Finally, we’re in the national news. People are calling up here to get eyewitness accounts. Everybody’s in the newsroom today, juggling phones. My mother called, from Florida, and a couple of other people from the family. My brother up at Dartmouth, my aunt from Connecticut. “Oh my god, are you all right? How can you even stand it when it’s −52?” I didn’t tell them that the −52 was only wind chill. I even got a call from Megan, that girl I dated my freshman year. I don’t know how she even knew I was up here. She’s not even in Chicago anymore, back home in Atlanta, so the midwestern cold seems crazy to her again. I was hearing a few stories around the newsroom, little things going wrong in the cold, but really there wasn’t anything really dramatic. Craig, the guy who was putting together the front-page story from everything we had, was having a hard time coming up with much. I embellished stuff a little when I was telling my family. Well, it got to be more as the day went on and I got bored telling the same story over and over. By the time Megan called I was laying it on pretty thick, now that I remember it. I think everybody may have known that. They all went away satisfied that the cold is as crazy and horrible as they’ve heard. It’s like a circus act and you have to perform it.
Jericho, which is part of my beat, actually had the lowest wind-chill reading we saw. I thought of going up there, but not really. Someone said I should make sure I had my winter suit if I was going to go out on the highway. I hadn’t thought of that. If I had a problem, he said, the cold would come up pretty fast. Well I don’t have a winter suit. They’re stupid, ugly things and expensive, too, and I don’t plan to be here long enough to need one. So I called a few people up there. Had trouble reaching anybody, actually. I did talk to someone at the cafe I go to there, the one that’s owned by somebody from out of town who actually knows something about food and there’s that funny guy who was the high school basketball hero who flips the burgers. That place. The waittress, I should really remember her name, she said the wind was bad and people were covered up but it was a pretty regular day at the cafe. I asked her if anybody was complaining about the cold and she said, well, someone started but then a bunch of the morning guys, the ones who are there early every day, said this was nothing, a typical winter had five or six days even colder than that. And that was sort of the end of it, she said.
I was kind of annoyed, later in the day, a story about the cold came over the wire from the AP. Their reporter, who I know lives down in Fargo, had two quotes from people up in Jericho, the mayor and the police chief. Craig kind of clucked his tongue at me for that. I said, “Well, they’re not in their offices, they’re obviously out checking around and making sure everything is OK,” and he said, “Well, somebody knows how to reach them. Don’t you have their cell phone numbers?” I said, “Do people up there have cell phones?” Then he said, “Just relax, I was going to pull some things from the wire, anyway,” so I didn’t worry about it any more. Well, not a lot. After work a bunch of us went across the street to that sports bar, which is pretty common when there’s a day with a lot of big stories. It’s like, the worse the stuff that happens, the better we feel about it at the end of the day. We start a big war or some terrible disaster happens, like an earthquake somewhere or one of those genocides, we have a real bender. This wasn’t such a big deal, so it was a pretty low-key night. I tried to sit next to Amber, and I did, but she said I was smoking an awful lot and then a little later she said I was drinking kinda fast, which maybe I was. Anyway, it put me in a crappy mood so I didn’t stay too long, just went back to the apartment and watched TV.