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Davis, California

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Column: Spring has sprung?

I wore a T-shirt and shorts this past weekend. I don’t even remember the last time I wore a T-shirt and shorts. This only confirms to me that Punxsutawney Phil has lied again. Spring is a lot closer than he predicted. (Why do we use ground hogs to predict the weather anyway? They live in the ground. Why would they know anything?)

I must admit, upon writing that first paragraph, I had intended to write some cheesy Valentine’s Day recap. But after Wikipedia-ing Punxsutawney Phil to make sure I spelt his name right, I abruptly changed my mind.

Instead, I’d like to share with you the new knowledge of Groundhog’s Day I just absorbed. I realize it’s two weeks after the fact, but hey, what the hell.

I’m sure you all know the basic premise of this tradition. Every Feb. 2, this skittish rodent makes its way out of his hole in Pennsylvania to predict our weather. If he sees his shadow, there’s supposedly six weeks left of cold misery. If he doesn’t, we can spring clean a little earlier. Either way, it’s kind of crappy.

Anyway, I would like to assess the validity of his predictions based on what I’m reading. First of all, the life expectancy of a groundhog is like 10 years in captivity and six years in the wild. However, Punxsutawney Phil has supposedly been the one and only Groundhog’s Day weatherman (weatherhog?) for 120 years.

Either that crafty little creature has found the secret to eternal life or these Philadelphians are liars. I refuse to be duped and go with the latter. But now I’m feeling kind of stupid, because according to groundhogsday.org, Phil does indeed drink the “elixir of life.” I guess I was mistaken.

So according to folklore and this weird website, every summer Phil is fed his special Groundhog Punch which “magically lengthens his life for seven years.” Yeah, it’s so scientific they know the exact number.

If this is true, he will live to be at least 840 years old. At which point his predictions will be useless because we’ll probably be in our seventh ice age. He’ll be seeing his shadow all the time because it will be winter ALL the time.

So who gives this magic potion to Phil? Obviously, his inner circle of lemmings, according to the website. And what is this group called? The Inner Circle … not of lemmings, but I think it’s implied.

This posse is distinguishable by their outdated fashion. They apparently wear tuxedos and top hats everywhere. I think they’ve also been tapping into the Groundhog Punch.

Getting back to my point, the Inner Circle takes care of Phil all year long. They are the masterminds behind the big holiday ceremony. Conveniently enough, the President of the Inner Circle speaks “Groundhogese” and can translate Phil’s prediction for the world. I’m not making this up. That’s what the website says.

So this is the history behind the weather forecast we get every year on Feb. 2. I feel obligated to tell you that further research indicates that Phil has only been correct in his prognosis 39 percent of the time, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Needless to say, I think his accuracy rate just plummeted even more this year. (Which shouldn’t be surprising, because he’s a groundhog. And not trained in atmospheric science.)

Based on the warm weather and all this nonsense I read online, I’m going to choose not to listen to Punks-a-phony Phil ever again. I’m also going to make sure I avoid Pennsylvania/Pennsylvanians at all costs because they probably hate me now.

AMANDA HARDWICK is dreading the warm weather because the cockroaches will start making guest appearances in her room again. If you have any idea how to prevent this, please, PLEASE shoot her an e-mail at aghardwick@ucdavis.edu.

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