This is some snow. (REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin)
This is some snow. (REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin)

Over the past week, as we trekked around with our limbs freezing and falling off, I kept hearing the term “Polar Vortex” getting bandied around, along with “arctic outbreak.” Both of these sound like good names for one of those excessively hip minty gums in cool black packets, whose commercials always consist of people getting swept away by giant avalanches and falling into crevasses while an announcer voice says, “JUST LIKE THIS BUT INSIDE YOUR MOUTH, WITH MINT FLAVORING.” But what are they, really? And how should you deal with them, in future?

WHAT IS THE POLAR VORTEX?

The Polar Vortex is upon us, messing with our weather. It told us in advance that it was coming and it brought us ice, like a thoughtful party guest.

Unlike a thoughtful party guest it will be holding our grandparents in their homes against their will. Although actually I guess this depends on what your relationship with your grandparents is like.

The Polar Vortex is behind the terrifying soulless pattern of weather that has been devastating the country, not to be confused with the Polar Express, a terrifying soulless CGI adaptation of the beloved children’s book that starred a creepy animated Tom Hanks and also devastated the country.

NO BUT SERIOUSLY, COULD YOU STOP MAKING INEPT, CREAKY ANALOGIES AND DESCRIBE WHAT IT IS?

Apparently, the Polar Vortex is a low-pressure area located over the poles, which gains strength in winter, like the White Walkers or your sense of general despondency at the fact that it is dark early and late and your life does not seem to be going as planned. Every so often one of its arms gets caught in the jet stream and it starts spewing freezing air at you, which, especially if it combines with a nice coat of insulating snow, can make for freezing uncomfortable conditions for everyone, like [obligatory joke about WASP family barbecues]. One of the biggest mistakes we make with things that frighten us is giving them names, which only makes them loom more powerfully — things like “Stagflation” or “Tropical Storm Jedward” or “Tiger Mother Amy Chua” But this one has actually been around for decades.

BUT IS IT ACTUALLY A BIG DEAL?

Yes, for once. I know that this is difficult to believe, given that Washington will cancel all school and shut down the federal government when faced with a stiff breeze, but, yes, you should be careful and try to avoid unnecessary exposure, like the opposite of Miley Cyrus.

HOW DO I DEAL WITH THE POLAR VORTEX?

This varies from person to person.

A good way to respond to literally any weather pattern whatsoever is to yell loudly at the weather pattern, “This just goes to show that global warming is a bunch of hooey!” Usually weather patterns get chagrined and go away after this kind of talking-to, which is why we no longer have tropical storms. Remember, any weather event ever can always be used to prove that whatever you believe about climate change is right.

If the weather conditions brought on by the Polar Vortex stay in town for more than the number of days it initially said, try walking around the house in your underwear and yawning a lot whenever it says anything. I think the best way is just to treat it like you would a relative — after all, it comes into town bringing icy conditions, causes property damage, and won’t leave even when you make pointed suggestions.

IS THE POLAR VORTEX A CONSPIRACY OF THE LIBERAL MEDIA?

Not more than anything else.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.