Monday, January 21, 2008

Snot-freezing cold


There was some doubt as to whether Madison would have a real winter this year. Yes, almost three feet of snow fell in December, but by early January the weather was all rain, lightning and tornadoes.

But winter has proven itself true. This weekend, the daytime temps dropped as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit without windchill; with windchill, it was more like -20 or so.

Although I love winter, I am not an idiot, so I stayed indoors most of Saturday and had my friends come to me. (They aren't idiots for having left their abodes, because the anticipation of seeing me warms the heart so much that outdoor temperatures feel 50% less cold to the anticipator.) I did, however, step outside for a minute or so to bring some trash to the dumpster. I was not more than three steps from my front door when the skin on the inside of my nostrils started to freeze. It was quite stunning. Usually, there is an intermediary step in which one's nose hairs freeze, but the air was so dry and cold that, I suppose, there wasn't enough condensation on my nose hairs to allow them to freeze.

One can only hide from the cold for so long. And in my case, it's usually no longer than a day before I must go outdoors and run about. On Sunday morning I donned a wool undershirt, wool long-sleeve shirt, wool sweater, wool longjohns, wool socks, ski pants, a fleece vest, a wool balaclava, a fur-lined fleece bomber hat, silk liner gloves, waterproof fleece-lined gloves, and winter boots that are supposed to keep one's feet warm to -25 degrees Fahrenheit. Then I walked a short mile to a friend's house for brunch, and afterward I went skating on Tenney pond.

The number of layers was perfect for walking (except the fingers -- they got a little cold) but, for skating, the vest was unnecessary, and a knit cap would have been a better stand-in for the evil rabbit-killing hat I was wearing. Part of the reason for fewer layers was, of course, the greater exertion of skating, but the other reason was that, by the time I reached the pond, the temperature had risen to nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit. If I'd been playing hockey, I might have even regretted the longjohns and undershirt, but as it is, I only learned to skate the winter before I left Madison, and getting back out on the ice again yesterday re-instilled my fear of Newton's First Law. So I stuck with some rather pathetic shuffling around the pond while my pacifist Mennonite friends clobbered each other with their sticks and pucks.

It is supposed to stay cold all week, but that depends how you define cold. Today, it's supposed to warm up all the way to the low teens. The high so far is 12 degrees Fahrenheit, which I don't think counts. (If a 12-year-old isn't a teenager, than 12 isn't the low teens, either.) Nonetheless, the warmth was a shock to the weather system and so it's been snowing all day. When I left for work this morning, it was around 6 degrees F. When I arrived at my office building, I saw my reflection in the glass doors and momentarily mistook myself for Luke Skywalker on the planet Hoth.

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