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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: If you spend cold days griping about Spokane winters, you probably really love this place

FILE – Jasmine Hernandez’s “The Celebration” piece as part of the Give Love Heart Project is covered in the first snow of the season at Riverside Avenue and Lincoln Street, on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – Jasmine Hernandez’s “The Celebration” piece as part of the Give Love Heart Project is covered in the first snow of the season at Riverside Avenue and Lincoln Street, on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

So I think I’ve been wrong all these years.

Local residents complaining about early signs of winter isn’t just a tiresome form of whining. It’s a love song to Spokane.

Think about it. Winter happens every year. Those who loudly hate the cold weather season know this. Yet they remain firmly ensconced in the Lilac City. Just imagine how much they must cherish living in Spokane.

I mean, doesn’t sticking it out in the Inland Northwest suggest they have a special regard for life in the Spokane area? Of course it does.

So I apologize to all those with snow allergies who might have been offended by my decades of saying they ought to shut up about winter already and just get on with life. I’m sorry if I upset anyone by saying “This is what you signed up for (or inherited), stop being such a big baby, for God’s sake.”

Turns out you sniveling weather wimps were just saying you love Spokane – most of the year.

OK, everyone has a right to his or her own opinion about the temperature. But has there always been widespread whimpering about winter in a city that’s farther north than Montreal and Toronto? Even around the holidays and Bing’s song? I don’t think so.

Times change though. Or so it seems.

Countless residents of the Spokane area now seem to take inexplicable pride in freaking out about the weather.

Now I’m not suggesting everyone in certain generations bore up to blizzard conditions with stiff-upper-lip stoicism. It’s just that grown-ups in northern climes used to take winter a bit more in stride (before they retired to California or Florida). At least that’s what I recall.

But maybe the only thing that’s truly new is social media’s self-dramatizing celebration of meteorological hand-wringing. Well, that and whatever new wrinkle TV news has cooked up in the service of going ape with Total Team Coverage of virtually any appearance of a few snowflakes.

Still, I now see that even the insane assumption that everyone shares a “The sky is falling!” attitude about winter is a way of saying we love Spokane, warts and all.

Why else would you endure such frigid trials if you did not like it here? I mean, really like it.

OK, I know about snowbirds. And trips to Hawaii.

I suppose even more of us would bail on Spokane after Thanksgiving if we had the wherewithal. But that doesn’t change my mind about those who stick it out and complain about winter at every opportunity.

I believe they are saying they don’t want to live in San Diego or Yuma, Arizona. They like it here. For them, complaining is a coping mechanism.

Now before we go any further, I should note that not all grousing about winter is created equal. For those who dread driving on roads covered with ice or wince at the prospect of slipping and falling hard on a slick stretch of sidewalk, all I can say is I hear you.

Those are legitimate gripes. No question.

That’s all quite different from being a delicate hothouse flower who cowers at the horrifying prospect of, say, having to wear sturdy footwear or a hat. Oh, the humanity.

And yet, who am I to deny those folks their right to such sentiments?

The key here, I believe, is to correctly interpret those feelings.

Yes, I admit it. I used to think winter whiners were annoying drama queens who had failed to look at a map before decamping to Spokane. (Being this close to Canada should have been a hint.)

But I have seen the light.

I now realize those who drone on and on about how unhappy snow and ice makes them convey a clear message.

It’s this: Groaning and moaning about winter is simply a way of saying you like living here so much that you are willing to put up with the inconvenient truth of this time of year in exchange for spring, summer and fall.

That’s really quite a statement, when you think about it.

I had a college roommate from Minneapolis. He used to take pride in the thought that the cold Minnesota winters weeded out a certain cultural shallowness found in those for whom warm weather was important to an unseemly degree.

I used to wish that could be said of Spokane. Then I realized that weather is, in fact, important to a lot of people here. And many in Spokane devote a fair amount of energy to complaining about winter.

But maybe the fact they are still here says it all.

Spokane is not toasty and bright 365 days a year. Even so, it offers something that keeps people here, even those with choices.

So next time you hear someone whining about the approach of winter here, just remind yourself:

That person must really love Spokane.

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