So, late last week, I got stuck writing a weather story. 

Those of you who have been around a while will know how I feel about writing weather stories — I enjoy them about as much as I would enjoy leprosy or a meal of boiled kitty litter. I’m not a fan, me.

But this one wasn’t so bad. This one had frantic men chasing giant skeletons down wet, leaf-strewn streets. It had trampolines hopping over fences and toupees flying off heads. This particular storm featured a naked chicken (poor bird was molting and all her feathers blew off), port-a-potties tumbling everywhere, and a whole bunch of campaign signs blowing straight into Hell where they belong. 

Did somebody say there was a naked chicken? Man, count me in. 

I don’t mind writing weather stories so much if things get lively like this. That’s some real world chaos right there, and everybody who was awake for it had some kind of story to tell. 

“I flashed all of Maine Street in Brunswick when my skirt went flying up over my head,” one young lady told me. 

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“Our flag pole snapped, and the entrance sign to my haunted pumpkin patch blew off,” said another. 

“I was out in it Door-dashing,” reported a food delivery lady. “It was a nightmare. Lost my hat to the wind, soaked to the bone just from walking to people’s doors, and I delivered two soggy pizzas; four soggy, wet and torn bags of food; and six watery drinks.” 

Great fun. We trained (sort of) journalists call that “color” and it’s just delightful. Give me ferocious winds and driving rain at the end of the work week and brother, I’ll give you 40 inches of copy without complaint. 

Without much complaint, anyway. 

The problem that is that most weather stories do not have this kind of drama. Most weather stories are written about perfectly normal weather happening at the appropriate times of year. 

“My GOD!” says the red-faced, sweat-soaked and mentally deranged assignment editor. “It’s the middle of January and we’re getting six inches of snow! I’m going to get my best team on it!” 

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The “best team” in question is typically whatever poor slob of a reporter happens to be sitting in the newsroom at the time with nothing else to do. And that poor slob of a reporter is me 100 percent of the time. Possibly more! 

When I’m tasked with writing a story like this, I typically go through the classic stages of grief. I kick and scream and threaten to hold my breath until I’m dead to get out of the assignment, but nobody’s buying it so off I go. With the tantrum over, I endeavor to make this the best gosh darn weather story our readers have ever seen. 

“Mark my words!” I’ll declare, standing in the street, finger upraised to the gray heavens above. “I shall make this the best gosh darn weather story our readers have ever seen or die trying!” 

Then a mean UPS driver honks at me and I have to get out of the road. 

I honestly try to make every weather story I write as colorful as I possibly can. But come on. We’re talking about 6 inches of snow in January. The barnyard fowls may be shivering a little bit, but they don’t go bald. Talking to ordinary people about the storm is no help, either.

“My friend,” I’ll say to some old man out shoveling out his yard. “I’m a trained (sort of) journalist and would like to know how this perfectly average storm has impacted you personally.” 

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Standing there atop the snowbank, wind blowing my notebook pages all over the place, I usually get a quick response to my masterfully crafted (I’m a trained journalist, you know) questions. 

“Well, let’s see,” the old man will say, rubbing his stubbled chin with a mittened hand. “First I got up and had a cup of coffee. Then I put my galoshes, boots and earmuffs on and went out to shovel the yard. After that, I beat a nosy reporter with my shovel and buried him up to his neck in yonder snowbank. Is that the kind of thing you’re looking for, young man?” 

There’s no drama in these perfectly ordinary storms. There are snowfall totals, fender benders, power outage reports and bland comments from police about how people need to slow down and remember that it’s winter and driving habits must be adjusted and blah blah blah. Just bury me back in that snowbank, will you? 

I have probably written … just give me a second to do some quick math here … 15 billion weather stories since I started working at the newspaper. A good 95% of them were dull and ordinary, informative and yet not entertaining at all because fun things like naked chickens just cannot be bothered with regular snowstorms. 

So last Thursday’s storm was a delightful diversion for me, although I still kicked, screamed and held my breath just to keep with tradition. You know it’s going to be a fun day when you go to bed with no Halloween decorations at all and wake up with a yard full of them. 

It truly is a magical time of year. 

When he’s not avoiding his editors on snow days, Mark LaFlamme covers the crime beat for the Sun Journal, and welcomes weather tips at [email protected].

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