I Freakin’ Love Groundhog Day


By Connor Pattinson

OK. You guys ready? Let’s do this.

To set the scene, on Feb. 2, 1877, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club embarked on their expedition to Phil’s house located at Who-Gives-A-Shit-It’s-A-Groundhog Lane, Gobbler’s Knob, PA 15767. Crowds gather around to watch Punxsutawney Phil emerge from his little hole to see if the little goober sees his shadow — a sign of six more weeks of winter. If he is not frightened back into his hole by his shadow, it means that spring will be arriving early. Thankfully, this February will be no different.

Isn’t this holiday utterly ridiculous? As an avid enjoyer of ridicule of all kinds and a passionate fan of tomfoolery in general, this is far and away my favorite holiday. Several things about this splendid holiday — the silly outfits, harassing a rodent outside his humble abode with a film crew like he’s some kind of verminous oracle and Gobbler’s Knob is the new temple at Delphi, the hatred this stirs in environmentalists and the occasional Vandy student — are, in my oh so humble opinion, the best possible thing you can do on a weekday morning in early February. 

For me, Groundhog Day is always a memorable experience.

I grew up near Michigan, relatively speaking, where the winters were somewhere between limp and impotent, except for the occasional stirring that would shut down schools for days at a time. We really only got one, maybe two, instances of snowfall at all, and it caused a collective fugue state in the entire population as everyone simultaneously forgot how to drive. 

I remember driving home from work one night in a blizzard. Well, blizzard might be dramatic, but it is more evocative imagery for you, the reader. Full disclosure, I am not a very good driver, nor am I very knowledgeable about car maintenance. Sure, my tires were bald, but it still freaked me out when my car started spinning, almost as if in slow motion. I slowly slid to a stop, thankfully without any collisions, but I was still a little spooked. I watched car after car of dickhead high school students on their way home from some shitty minimum wage job pass right by me without even considering stopping to make sure I was okay.

This meant that each year, as this omnipotent land-beaver revealed the truths of the cosmos, I had my escape. I knew with absolute certainty when winter would be over, and I would never again (for about nine months) need to think about buying new tires. I was so broke, I desperately needed to believe him. Every February, seeing some mayor in Pennsylvania holding that fat little bastard announcing the end of winter brought me hope. For the first time all winter, it made me feel warm. 

I was never disappointed with the results because I knew Phil would never lead me astray. Phil would never lie to me about an early spring. Phil was up to date on the latest climate information in the face of the ever growing threat of global warming and accounted for this in his predictions, and even yet, he never let me down. This holiday let me know that winter would soon be over, not because I lived in a large valley that often pushed warm fronts into my town in mid-February, but because Phil foresaw the coming of greener pastures and shared these truths, if not with everyone, with me. 

Every year, I went through the same cycle: hydroplane for a few dozen feet. Pray I don’t need new tires. Wait for Phil’s beautiful fat face to come out of his hole, give me the good news I need and get back in his little hole. Then surely enough, the snow would disappear, and I would be a happy camper. I got so used to the idea of the exact same thing happening every single Groundhog Day, I thought about writing a screenplay about it, but I ran out of time. Instead, I learned to worship Phil and the ground he walked on and lived in. 

My moment of realization was when I heard Phil had steered someone wrong. Sure, my winters were over, but apparently, in other places, winter was still a concern. These northern bastards were cursing Phil’s holy name and desperately wishing they could escape to the tropical southern destination of Florida, or at least a Hank double. It seemed so crazy to me to think that there would be different weather patterns in, say, Michigan than there would be in Pennsylvania. 

It took the revelation and acknowledgement that other people existed for me to get to a point where I could make a big change in my life. I knew Phil and I were in perfect sync; in several years, he had never led me down the wrong path. I knew that if other people, dare I say heretics, would not appreciate Phil and the lessons he was trying so desperately to teach us, I needed to be the change I wanted to see in the world. Once I had recognized the only problem with the holiday – ungrateful people with sticks up their asses who cannot possibly appreciate the humor and zest that contributes to the human spirit through connections to nature and understanding our place in the intersection between what we can see and what we cannot possibly hope to control – I could formulate a plan to help Phil escape from his shackles and run away together with someone who would appreciate him: me.

I still love the holiday, even though when every major news network you can think of puts their camera on Phil’s hole this Friday, they’ll see nothing but the note he left explaining his eloping with a human. He and I will roll our eyes, and he will whisper into my ears the words every man wants to hear. “Even though winter is over, I will still keep you warm. I’ll love you forever.”

It’s only after we get to the root of all of our problems that we are able to solve them. When it’s other people getting you and your betrothed woodchuck down, get away from them, and get lost in each other’s eyes. Take some time to think about where you are in your own sad, lonely, loveless, groundhog-less life. Fix your problems either one at a time or all at once by stealing a national icon from a hole in the ground. Fall in love with that national icon. Maybe get a rabies vaccine. Definitely get a rabies vaccine.  

  • February 1, 2024