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Countdown to Fall -- Tick, Tock.

Andrew Freedman @ 9:01 AM

The Weather Channel featured a "Countdown to Fall" clock on Friday morning.

Tick tock.

Like an amputee with phantom pains, I could feel the sting of a strong Northwest wind lashing me as I walked to the Addison Red Line station in Chicago in 65 degree weather.

Jason Samenow's Sunday Forecast

Nice Day StampSpectacular. High pressure building in from the north will usher in dry and pleasant air. Temperatures should reach about 80 degrees, with a light northeasterly wind. By late afternoon, some high clouds could increase. Overnight, it will be partly cloudy, with lows 59-64.

Check back tomorrow for the complete week ahead forecast.

Since moving here from the nation's capital a year ago I've developed an irrational fear of winter, and lately that fear is lurking around every corner. You Washingtonians don't realize how great you have it, with your pretty fall colors, 40 degree high temperatures and blockbuster city-closing snowstorms to get excited about.

Everywhere I turn someone in the media or in daily conversation takes it upon them to remind me how rapidly cold temperatures are approaching. Without a menacing hurricane to garner ratings, the media is latching onto the very common changing of the seasons to attract an audience.

In addition to TWC's countdown, on Friday there was an item in the Chicago Tribune that detailed the precise number of days until the first 50 degree high, 40 degree high, 30 degree high and so forth. The first day with a 50 degree high is about a month away, the paper was kind enough to remind readers. And the dreaded 20 degree high isn't too far off, either.

Tick tock.

Also, The Farmer's Almanac came out recently, leading to wire stories detailing the prediction of a colder than average winter for many regions of the country.

"After one of the warmest winters on record, this coming winter will be much colder than normal from coast to coast, predicts the almanac, which says its forecasts are accurate 80 percent to 85 percent of the time," the Associated Press reported.

Of course, that forecast is based on a secret formula based on sunspot activity rather than a sober reflection on the current state of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, so it doesn't make me too worried.

Anticipatory Winter Anxiety (AWA) is a disorder as intrinsic to Chicago's psyche as sausages and improv comedy. Any anxiety sufferer knows that it's the anticipation of a negative outcome rather than the negative outcome itself that causes the most discomfort, which means the period between now and December will be worse than actual winter.

While I'm sure Washingtonians can claim to have some trepidation and loathing of the upcoming shorter days and cooler temperatures, the anxiety in this corner of the Midwest isn't present to a clinical degree in the nation's capital. And the media is preying on this fear, with the general public picking up the slack.

The following is an outline of a conversation I've had 21 times in the past two weeks with friends and strangers:

Me: Man, it's a beautiful day.

Other person: Yeah, it sure is, although have you noticed it's been getting dark earlier and earlier now?

Me: Yeah, I guess it has. I hate that.

Other person: Me too. I can already feel winter coming on. It won't be long before we'll be wearing our huge coats again, freezing on the El platforms...

Me: I know.

Other person: I gotta get new mittens. God I hate winter.

Me: Well, thanks for that, talk to you soon. (I walk away depressed and anxious)

In the above conversation I could have said "I like blueberries in my cereal" and elicited the same response, so intent are people these days to bring others down using the weather. This conversation, combined with the media reminders of the cold's imminent arrival, makes me feel trapped and vulnerable, desperate to hide in the nearest North Face store. It feels as if the cold air is gunning for me personally, building up over the Arctic, waiting for the jet stream to buckle to rattle my windows and make me get up at 3 A.M. to turn on the space heater.

So please, get rid of that countdown clock. And stop reminding me of what comes after fall. I know it's winter. It's not like someone forgets what season comes next, like they mistake a Thursday for Friday only to be disappointed.

Typically I want my TV and print meteorologists to inform me down to the intricacies of each computer model solution (see the site you're reading this at) but in the case of the inexorable fall into winter, I'd rather be left in the dark.

Tick tock.

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