No Points for Worrying

At the beginning of the 20th century, Ivan Pavlov performed his famous experiments on conditioned reflex. You may recall that when he fed dogs, he rang a bell at the same time. When the dogs saw the food, they began to salivate. Before long, Pavlov stopped bringing the food and only rang the bell. The dogs associated the bell with the food, and would salivate at the sound of the bell even if the food was not present. Pavlov repeated the experience with various visual and audio stimuli and obtained the same results. He also performed similar experiments on children successfully.

I have been thinking about Pavlov for the past few days. We were supposed to get another “major snowstorm” which would “dump 6-8 inches” overnight yesterday and create a “miserable morning commute.” It was also supposed to snow on Saturday, which it did. But it was a minor snow, so the weathercasters didn’t get very excited about it.

They were too busy with the “major snow system” developing in the west. You may recall that the part of Michigan where we live is not known for massive amounts of snow. So when we expect more than 3-4 inches, it’s a major event. As you may well imagine, this winter has been a meteorologist’s dream. More nights than not, the news leads with the weather. You’d never know we’ve been getting weather around these parts for as long as most people can remember.

So all weekend, the drumbeat has been going for our newest storm. They showed us all the pretty pictures on the weather maps with the light blues, the dark blues, and the lavenders. We saw pictures of massive storms in the eastern and western parts of the country. As far as I know, none of the viewing audience lives in New Jersey or Idaho, but I guess you can never be too careful.

Yesterday, the store was packed. It was like the week before Christmas. I guess that all the people who were left with only one loaf of bread and two bottles of wine after the one major storm we did get this year didn’t want to be caught short again. I definitely understand that people don’t like to drive in bad weather, but seriously. The same people who were saying we were going to get all the snow we also telling us it was going to be 38 degrees by the afternoon.

The break room buzzed with talk about the storm. Some people weren’t going to come in if it was too bad. There was general commiserating about how bad the roads would be. No mention of the number of people who were driving 4-wheel drive vehicles or lived within 5 miles of the store.

I bet you can guess what happened. Pavlov rang the bell, the people salivated, and the bowl was only partially full of kibble. It did start snowing yesterday afternoon. The little tiny flakes that seem to fall forever. But by the 10 o’clock news they were telling us that the majority of the storm was passed. There were two inches, tops, on our porch. This morning we woke up to a total of a scant three inches.

The road commission had apparently listened to the forecasts for the afternoon warm-up since they were pretty much AWOL on the drive in. So the morning commute was unpleasant. Then the sun came out. The roads cleared. The temperature was near 40 degrees. And no one starved, cut off from humanity.

So the weathercasters are relegated to telling us about the warm-up we will be seeing for a few days. But then we’re in for another “major cool-down”. It’s going back to the teens and twenties. Yep, we’re in for a continuation of winter, just like the groundhogs told us.

The title above is a quotation from Bob Mathias I thought was appropriate for this post. Mr. Mathias was a 17-year-old decathlete in the 1948 Olympics. While all of the other athletes were practicing up until the moment the competition started, he would be under a tree reading or napping. When someone asked him how he could be so relaxed, he told them that he didn’t get points for worrying. Mathias went on to win the decathlon by a wide margin.

Lest you think his winning was a fluke due to poor nutrition in Europe during the war, he also won in 1952. Afterward, he graduated from Stanford University and was commissioned into the U.S. Marines. He became a four-term U.S. representative from California.

Moral: If you’re a world-class athlete, don’t worry about the snow. Or something like that.

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