You can’t worry if it’s cold; you can’t worry if it’s hot; you only worry if you get sick. Because then if you don’t get well, you die.—Joaquin Andujar
I am not a fan of the cold. In addition to the fact that cameras don’t tend to work quite as well at temperatures below 50 degrees, I find colder environments not conducive to thinking clearly; I miss details when my teeth are chattering. Yet, I know plenty of people who are totally comfortable in cold weather and rather delight in getting all bundled up and braving the elements. I don’t understand those people.
We live in a World War II-era house that could use a touch of repairs; the kind we can’t really afford to make. New windows and doors would do a lot to seal up the drafts that keep our feet cold no matter what the thermostat reads. There’s an especially significant breeze coming through one of the windows in our bedroom and, being the gallant, chivalrous person I am, I take that side of the bed. I don’t mind the air being a bit cooler at night because it leads to cuddling under blankets. But that cold leak coming through the front window and under my desks keeps my feet cold all day and makes matters uncomfortable as I’m sitting here at the desk.
Energy conservationists tell us that our winter thermostats should be set on 68. I’m sorry, but as much as I’d like to participate in that little exercise, I can’t. Anything below 70 degrees during the winter and my brain loses efficiency. When I woke up this morning, the pilot light in the heater had gone out; it was 69 degrees in the house andI couldn’t concentrate enough to write the first word until that issue was resolved. Perhaps I should feel ashamed, but for the moment, I’m enjoying the warm air coming through the vents.
Being the spoiled person I am, I can sit here looking at the weather app on my smarter-than-me phone and know that it’s 19 degrees outside, with a windchill of ten. In a few minutes, we will have to bundle ourselves well and take the children outside to wait on the school bus. I am not a fan of the early hour at which school starts in the first place, but this having to wait in sub-freezing temperatures strikes me as cruel and unusual punishment. Mind you, the kids stay warm just inside the back door. I’m the one who has to go outside and watch for the bus.
I would not have made a good pioneer. In fact, I can’t imagine my being very happy any time prior to the twentieth century and the advent of central heat. Yes, my head knows that comfort is largely a matter of acclamation. I remember in college being amazed at students from Alaska running around in shorts while the rest of us were shivering in our heavy coats. Because they were accustomed to the frigidness of being near the Arctic Circle, they found Oklahoma’s 40-something temps to be rather balmy by comparison. I feel the same way when I visit California in January. Our discomfort is largely mental, to a point.
A wind chill of ten degrees is no laughing matter, though. Wind chill is the measure of how much heat our body loses when exposed to the wind. Our body naturally protects us from the cold by radiating a certain amount of heat. Wind takes that heat away, leaving us with nothing but cold. Anytime the wind chill is below -20 degrees we are entering dangerous territory. Frostbite can occur within a minute of exposure under these conditions. I don’t know about you, but I would rather not have my nose frostbitten. NOAA has a helpful chart in case your phone doesn’t keep you informed.
Whenever I feel this level of discomfort, though, I think of those whose life circumstances have left them out in the elements for any reason. I know there are some wonderful, gracious people who make every reasonable effort to get the homeless inside, somewhere, at least for the night. Multiple organizations distribute coats, gloves, hats, and scarves. We are always happy to help out these efforts and are thankful to not need their assistance ourselves.
Still, if I sit down at the desk and feel cool air running up my calves, I’m going to shiver and thank the universe for hot coffee. Winter stayed away much of the month of December, but it’s here now, full force, and looking to cause trouble. We’re ready to face the cold, just don’t as me to be excited about it.