It's pretty hard to find humor in the deep-freeze winter deluge burying us Regionites recently, but a state employee deserves thanks for thawing some of the agony with a little laughter.
That my family and I just returned to this freeze fest Saturday from a holiday trip to Florida — where 36 hours earlier we literally were poolside with palm trees — seemed a lot more tragic than funny. And I was doing more cursing than laughing when my snowblower's control cable broke as I attempted to clear the driveway for my wife's nursing shift at 4:30 a.m. Sunday.
Once I shoveled the south county snow drifts off my drive, the laughter did come, though — via the Indiana Department of Transportation's Facebook page, of all places.
Don't get me wrong. There was plenty of urgency and emergency in the tone of INDOT's winter storm Facebook posts, warning against driving on Northwest Indiana's treacherous roads for anything but emergencies.
But the state highway department's information and social media guru for Northwest Indiana, Matt Deitchley, helped us find a laugh or two in the midst of very important road condition updates he provided around the clock for the past several days.
On Saturday, as the ascent of snowmageddon appeared imminent, Deitchley, 35, took to Facebook, warning that even 170-plus INDOT crews wouldn't be enough to keep up with the snow and ice expected.
It was a frank message to keep off the roads Sunday if at all possible. But at the end of the same post came some hilarity:
"If you don't *have* to go out, then maybe you should hang out at home for the next day or two. Hot chocolate and some Dick Van Dyke Show reruns sound pretty awesome to us. But if you're more of a Munsters fan, feel free."
We've received a number of calls and emails from readers about several similar INDOT Facebook posts during this frozen nightmare. Some who have contacted us were humored by the posts and wanted to know the personality behind them.
Well, that person is Deitchley, a South Bend resident managing the marriage of serious information with humorous punchlines despite working around-the-clock to keep the Hoosier Facebook world informed. INDOT credits Deitchley's informative and funny posts with boosting its Facebook page "likes" by more than 24,000 within three days.
Deitchley was snowed in like many of us and provided his information releases while working from home with a 20-month-old son having the run of the house.
As someone who worked from home Monday with a 19-month-old and twin 10-year-olds, I can relate to that challenge.
And many of us could relate to — and possibly even better heed — the nicely crafted road condition posts Deitchley provided. The humor drove the message of road safety home in a memorable fashion — and very well might have kept a number of motorists off snow- and ice-slicked roads.
It may not seem like much to some, but Deitchley's info-comedy act of the past several days deserves a standing ovation.