From the Slow Lane: We like it when it snows where you are

Exactly what do snowbirds do, you may be wondering, while we are temporarily displaced for the winter?

Some people spend their time on the golf course, playing tennis or riding bikes. Others jog or take walks. Basically we do the exact same things summer people do on Shelter Island, except in a different place, in different months and under palm trees. And we try not to flaunt our snowbird status because we are not always the most popular birds on the block, if you know what I mean.

Most of us bite our tongues when we might be dying to say, “This is how we do that where I come from,” or “This is our eighth winter so we consider ourselves locals,” and “What do you people do here in the summer?”

Mostly, though, what we do is talk about the weather. That’s usually the number-one topic of conversation and both snowbirds and locals take the weather very seriously. It’s not unusual to come across a five-day forecast in the daily paper that reads: Friday, warm and delicious; Saturday, breezy and partly whimsical; Sunday, fabulous! Just fabulous!, etc.

But snowbirds don’t focus on the weather where they are snowbirding, they’re more interested in the weather wherever “back home” is. We monitor it constantly via the televisions in all the businesses (because even in sports bars, several TVs broadcast the Weather Channel) and on our cell phones. At this moment, my WeatherBug tells me that the temperature in Key West is 69.5 degrees and on Shelter Island it is 44.3. We are cloudy and windy. You are sunny. Pardon me, but from one snowbird’s POV, there’s something wrong with this picture.

In the past, we have often won the bad-weather-back-home bragging rights, but not this year. At least not yet. We no longer tell our Shelter Island family and friends what the weather is like where we are because (so far) it hasn’t been all that different from what it is where you are. So stop asking! And as nasty as this is going to sound, part of the pleasure — a big part, by the way — of trekking to warmer climes comes from hearing how cold it is back home and being able to announce it when a flock of us gather for morning coffee at the little patio outside the RV park’s community bathhouse. It’s one of those ratio things. The lower the temperature “back home,” the greater the pleasure.

Last year. I was sometimes queen of bad-weather-back-home reports but this year I’m not even in the running. Not when places south of the Mason-Dixon line have snow and temperatures near zero. I mean, come on! We traveled 1,261 miles at 7.5 mpg to escape the ravages of winter. Where are the ravages? One day in January, it got down to 57 degrees in Key West at the same time it went up to 58 degrees on Shelter Island. That’s just not right.

However, I do fondly remember the glory winters, those years when Shelter Island was at the top of the bad-weather ladder, once for a three-week run until some people from Lake Placid showed up and bumped us down a rung. Then Shelter Island was hit with a 10-inch “dusting” and I thought I’d regained the bad-weather crown. My friend from Kentucky waltzed into coffee to report that a severe ice storm had struck her town. Her entire community was totally glazed over and all the businesses shut down for three days.

That trumped my two-hour delayed school opening.

It’s been two hours since I last checked in with WeatherBug on my cell phone to see what’s happening on Shelter Island and I’m a little shocked to see that the temperature has dropped almost 10 degrees. There’s no snow in your forecast (believe me, I check every hour) but with cold temps and rain on the way, there is the possibility of some kind of weather event. Nothing bad, mind you, maybe some sleet — a little icy glaze. Not a lot. Just enough so I have something to report at morning coffee and maybe regain the bad-weather-back-home crown.

Wait! Hold the weather report. A motor home just pulled in across from us. I hate to throw in the towel this early in the winter, but the RV next to us has Alaska plates.

Game over.