Monday, December 10, 2012


So, here's the thing, MNDOT.

I criticize you constantly for your poorly designed roads that aren't meant to handle the traffic loads they do. And it is no secret that I loathe pretty much everything about you. From the fact that former Gov. Tim Pawlenty thought you were so unimportant that he assigned his Lt. Governor to be in charge of you rather than making it a full time position, to the fact that well, you have bridges collapse.

But if you REALLY want to get me going on your shortcomings, let's talk about the (at least on paper) essential job of snow removal in a state that is known for, well, snow.

I spent enough time in my car today to drive to Des Moines, IA and back. Or to Chicago. Or to Mitchell, South Dakota. But I went about 60 miles round trip. And I realize I knew what I was in for when I agreed to move to this state when my ex-wife told me she thought it would save our marriage.  But the one thing I wasn't ready for was stupid Scandinavian/Norwegian pride.

Growing up in Iowa, if we were hit with 16 inches of snow, we would look forward to a snow day. You know, stay home from school, drink hot chocolate, make a snow man to guard your snow fort. Go sledding. Have a snow ball fight. The things that normal people do in snow storms.

But here, in the Tundra, well things go on as status quo in a snow storm, because that's how they do. No delayed start for schools, unless you live in the rural areas. No snow days (my sons have never once experienced one - they were beyond irate after they switched school districts last year and their old school district had their first snow day in 20 some years). No closed businesses. No road closures. It's just another day.

That's in part because the first white people who settled this land intentionally picked a climate that was horse shit. "Hey Sven, if we build our house here, nobody will bother us, dontchaknow?" Even famous Minnesotan Prince knows this: "The cold keeps the bad people away."

And then over time, or perhaps just genetically, they got a giant chip on their shoulders about the weather. "Oh this is nothing. Remember that one time when we had 18 feet of snow and we still had to do our chores on the farm, oh yeah wasn't that crazy?"

In modern day Minnesota culture, it's a sign of weakness to admit defeat to Mother Nature. God forbid you change your daily routine because the roads are treacherous. "Just get your butt to work, Ole. Or someone else will take your job."

I had four customers at my store today. Four. Were those four customers worth risking life or limb, let alone wasting more than half of a typical working day commuting in a car, for? I'd argue not.

MNDOT knew for the last few days that a potentially big storm was coming, and would hit on Sunday. They also knew that it would be followed with a cold blast of arctic air, which makes putting salt on the roads useless. They also knew that Monday mornings are already horrible for commuting in the metro area on a good day, let alone when there is any form of precipitation.

Yet the roads in Minnesota tonight are probably worse than they were 24 hours ago, when the snow was actually still falling. Today, on both my drive to AND from work, I was met with roads that were sheets of ice, with ruts resembling what I'd imagine the open prairie looked like with wagon wheel tracks back in the day. This led to the average speed of traffic being somewhere between 10 m.p.h. and paint drying. I'm already planning ahead for the fact that my commute tomorrow will be just as bad, considering there's no way they'll get the frozen layer of crap off the roads in the next 6-8 hours.

So, MNDOT, and fine people of Minnesota, I have one simple solution to this problem. Swallow your damn Nordic pride. Today would have been a perfect day for schools to stay closed, for businesses to not open, for roads to be shut down. Let the fine men and women who make up the MNDOT road crews do their job, and everyone else can stay home and have some quality time with their family.

OR, the alternative would be, get your shitpickle f*ck fart snow plows out on the roads before the Monday morning commute begins and make them cleaner and dryer than a Baptist wedding reception. 

But to allow the roads to be treacherous, and allow people to go about their usual routine in those conditions, is just idiotic. It's not brave. It's not Norwegian machismo. It's plainly and simply stupid. 

And if this is too perplexing for any MNDOT snow plow drivers reading this blog post, then I'd like to ask you one simple favor: Could you please pick me up a job application? Because at least then I might get my snow days off.



Brad Bateman said...

Nice writing, Steve!

Life Under Construction said...

Thanks, Brad! As you can tell I was quite in the message while writing this. Now I'm off for yet another horrible commute since the news is telling me road conditions are worse today than yesterday.

Frank Douma said...

Steve - don't blame the Scandinavians (tho they deserve their share of the credit), blame Jesse. Before he was Gov., Gov. Carlson would shut down the whole state (schools and all) for COLD, to say nothing about snow. (which, brilliant grad student that I was at the time, meant it was time to go OUT and get alcohol).

Then some yahoos thought it would be fun to have an ex-SEAL (or whatever he was) / professional wrestler as Governor, and that's when the mentality of "tough it out" took hold. And Pawlenty would never allow himself to look softer than Jesse.

And now it's tradition. Maybe Dayton's new Transportation Commish will bring back some sanity.

(But, bottom line, there should have been no need to shut anything down yesterday anyway - we should simply be better about rebounding from a measly 10 inch snow)