Polar Vortex

A good time this is not for the people of New York. The general mood of the city is pretty consistent with the temperature: Frigid, terrible, and seemingly endless. Informal research conducted during my heat outage let me know that a decent number of people are, or have been in recent days, without heat; there are others, unluckier still, who are dealing with burst and frozen pipes. The trains are actually getting worse, if that’s even possible, and most of us are stumbling around like Randy from “A Christmas Story” would look if he was a bottom because of the excessive layering necessitated by the…super low temperatures.

Did I surprise you there? Did you think I was going to say something else? Maybe a certain four syllable, uber-ubiquitous phrase that’s about to beat out “wardrobe malfunction” in the contest for “Meaningless Coupling of Kind Of Hard Words”? That’s right, people: I’m talking polar vortex.

I understand that the term “polar vortex” is an actual weather term that means there is a cyclone near one of the poles that moves really cold weather. Fine. But am I the only one who’s at her wit’s end with this phrase? It doesn’t even mean anything. I understand that if you want to sell papers, you need an attractive headline, but that you can’t slap the words “FUCKING FREEZING” or “BRICK CITY” on the cover of the Daily News. I understand that this weather blows. But doesn’t this happen every year? And honestly, even though we’ve had a bunch of extra-bitter weeks, I think there have been at least as many days of unseasonably warm weather. Last Monday night I went out in a denim jacket and pegged jeans. This past Monday it was a balmy 45 when I went running outside. I’m pretty sure I did half my Christmas shopping in a beanie and a tee shirt. It’s been brick city, yeah, but it’s New York! It’s got hot ass summers and bitch cold winters; always has, always will. Global warming has obviously caused drastic meteorological changes, but let’s not kid ourselves. This city has never had a temperate climate.

But back to the polar vortex. When I think vortex, I’m thinking spiral, scifi shit, a whirlpool, a wind tunnel, at the very least a sensation of entrapment. Now, polar is certainly a synonym for freezing, but there are so many other words to denote extreme cold. I’m thinking they chose “polar vortex” for the easy-to-listen-to iambic meter. You know that whatever clowns came up with this nation-wide phrase sat around on thesaurus.com for a really long time, trying to come up with the perfect pairing of words. I think they should have gone with URBAN ICEBOX! Gotham goes glacial: Enters The Throes of Frigidity! They also simply must have been partial to “HYPERBOREAN HELL!” because, let’s be real, how could you not? Also, I personally find that a word with the letter X always seems like a joke. POLAR VORTEX! POLAR VORTEX! POLAR VORTEX! Let’s look a few more times. Ugh.

But this fits perfectly into the culture of hyperbole that we’ve created, doesn’t it? Is anyone else bothered by Upworthy.com? It touts itself as “social media with a mission”; in other words, videos about women’s rights as opposed to women getting jizzed on. This is, in theory, great, except that, since things with a mission are generally longer than 45 seconds, a large number of the videos give you event/time markers to satisfy your self-diagnosed ADD: “At 2:41, the mother starts crying.” It’s bad enough they think we can’t watch something socially meaningful for 6 minutes. What’s worse, though, is that they think we’re too desensitized and/or stupid to know how to react to videos that aren’t about people falling off tables a la classic “Scarlett Takes a Tumble” and thus denote exactly which emotion we should have: “At 1:14, prepare to have the tears welling up in your eyes. At 5:54, you will feel happier than ever before. At 9:36 you will wish you were already on the plane to Sri Lanka, bandaids and adoption papers in hand.”

Honestly, though, I’m at the point where you could give me a bouquet of beautiful flowers and million bucks, and I’d find a reason to write an 800-word rant about it. Polar vortex or not, winter’s been long. Despite the layering and the red wine and the trying to exercise, I realized this morning that it’s been a solid four months that I’ve been making my morning coffee with the Melitta filter instead of walking outside to get it. That’s the fun of living in a city: Being able to stroll around, get up early, grab coffee, feel a morning. Cold be damned! You know what? I’m ready for spring. Even if it ends up being an incandescent eddy, or a hot fucking mess.


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