by Steve Clem on December 12, 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 lieutenant governor to be in charge of you rather than making it a full-time position, to the fact that — well, you have bridges that collapse.

But if you REALLY want to get me going on your shortcomings, let’s talk about the essential job (at least on paper) 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, Iowa, and back. Or to Chicago. Or to Mitchell, South Dakota. But I only went about 60 miles round trip. And I realize that I knew what I was in for when I agreed to move to this state after my ex-wife told me she thought it would save our marriage. But the one thing I wasn’t ready for was stupid Scandinavian pride.

Growing up in Iowa, if we were hit with 16 inches of snow, we looked forward to a snow day. You know: stay home from school, drink hot chocolate, make a snowman to guard your snow fort. Go sledding. Have a snowball fight. The things that normal people do after snowstorms.

But here in the Tundra — well, things go on as status quo after a snowstorm, because that’s how they do. No delayed starts for schools, unless you live in a rural area. No snow days (my sons have never once experienced one, and they were beyond irate after they switched school districts last year and their old school district had its 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 horseshit. “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 for — let alone wasting more than half of a typical working day commuting in a car? I’d argue not.

MNDOT knew for the last few days that a potentially big storm was coming, and that it 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 know 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 wagon-wheel tracks looked like on the open prairie back in the day. This resulted in the average speed of traffic being somewhere between 10 mph 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 six to eight hours.

So, MNDOT and the 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 not to open, for roads to be shut down. Let the fine men and women who make up the MNDOT road crews do their jobs, and everyone else stay home and have some quality time with their families.

OR, an alternative would be to get your shitpickle f*ck fart snowplows 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 to allow people to go about their usual routines 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 snowplow drivers reading this, 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.


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Steve Clem is a divorced dad, a recovering Republican, and a Prisoner in the Tundra. He is in The Guinness Book of World Records for being part of the largest Hokey Pokey of all time. He was the founding editor of the Iowa City weekly The ICON.

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