Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

February 2004

So, how cold is it?

The recent "cool spell" has really heated up the Internet. No doubt you have received the e-mail titled "Vermont Temperature Conversion Chart." It has entries like "30 degrees Californians begin burning the furniture while Vermonters schedule the last cook-out of the season," and ends with "Absolute zero hell freezes over and Howard Dean is elected president."

Dr. Dean has certainly made us all seem a bit more plugged-in to folks from away, has he not? How often have you been asked to comment on Vermont's former governor by your out-of-state friends and associates? Regardless of your politics, you really owe it to the Vermont economy to become a one-person promotion board for our fair state.

Here are a few facts and figures that I found to be awe-inspiring when related to New Yorkers, Okies and other assorted flatlanders. Montpelier, the Green Mountain State's capital, has fewer than 100,000 residents. I'm never sure which of the three factoids (all true, by the way) impresses folks. It's hardly worth telling them Montpelier's real population for fear they will think you're pulling their leg.

The closest big city to Burlington is Montreal. That has always knocked them out. Apparently, geography classes aren't what they used to be and people equate Canada with the North Pole. "Oh my! You're way up there, huh?" they often remark, sometimes asking "How close are you to that dog sled race, the 'I-did-it-whatever' deal?"

Vermont has only one congressman. This fact does not impress people from Wyoming or the Dakotas but blows away Bostonians.

Vermont has a sales tax, personal income tax, pretty high real estate taxes and strict environmental laws, and considers itself to be "business-friendly." That statement usually results in a slight narrowing of the eyes and a monosyllabic reply such as "Ah" or "Oh" or "Hmm." Could it be those facts need a bit more spinning?

There are no billboards abutting Vermont roads. For most folks, that's hard to visualize. I assure them that they have to not see it to believe it. Vermont not only has summer, fall, winter and spring; it also has mud and hunting. Summers are short; fall is beautiful; winter's long; spring's quick; mud's deep; and hunting is a good excuse not to shave. Typically, they've seen pictures of the leaves, watched skiing on television, discount the depth of mud, and find it hard to believe that there can be very green grass under very white snow.

And, finally, they ask once again about Dr. Dean. I tell them that he's in the phone book but he's been out a lot, lately.