Friday, January 16, 2004

Cold Front

I don't mean to sound rude at all, but I have to side with Lilek's thoughts on the fact that New York is colder than Iceland right now: big deal; it's par for the course out here in the midwest.

And don't think that we like to brag about how cold it gets here. We don't like that it's negative one degrees on a regular basis for two to three months out of the year (it hasn't been in the negative digits in Boston for something like a hundred years). It's that we're proud that we somehow manage to live through it year after year. Hell, one of the factors that attracted us to the house that we bought this year is that it exceeds the current recommended insulation R value, which is already one of the highest in the country.

But seriously, east coasters, come talk to me when it hits -72 degrees, and we'll talk. Yes, I've been outside in -72. I changed a frozen car battery in -72. You have to go outside and make sure that you start your car every hour for about twenty minutes or the fluids freeze, including the battery acid. I learned that the hard way. Let me tell you something, you don't want to have to thaw out a frozen car battery in your apartment. It takes a long time, and you'll be tempted to use the oven, and that's a whole 'nother story. Also, leather gloves are an excellent insulator against electric charges from batteries when you accidentally connect the positive with the negative bolts when your wrench slips and touches both simultaneously. Again, another story.

When it's that cold, your spit freezes before it's even halfway to the ground (not only did I try it, I marvelled that the spit crackled through the air as the ice cracked and re-froze until it shattered on the ground and the liquid inside then immediately froze upon exposure), but any exposed skin will become frostbitten almost instantly upon contact with the cold. And it's not the slow, gradual frostbite where you don't really notice it, or your cheeks start feeling a little bit burned or raw. It feels like the wind is using your face for a pincushion. Shit, it's so cold that not only does the hairs inside your nose freeze solid, you're actually in danger of freezing the inside of your throat and lungs if you're not careful enough to warm up your scarf and breathe through that. Slowly.

I remember talking to a tour guy in Jamaica about that winter, when it was 110 in the shade (just for extreme temperature comparison, doing easy math, that's a 180 difference. If you used the temperature of freezing (32 degrees farenheit) as a starting point, adding 180 degrees would make your blood boil. Literally). He asked how cold it got in Illinois. He asked "Is that colder than my refridgerator?" We answered that it's colder than his freezer. "How long would I survive dressed like dis in dat weather?" (He was wearing nothing but swimming trunks).

I responded, "You'd be dead in five minutes."

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