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20 Above VS 20 Below

If you live in North Dakota for any period of time that includes January and February, you are likely to experience the joys of subzero temperatures. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll get to experience the life-changing, paradigm-shifting glory of a cold snap like the one we experienced recently, complete with temperatures that tumble 20 or even 30 degrees below zero. For those of you who live in tropical climates (I’m looking at you, Omaha), here is a quick cheat sheet to help you recognize the distinct differences between 20 degrees above zero (which you probably consider uncomfortably cold) and 20 degrees below zero (which we consider uncomfortably cold):

At 20 above, you wear your stylish new winter coat.
At 20 below, you wear your stylish new winter coat inside. Outside, you layer additional coats on top of it until you look like a throw pillow with legs.

At 20 above, you worry about snow.
At 20 below, you wish it would warm up enough to snow.

At 20 above, your car takes a few minutes to warm up.
At 20 below, your car is a lot like a character on Game Of Thrones – it acts like it’s going to make it, then it croaks.

At 20 above, muggers find their ski masks.
At 20 below, muggers find religion.

At 20 above, a 10 mph wind makes water form in your eyes.
At 20 below, a 10 mph wind makes your life flash before your eyes, primitive instincts urging even the most genteel aristocrat to zig-zag madly from their car to the front door muttering curse words like a Scorsese character.

I suppose it’s all about perspective. Here in the North when it’s 20 below, we actually say things like “remember when it was 20 above?” as we stare ahead wistfully, pining for the bright days of spring. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. We did choose to live here, after all. But it’s funny how something like the weather can make us grateful for the things we often take for granted.