Spring is such a powerful force that the mere hint of its approach makes people take instant leave of their senses. This is exactly what happened last week.
After five or six days of sunny weather, everyone in My Home Town thought they had it made. And there they were, walking around, grinning like a jackass eating burrs, visions of grassy fields and blooming flowers filling their otherwise-empty heads.
On Sunday in the Blue Moon, my friend Jimmy McCormick came in with his bride Denise, said hello and then boomed out a hearty, "Happy spring!"
"Don't be premature," I muttered, trying not to sound like too much of a curmudgeon.
No matter, my negativity was lost on him, in midst of his Great Vernal Equinoxication.
He's a lifelong local, someone who should know the false promise of spring better than anyone else, yet he'd fallen prey to the lunacy as fully as the most recently-arrived flatlander.
This is something you can bet your bip ain't ever gonna happen to Old Dopey Boy, and I'll tell you why. On any given day, I might forget to take my multi-vitamin, turn off the coffee maker or pay my debt to society, but I will never forget the spring of 1975.
The winter was a typical Adirondack freeze-fest. March, however, went according to script - in like a lion, out like a lamb. The first two weeks were more appropriately the fifth and sixth weeks of February; then, miraculously, the mercury rose and stayed there. The snow melted, the birds returned, the trees budded and the morale soared.
It was unreal. After being lashed by months of sub-Arctic snow, winds and temperatures, suddenly, we were in the tropics. Instead of wearing pounds of clothing, I was grokking freely in t-shirts and shorts. And while, for the previous five months I'd worked full time to keep my driveway shoveled, now all I worked on was my tan.
April showers - Adirondack style
April was downright balmy and so was I. And as a result, I dropped all my defenses.
Then came Friday the 25th.
When I left for school at about 7 a.m., the sun was blazing and the temperature was already in the low 50s. I was perfectly dressed for it - Hawaiian print shirt, shorts and sneakers, looking less like someone who'd lived in the Adirondacks all his life than some bozo tourist in Baja.
The early morning classes went well, what with everyone's disposition as sunny as the landscape. Then, around noon, it all changed.
First, the sky got dark, gray and ominous.
Next, the temperature started to drop, precipitously. Starting in the high 60s at 11 a.m., by 12:30 p.m., it was in the low 40s and dropping fast.
Then, at around 1 p.m., it started to snow.
And when I say snow, I don't mean tiny, light, dry flakes. Uh-uh, these were The Big Kahuna?- huge, wet mongers about as big as Portobello mushroom caps. And they weren't falling sparsely, either. Between the snow's thickness and the sky's darkness, I couldn't see the library from my classroom building, a distance of maybe 75 yards.
By the time I finished, my last class at 4:30 p.m., the snow was knee deep, wet and slushy and still falling. All in all, the place looked like The Day Jack London Met Ivan Denisovich.
The long, winding and slushy road
The ride home was a nightmare. The road was as slick as a televangelist and the visibility nonexistent; cars were slipping and sliding all over the place - if they weren't already stuck in snowbanks.
I was luckier than most, however: Due to what's charitably labeled my "absent-mindedness," I'd forgotten to take off my snow tires. So I had solid traction all the way back. Of course, since my 20-year-old VW's windshield wipers suffered from the vehicular equivalent of anemia, and my defroster was nonexistent, I had to scrape the windshield from the outside, all the while hoping my trooper repellant was working. And apparently it was, since I never saw one the whole way back. Then again, with visibility the way it was, a cop could've been sitting on my hood and I wouldn't have known it.
But even worse than the driving itself was my body temperature - or lack thereof. Because I was dressed for the sand dunes of Honolulu rather than the snows banks of Harrietstown, by the time I got home, my hands were cobalt-blue and frozen to the wheel, I was shaking uncontrollably, and I was covered with goose bumps the size of walnuts.
I stumbled into the shower, somehow managed to turn the handles with my benumbed claws, and didn't get out till an hour later, when my body temperature had returned to almost normal.
April 25, 1975 was not the only time I got nailed by a spring storm, but it was the last time I got nailed by it unawares. After that, no matter how gloriously warm and sunny a spring day begins, I meet it covered with at least four layers of clothes, two of them wool.
It's a look that never misses my students' observations, as they wander about dressed like something out of Adventures in Paradise. And, inevitably, they can't resist calling attention to my layered look.
"Hey, Mr. Seidenstein," they shout, leering sardonically, "you warm enough?"
"Aw, you know how it is," I say. "This is what it's like when you get older "
and wiser, I think to myself.
(Editor's note: This column was published in the print edition of the Enterprise on April 24 but was accidentally not posted online until now.)