It’s not just cold, it’s damn cold
When people complain about the cold around here, I scoff. Go live in the Midwest for a winter, then tell me about cold. Try a couple of years in northern Wisconsin before you utter the word “frigid” in my presence. If there’s not a little mushroom cloud of expelled breath forming around your head, it’s not cold outside.Well, this week, for the first time since I’ve lived here, it has been cold. It has been Midwest-worthy cold. It has been the bone-chilling, wind-off-that-icy-expanse-they-call-Lake-Michigan cold.I walked outside yesterday morning and a high-pitched whine escaped my lips before they froze shut. It was sorta like the sound my car has been making of late.Yikes.But have you noticed, there’s nothing like the weather to get people talking. If it’s snowing, we all talk about it, as if everyone hadn’t noticed. We announce to each other, “It’s really dumping!” Well, duh.”It’s damn cold,” confided a colleague as he walked by my desk yesterday. No shit, Sherlock. (I know, writing about it flies in the face of my apparent disdain for noting the obvious.)Talk has turned to what the thermometer outside our respective houses read this morning or how many times we turned the key in the ignition before the engine finally groaned to life. A friend with a Toyota Prius has bragging rights about gas mileage, but he was begging for a ride home Wednesday night before his hybrid engine grudgingly wheezed into a reluctant idle.I haven’t heard my car complain like this since I left Wisconsin a decade ago. Growing up as a kid, I lived on the Front Range, where, as it turned out, I hadn’t the vaguest notion about what truly cold weather is all about.Then my family moved to Wisconsin when I was 9 years old. It was then that I became acquainted with long underwear, which I hadn’t even realized existed before the move.I was introduced to the term “wind-chill factor” – something that is rarely a factor around here.People there have what looks like the end of extension cords hanging out of the grill of their cars, so they can plug them in at night. A heating system under the hood keeps the engine block warm so it will function. Wisconsinites have jumper cables at the ready the way we have ski racks.And yet, I remember being impervious to the cold, as were all my friends. We bundled up in cotton clothing, wriggled into a snowmobile suit (the unassuming precursor to the one-piece ski suit) and went outside to play.You couldn’t have dragged me up the ski slopes this week if my tongue was stuck to the metal of a lift chair, but as a teenager, I remember going skiing, at night, in long underwear and blue jeans. My first warm (but very cool) down ski jacket only came to my waist, in the style of the day, and it was not puffy. We never had those little warming packets you shake up and put in your gloves. There was no fleece. There were no boot warmers. Wool socks were our one condescension to the temperature.Now, I ride to work on a heated bus and my feet are blocks of ice by the time I arrive. I don’t know what’s up with that, except, damn, it’s cold out there.Janet Urquhart is rejoicing over today’s forecasted highs in the 30s. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sean Beckwith is taking advantage of his column space this week to inform the public of the Best in Jest.