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This year, winter blues creep in before winter
By Burt Constable | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/20/2008 12:05 AM

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I have this epiphany every year.

Sometimes it comes on Dec. 31. Other times it arrives on Jan. 8. Often it lingers until Feb. 13. A couple of times it doesn't show up until those gray days in the middle of March. But it always arrives some time between Dec. 26 and Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season.

This year, for the first time, my epiphany occurs before Christmas.

"I am sick of winter," I say out loud, my words muffled by the rhythmic splats of sleet smacking my parka as I shuffle across the ice and snow to my car. Hunched to keep my balance, I gingerly tiptoe across the parking lot. I look like a bear, specifically former Bear running back Cedric Benson - except I don't fall down every three yards. My car needs to be de-iced before I can begin a commute home that will take three times longer than usual - mostly because every single person (except for me) is driving too fast or too slow.

In TV commercials, those gas-guzzling SUVs traverse boulder-covered mountainsides and speed through small rivers, all while lugging boat trailers and dodging telephone poles that fall off trucks or even a gauntlet of lesser trucks swinging from ropes. In real life, these vehicles creep along snowy suburban streets in anticipation of stopping at green lights they fear might turn red. Meanwhile, the drivers of rear-wheel sports cars will pass the snowplow and use their knees to drive because they need their hands to text their buddies about what mopes all the other drivers are.

Winter doesn't even officially arrive until Sunday, but I am tired of the whole snow and cold scene.

I am not alone.

"I have heard one or two people saying it," says Joyce Zito, school secretary at Hoover Elementary School in Schaumburg. "In general, a lot of people are sick of snow, and it's not even winter yet."

At grade schools across the suburbs, the winter commute is longer - even for kids who walk. Children must don snow pants and boots and hats and gloves and all the gay apparel of the season as they sit on wet hallway floors that are slick from all the melting snow.

"It adds to the hubbub of the start of school in the morning and the end of school in the afternoon," Zito says.

Throw in a late bus, or the line of minivans trying to find curb space to pick up kids, and it can be messy.

I'm tired of looking for lost gloves, the trail of salt tracked onto the floor, the cold, the wind chill, the commute, the drafts, the dry skin, the discovery that I'm out of windshield fluid, the shoveling, the snowblower envy, the laughs my hair gets after I peel off my hat, the -

"Don't you remember growing up and having all that fun in the snow?" scolds Marge Evans, a former lunch mom in Batavia. "It's winter. It's Chicago. If you don't like it, move to California."

Oh sure, I've written columns in past Decembers that voiced those same opinions and romanticized the snow. But I wasn't sick of winter in those years.

"We've been spoiled by wimpy 40-degree Decembers," Evans explains.

Growing up in Wheaton, Evans endured (and even enjoyed) that same 1967 snowfall that Zito and I remember fondly from our years as kids. Evans even puts a happy spin on dramatic winters after childhood.

"In 1978, my car got frozen to the ground because a water main broke and there was a foot of ice in the parking lot," Evans says. She survived and she has a story.

It wouldn't kill us, and might even help our moods, if we ran around outside like kids and rediscovered "runny noses and rosy, red cheeks," Evans says.

By the time winter finally arrives, the weather might actually improve.

"Who knows?" Evans says. "On Monday it could be 60."

I've seen the forecast. We might not reach 60 degrees until sometime in May when we are sick of spring.