Hey! Let's trade Olympic torch for global warming

February 11, 1994|By Mike Littwin

I have often told people I wouldn't walk across the street to watch the Winter Olympics.

Now, it turns out, walking across the street -- my block has been officially renamed Ice Station Zebra -- actually qualifies as a Winter Games event.

I don't know what the conditions are in Norway, but here, in the ice capades we call home, it's pretty much exactly like s Napoleon's march on Moscow, only colder. The bad news is, we're never going to get exiled to a Mediterranean island.

Instead, we sit shivering and ask ourselves the eternal question: Will winter ever end?

Scientifically speaking, the answer is, of course, no.

Weatherman Norm Lewis put it this way the other night: "Run for your lives. But run carefully."

And yet, I think we've learned some things along the way. For instance, I now know what it must be like to be Tonya Harding. Every day, I skate across the ice rink that is my front yard. Then I pick up a club and whack the ice off my windshield.

(Actually, I'm considering getting Jeff Gillooly to hire someone to do it for me.)

The skate-and-whack is just one event we're hosting in our own mini-Winter Olympics at my house, where the ice is now thicker than the Clinton budget plan. There's also the downhill, which we do a little differently. We call it the fall-down-hill.

You need special equipment. I use the official low-grip, high-risk Reeboks. I take one step out the door, say to get the paper, and then, the feet slip and suddenly it's dogs on ice. Whoosh, down we go, in the familiar prone position, just like Dan Jansen every Olympiad.

I personally hold the family record from steps to sidewalk -- a very fast 3.6 seconds. I had to retire when I smashed my head into the streetside mailbox, which was, naturally, empty because the post office has now changed its motto to state: "We deliver the mail only if it isn't too inconvenient and if there are no shootings at the office."

It isn't that I don't like ice, per se. Yeah, you can't walk on it or drive on it. But I sure like it crushed in a margarita.

And, boy, who doesn't enjoy those ice sculptures they always have at buffets? In fact, I've been working on a sculpture of the sun, just so I can remember what it looks like.

L The problem is, the icy-cold wintry conditions get you down.

If you watch the Winter Olympics, you'll hear the CBS broadcasters say the Norwegians are a reserved people. They are not reserved. They are depressed. These, remember, are the people who produced Ibsen.

You know why they're depressed. Lillehammer is the place where the sun rises at 9:30 a.m. and sets at 2:30 p.m., at which time the cocktails begin to flow. They call it unhappy hour.

In America, when we're miserable, we need to talk about it. So, you have to tell a story. It's part of human intercourse. Show me your snow story; I'll show you mine. It's how Jack London got started.

That means, even at the risk of embarrassing a loved one, you're obliged to tell how your wife, trapped in the house like she was some Russian fishing trawler stalled off the ice-clogged coast of Irkutsk, finally got to her car by sliding down the iced-over lawn on a cushion.

For those who say there's nothing we can do about the problem, I would like to bring up an old friend -- global warming.

Remember global warming? It was a big story a few years ago, before our attention moved to more pressing matters, like Joey Buttafuoco's mole.

The issue incited lots of scare headlines, most of which said something like: "World To End, But At Least You'll Go Out With A Good Tan."

The idea was the world was getting warmer -- I can't remember why; something to do with pollution -- and the polar caps would melt, causing a great flood, meaning we'd have to pair off two-by-two, and who would volunteer to go with Lorena Bobbitt?

Then, unaccountably, it started getting cold and staying cold and everyone forgot about the problem.

Did we do something differently to cool down the climate? If so, is it too late to change our ways?

Yeah, I know. Global warming is no joke. What about future generations? What about our children and our children's children and what about penguins?

To which I say: "Listen, pal, I'm freezing now."

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