What winter?

December 13, 2011 

The front-page story about the 52 year-old man who survived three days on a diet of frozen beer after his pickup became stuck in a snow bank near Nome attracted national attention.

Oh those wacky Alaskans who eat beer like C-rations!

But this isn't a beer story: It's a driving story.

Alaska has a surplus of people who, once settled behind the wheel, forget they are in Alaska. They don't have winter gear. They don't have jumper cables. They don't have a shovel. They don't even have a coat.

What they have is a cell phone.

It is not surprising to encounter, somewhere in my neighborhood, someone whose car has stalled or found a snow bank. These people need help. They are in no position to help themselves beyond dialing desperately in hope they can find a rescuer.

Typically the stranded are young men -- attired in a T-shirt, baggy shorts, and flip flops, socks optional.

I do what I can to help without passing judgment. People who dress like this in December are not going to listen to a sourdough's scornful lecture.

In fairness, I know what it is to be young and defy the weather. As a teen I walked to high school without a hat at 50 below. Didn't want to mess up my carefully sculpted greasy pompadour. But I did wear long underwear, a heavy coat, and well-insulated gloves. If rubbing my ears occasionally with my bare hands failed to keep my ears from freezing, I conceded reality and dug a cap out of my pocket.

Frostbite is the perfect cure for vanity.

Yet I have no evidence frostbite stops Alaskans from dressing like beach bums when they take to our icy roads.

-- Michael Carey

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