The calendars might say that spring has arrived where you live, but the seasons follow an entirely different schedule in Maine.
A typical Maine winter begins in October and ends in March. While the rest of the world is dreaming of a White Christmas, Mainers dream of not having to dig out, yet again, from under a White Halloween, a White St. Patrick’s Day, and a White Easter.
A few years ago, I lost control of my car during a blizzard on April 1, and ended up in a ditch at the side of the road. This led to an almost paralyzing fear of driving in snow, and also caused me to really dislike April Fool’s Day.
Winters have been so harsh in my neck of the woods, that I’ve self-diagnosed myself with Post Traumatic Snow Disorder. My form of PTSD might not yet be officially recognized by medical professionals, but after enough Mainers go berserk following yet another monstrous winter storm, some pharmaceutical giant is going to realize it can make billions by creating the first official cure for PT Snowy D. Then my diagnosis will be recognized all over the world.
People always ask me why I moved to Maine if I hate the winters so much, and my honest answer is that I used to love winter. Growing up in Brooklyn, snow was a Catholic school kid’s best friend.
It usually didn’t take much of it to cause the Nuns to cancel classes. They didn’t want to venture out of the convent to navigate slippery sidewalks, nor did they want to dodge the inevitable snowball attacks that would come from both current and former students, who would lie in wait all along the street.
Snow days always meant tackle football in the street, pelting passing buses with snowballs, and making some extra cash by shoveling sidewalks in the neighborhood.
Winter also meant that Christmas was on its way, and what holiday is better than the celebration of the birth of Santa Claus? Plus, my birthday is only a few days after Christmas, so winter was when I received all my presents for the year.
We had a week off from school every February, regardless of whether or not it snowed, and my family took less weekend trips to visit annoying relatives during the winter because the weather wasn’t at all conducive to driving.
Even as an adult, winter in New York was exciting. Christmas in the Big Apple is fun, romantic, and like something out of a Julia Roberts flick.
Snow wasn’t ever a problem because the landlord was responsible for shoveling the sidewalk, and the city’s excellent public transportation system made it unnecessary to own a car. Hence, I had no idea that I had a severe fear of driving in snow until I moved to Maine.
They just do winter bigger, colder, snowier, and scarier in Maine. While you might think the only problem is having to shovel so much snow, that’s only the tip of the iceberg (and some winters, I fully expect to see giant icebergs off the coast and in the middle of the highway!).
There’s the issue of leaking ceilings. While this is technically caused by snow, I consider it a different problem because most people only have to worry about clearing snow from the driveway and sidewalk.
When you live in Maine, you’ve got to figure out how to get it off the roof, too. Since the temperature rarely rises above freezing, and it’s constantly snowing, the white stuff really accumulates up top. After a while, the piles either gets too heavy and crash through the roof to join you inside the house, or there’s one warm day and all that snow melts at once and the water seeps through the shingles.
Two years ago, the latter occurred, and I woke up to a flooded bathroom and a window so badly damaged that it had to be replaced.
Now I obsessively clear the roof after every storm. This means using a roof rake for some parts, and hanging out of second story windows with the snow shovel to clear other portions.
It doesn’t matter how much it snows, either. If the roof is white, I freak out and clear until I can see only the shingles again.
Frozen pipes are next. That’s a real annoyance seeing as how important water is to human survival. Also, if the pipes decide to burst, rooms will be flooded and the contents of my bank account will disappear down the drain.
Luckily for me, an ex-girlfriend left her blow dryer here when we broke up. That abandoned device is now my number one weapon against ice in the waterlines. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to figure out where in the maze of pipes the problem exists.
So, I waste a lot of time holding up the blow dryer and letting it breathe hot air over random sections of pipe. I only get to stop when the water flows again, and that could take hours.
This is even more annoying than the snow on the roof because it’s actually a game of strategy. I have to constantly check the weather report for days when the temperature is going to be below zero. Then I have to remember to factor in the wind chill because even though the mercury might be above zero, subzero wind chills will freeze my pipes.
Once I identify a day as a potential problem, I need to make the big decision. Do I leave the water running because the pipes can’t freeze if the water is already flowing through them?
Sure, that might sound like a no brainer, but have you ever seen a Maine water bill?
I have to calculate if it would be cheaper and less stressful to pay the water bill after leaving the water running all day while I’m at work, or if it’s better for my sanity and bank account to potentially have to spend hours thawing out the pipes and risk having them explode and flood the house.
Next up, there’s the problem of power outages caused by heavy snow, ice, and Arctic blasts of wind. Without power, the furnace doesn’t work, which means that life inside the house becomes just as frigid and unbearable as life outside of it.
And, oh yeah, without power and heat, the pipes freeze and I can’t turn on the blow dryer to thaw them.
Do I even need to mention how terrifying it is to drive during a blizzard? I’m surprised I haven’t snapped my steering wheel in half from clutching it so tightly while navigating the roads during a storm. I’ve ended up in a ditch, avoided a huge pile up on the highway by mere inches, and nearly taken out my neighbors’ lawn while operating a vehicle in the snow.
Merely writing this article has triggered my Post Traumatic Snow Disorder. Even after the snow is gone, the winds have abated, and the ice has melted, winter still affects me. Just when I think I’ve finally recovered, winter returns.
Only this time, it’s bigger, badder, colder, and snowier than its predecessor.
I’ve been told that admitting I have a problem is the first step towards recovery.
My name is Austin, and I have an extreme fear of Maine winters. Please be patient with me as I stand under this heat lamp and work on my issues…
Austin is a screenwriter, a writer for a late night TV show, and a loyal Yankees fan living in the snowy heart of Red Sox Nation. Find him on Pinterest, Twitter and his site, The Return of the Modern Philosopher.
Images courtesy of the writer.