Always be suspicious of a columnist who quotes a cabdriver. Granted, they're on point and pithy. Still, no journalist ever wrote, "I asked my cabbie what he thought of the Mpls 2040 plan, and he said, 'Sometimes I feel like there are frogs in my pants.' "
So I will quote my Uber driver instead. I hopped into the back seat, leaving the hotel in Florida, and said something about how it was nice that the weather was cool — you know, 61 — because I was going back to Minnesota. But at least Christmas feels like Christmas in Minnesota. Florida? I don't know how they get in the spirit with all the palm trees and sunshine.
"I'm from Brazil," he said, "so I grew up with it. But, yeah."
I tell him that Daughter is in Brazil on Rotary exchange. "No way," he said; he was a Rotary student from Brazil when he was young. He went to Georgia, where it was slightly cooler than Brazil in December. He'd never known a snowy Christmas, and while it sounded nice, he understood that it was followed by four months of marrow-cracking cold, and, all things considered, he'd rather live where you could go outside without losing a toe.
I couldn't argue. But we forget sometimes how perfect Minnesota looks at holiday time: It's what everyone else copies. Badly. The hotel had a silver tree with reindeer sculpted from wire. It looked like something robots would make in a future where people had left the planet and the robots were carrying on a tradition without knowing why.
In the stores, there were some halfhearted pine boughs, which looked as odd as palm fronds nailed on the wall in August in a Fargo dentist's lobby. The hotel played carols at an almost imperceptible level in the elevator area, and it sounded like Nat King Cole was trapped on the other side of the wall. It's noon, it's 82 degrees; who is this madman roasting chestnuts?
Near the hotel was a tree lot, and, as far as I could tell, it was doing less business than, well, a roasted chestnut stand. The pine smell was nice, but it was out of place, like catching a whiff of Hawaiian Tropic in January at the grocery store.
Were the trees trucked from a great distance to stand in living rooms like zombie reminders of some snowy clime where people actually hear sleigh bells ting-ting-tingling while they go house to house singing carols and quaffing wassail?
Back to the Uber driver. He asked how Daughter liked the holiday season in Brazil, and I told him that she'd texted me a picture of a beautiful blanket over a thin nylon mattress. In Minnesota, it would have been a warm downy comforter on big, cozy bed.
"Sounds nice," he said. He added: "It's going to be 80 tomorrow."