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Ever wonder about things like: Why is it warmer at the North Pole than it is at the South Pole?
I'll explain why in a minute. First, I have to explain that I was all ready to write a “cold weather” column this morning, but I got discouraged when I sat down and booted up the Dell and heard the chirpy guy on the radio say the temperature outside was an unseasonably warm 34 degrees, which hardly qualifies as cold weather in Maine in January.
Let's just hope it's a lot colder outside where you are when you get around to reading this, so you can get into the spirit of the piece.
Around this time of year we here in Maine have every right to expect our fair share of bitter cold weather, which includes temperatures in the teens and overnight temperatures dipping well below zero - just for good measure. We can also expect a blizzard or two thrown into the mix, with a dash of sleet and freezing rain, just so we won't forget where we are.
It's also around this time of year that the national news people and weather people keep their eyes on places like Caribou. That's so they can make the rest of the country feel cozy and warm by reporting: “… and the temperature in Caribou, Maine, this morning is a cool 47 degrees below zero.”
They'll never tell you what the temperature is a few miles down the road in Presque Isle, say, or over to Fort Fairfield because a name like Caribou sounds so much colder than those other names.
Around my town, although it hasn't happened yet, I expect any day now to have someone ask the obligatory, “ Hey, John, cold enough for you?”
How do you answer such a numb question? What can you say? Is the temperature dipping down just for me? Nobody asked me where to set the outside thermostat, so why ask me if it's cold enough?
If you have friends who have fled Maine to join the hot, sweaty masses of malcontented northerners in Florida you can expect to hear from them anytime soon, if you haven't already.
They'll say they only called to ask how you are, but you know they wouldn't waste a long distance call to inquire about your health. In fact, they called to make you feel bad by complaining to you that the temperature at their overcrowded RV park is only 81 degrees, but it is sunny, and they expect to go to the beach later.
You end the call by yelling an appropriate expletive while slamming down the phone. That's when it pays to know your facts about the earth's poles.
Even though it's summer at the South Pole the temperature never gets above zero and summer storms can bring gusty 200 mph winds.
Oh, and the reason the North Pole - the one we're nearest to - is so much warmer than the South Pole is because the North Pole has thinner ice that floats on the balmy waters of the Arctic Ocean. The South Pole consists of mile-thick ice that sits on a very large, cold mountain.
Just knowing that makes me feel better about winter in Maine. Even when the bubbly national weather guy tells me what the temperature is up the road a piece in Caribou.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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