The Layering of Sam McGee

There are noisy climate change deniers who refuse to accept scientific research because it conflicts with their closely held political beliefs.

That’s almost understandable.

But what I can’t comprehend is the much more commonplace lunacy of daily weather denial.

A good winter storm reveals it, especially in more tightly packed urban locations. Some people downtown believe they don’t have to put on anything special to be outside because they’re only going to be exposed for a short time.

And besides, heavy clothes worn in layers just don’t look that nice. But I think inadequately dressed office workers look silly shivering as they wait to cross the street.

Almost as pathetic as I would look to the “Bard of the Yukon”, Robert W. Service, if he could see me shamelessly ripping off his famous rhyme, The Cremation of Sam McGee.

There are fashions worn in a winter storm
that don’t flatter or beguile.
Everybody knows bulky layered clothes
are the enemy of style.
Even dilletantes at fine restaurants
will adapt to a degree.  
When it’s ten below, they let fashion go
if their name ain’t Sam McGee.
I met Sam when he worked alongside me
at a downtown data farm.
On a warehouse floor that had been restored
to enhance its rugged charm.
Lots of urban chic. Every new boutique
and hot eatery were near.
So when noontime tolled, even in the cold,
he’d step out for lunch and beer.
Sam’s wardrobe was sheer and he wouldn’t hear
of a parka or a fleece.
If a shirt or gown had an ounce of down
his frustration would increase.
"It feels very wrong and takes far too long
to suit up for snow or sleet."
"And besides," he'd wink, "there's no risk, I think."
"I'm just going to cross the street."
Right across the way sat a mad buffet
called "The Sacrificial Goat."
It was hip and loud and it drew a crowd
that pooh-poohed the winter coat.
They opposed its bulk and would tend to sulk
if harsh weather was foretold.
As a normal thing, they'd pretend it's Spring,
'cause it's cool to not seem cold.
So off Sam would skirt in a polo shirt
with Bermuda Shorts below.
Into two degrees with his naked knees
and flip-flops, to face the snow.
"Winter air feels fresh on my naked flesh!"
he declared. "It's strength of will."
"And what's more," he spat, "I don't need a hat,"
as he stepped into the chill.
Quite against Sam’s plan an ice storm began
at the moment he emerged.
It poured slush and sleet on his flip-flopped feet
'til his toes were near submerged.
With slap slopping slips those soft flopping flips
became brittle, much like chalk.
At the crosswalk light, his mouth thin and tight,
Sam saw this command: "Don't Walk."
In the urban grind one will often find
that the traffic can get dense.
In the slowed down time at that corner sign
Sam's despair became immense.
Then a passing truck's plume of slushy muck
sealed the peril that he faced.
With the awesome thud of one spray of crud
Sam McGee became encased.
Each ensuing blast added to the cast
that enveloped Sam, complete.
It was tough and slick and six inches thick
from his head down to his feet.
Looking through the shell you could clearly tell
that his face betrayed chagrin.
For he knew this glaze wouldn't thaw for days.
Sam was outside, but shut in.
When it’s time to play on a chilly day
all the children learn his name.
At the door they crowd and recite aloud
the sad lesson of his fame.
Frosty northern wind can freeze human skin
and put iceburgs up your nose.
The tears in your eye can solidify.
That's the reason we wear clothes.
Don't go out of doors in your summer drawers
against January's breeze.
Dress your body right to avoid frostbite
and a fate like Sam McGee's.

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