The ABCs of March in Michigan

Technically, it’s only 31 days. But to your itchy, dry skin, vitamin-D-starved cells, and cabin-fever-battered self-esteem, March might as well be that seemingly eternal last mile of a goddamn winter marathon. The snowbirds—i.e., the smart ones—get the hell out of here; those that stay, it’s amazing we don’t end up eating each other. For some perspective on the month ahead, guest essayist Tom Bohnhorst filed this complete alphabetical guide to navigating Michigan’s most depressing month. Bon voyage.

A is for advancing cases of mucus infiltration. Listen as you take a stroll down any school hallway and you’ll believe you’re at Midas Muffler. Hacking, coughing, the blowing of snot—germs love March in Michigan. The whole state should be quarantined.

B is for Bahamas or Bimini or Bermuda or the bars in Key West. It’s for dreaming dreams of anywhere warm. “B” is for taking your forefinger and twanging your lips while you mutter “buh-buh-buh” as you gaze at a calendar of the Caribbean.

C is for crunchy snow—the kind where, walking across a snow-covered yard after freezing rain, you randomly break through and skin your shin on the icy crust.

D is for dumb ducks. Ducks have wings and they can fly long distances. But Michigan ducks just swim around in circles on half-frozen lakes and ponds. Ducks, what the hell is wrong with you? Get your asses out of here!

E is for eternal, as in the 31 seemingly eternal, drag-ass, stuck-in-neutral days of March. Not 30 days. And certainly not 28. Studies have confirmed that time actually slows down in March. It has something to do with the choral droning of Michigan weathermen, day-in and day-out, with the same dreary forecast.

F is for filth. I bought a black car which looks stunning right out of the spotless auto wash. Stunning for about a block. Within a day, after a few miles of salted sand, slush, dirt, splattered mud, and snow plows, it looks like it’s been on safari.

G is for grey, including dark grey, light grey, greasy grey, grey grey, granulated grey, grey that’s almost white, grey that’s almost black, grey water, grey snow, grey skies, grey hair. And let’s be clear what “G” does NOT stand for. “G” is NOT for green and “G” is NOT for golf.

H is for Hellmann’s mayonnaise, straight from the jar, and everything high fat, high carb, high fructose, bad as hell for you, that I suck down like oxygen because Hellmann’s mayonnaise and its ilk are really really good at keeping the blues at bay. “H” is also for “Holy shit! I just gained 10 pounds!”

I is for… “I” is for… I was going to say, “I” is for igloo, but that would be a cop out. I’ll tell you what “I” is really for… “I” is for: I CAN’T TAKE THIS SHIT ANY LONGER! I can’t. It’s not “cabin fever” anymore; it’s “my cabin needs padded walls.”

J is for jammies. At 9 p.m., my wife informs me that she is going to put her “jammies” on. I ask her if “jammies” is derived from pa-JAW-mas. “No,” she says, “jammies is derived from pa-JAM-mas.” And I tell her I think pa-JAM-mas is adolescent and cutesy, while pa-JAW-mas is adult and correct. And she tells me her whole family always said pa-JAM-mas and, for crying out loud, we used “jammies” with our own children. And I take great exception to that and declare that no way in hell did we—especially I—ever use “jammies” with our own children and that my whole family always said pa-JAW-mas. I tell her that “jammies” sucks. And so it goes for five more minutes before she leaves the room to put on her jammies. I blame this asinine exchange and others like it on March. By the way, it is pa-JAW-mas.

K is for kiss my ass. They say attitude is everything. I’mma wanna tell ya: It sure as hell is.

L is for lack of vitamin D. “L” is for lack of sunshine. It is so rare to see a blue sky in March that when the sun appears, we think we’re having LSD flashbacks. Thousands stare for hours into blinding light-boxes believing they will ward off “seasonal affective disorder.” There’s no such thing, of course, but we allow the masses to huddle together under their unifying diagnosis.

M is for madness, as in March Madness. It’s a great paradox that it takes madness to restore sanity. It takes office pools and online brackets and rooting for Cinderella to keep us from chewing holes in the upholstery.

N is for numbed noses and numbed nuts. And worse than being numb is being numb to our numbness. We swim unaware in an ether of novocaine. We have been so cold for so long, we don’t realize until April that we’ve lost some of our fingers and toes.

O is for “Olly olly oxen free!” I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I get irritable. March Madness is still a few weeks away. Please forgive me. Come on over and help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge, if you can find anything in there. Probably can’t. Sorry.

P is for potholes. Everybody talks about potholes but nobody ever does anything about them. Except road commission crews. Those guys drive around with their steaming asphalt and fill in yawning hole after yawning hole with their persistent shovels. These are the heroes that battle decay and our winter’s discontent. They save our shocks and springs and prevent car passengers from getting hernias. Bless you, boys.

Q is for quarrelling. Walk through any apartment complex in March and you will hear, behind closed doors, constant explosions of slamming doors and bellowing arguments between lovers. Why then, you might ask, is there such a spike in birth rates in Michigan hospitals in December, nine months later? Three words: make-up sex.

R is for reruns. And God bless their little rerunny plots. Look outside and you’ve got blood-stopping cold in seven shades of grey. Look inside and you’ve got Kramer and George Costanza in HD on the flat screen. It’s a no brainer.

S is for sleet, snow, slush, slippery roads, severe weather, and more miserable S’s than I care to conjure.

T is for traumatic stress disorder (TSD), akin to post-traumatic stress disorder, except there’s nothing “post” about it. It lasts for exactly 31 days. Don’t expect treatment for TSD in March, because psychiatrists are too immersed in their college basketball brackets to deal with the suffering of others.

U is for Unguentine ointment, a winter staple and treatment for dry skin that you’ll be plenty familiar with once you turn 50. When I’m without my Unguentine, I like to rub my back in a door jamb, like a bear rubs its back on a pine tree.

V is for Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. If you run out of Unguentine, Vaseline will work. In March, nobody in Michigan cares if you walk around with Vaseline smeared all over your body.

W is a tie between windshield wiper fluid and “Where’s the remote?” If you have neither, both of these W’s can be a matter of life and death. Which is more important? Finding the remote is much more important.

X is for “X marks the spot” and how frustrating it is when, if you’ve marked your spot in November, try as you might, come March you can’t find any X anywhere because everything is covered in snow. Someone could put an X in a very obvious place outside and still not find which spot X marks. From November through March, all marked spots are useless.

Y is for Ypsilanti, Michigan. Ypsilanti experiences March in Michigan. Therefore, you should feel sorry for it.

Z is for “Zounds!!! A crocus!” The delicate, the precious, the sublime blue shoot of the crocus. It points heavenward through mounds of melting snow, undaunted, uncompromising, the knowing vertical climb of spring. We often see crocuses in March. They have the courage of David as they slay the monstrous Goliath of winter. That battle happens in late March, right as the madness subsides.

Tom Bohnhorst is a social worker and lives in Traverse City, Michigan. In 1973, he spent a harrowing night in a Turkish jail. He contributes to Trop Magazine. To read more of Tom’s essays, visit his blog: Poopiderum. 

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