any rate, there is much to be said for this depression and almost anger that comes along with January and February like we’re suddenly a jaded Julie Andrews singing a few of my least “favorite things”: (sing it with me) “Bills past due from Christmas and my exploding waistline, I’m sick every two weeks and there’s a sheer lack of sunshine. I’m tired of driving behind slow-moving Sebrings, these are a few of my least favorite things.”
I have a friend who owns a family funeral home and I remember thinking I was incredibly witty when I would occasionally ask him “hey, how’s business been?”
I now realize why he would tell me that the winter was his “busy” time of year. Because everyone is already depressed from being stuck in the house watching terrible movies that they would never sit through if it were nice out, eating food that they would never eat if they felt like cooking for themselves, and slaloming through salt trucks, potholes, and bad drivers when they drive to work each day.
I’m sure the winter for some is about the equivalent of Bill Murray living the same day over and over again in a purgatory-like world of Punxsatawney, Pa. in “Groundhog Day” and they feel like today’s the day they try bathing with a toaster.
As for the poor reader who thinks that I am just too disgruntled for this happy little town, perhaps he’s right. There’s a part of me that wishes that I could just head on over to one of the Mardi Gras fundraising events like OC-queen hopeful Lisa Tilghman’s “Ho-down” at a local farm or king-hopeful Adam Osborn’s “Soc Hop”, and lose myself in the bliss that living in this area offers some people.
It’s just a bit too much to swallow sometimes, because like a lot of people, I can’t fake my smile or pretend that all is kosher if it isn’t.
The winter blues make me realize a few things: A. how much I enjoy warm weather; B. how much I dislike television; C. that my idea of hell would be having to watch Fox News for eternity while listening to Jimmy Buffet; and D. that rhetorical questions are rhetorical for a reason.
Everyone’s got enough on their plates this time of year.
So when someone asks you, how you’re doing in the upcoming weeks, just reply like I do, “I’m slightly below average.”
You’ll be surprised by how many people understand exactly what you mean.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.