Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Blogiversary Re-post #8: The Sensation of COLD

Happy Tuesday!! This re-post is just because I think it's useful in describing what Really Cold feels like. Before coming to Montana I had no idea. Thankfully today it's about 30 above zero, so this is a memory of what December was like this year...

From January 12, 2007, I bring you: BRRRR.


This morning it is -24 degrees. Fahrenheit.

It's difficult to describe what that kind of cold feels like, but for the sake of an exercise, I'll try.

I bundle up of course; you have to. I'm wearing silky long johns under jeans, a long-sleeve shirt under a hooded sweatshirt, boots, a lined coat, gloves, and a hat. I never wear a hat unless it's really cold, but at this temperature it's necessary or there's a very real danger that my ears will get frostbite. It's happened before--with mild frostbite the lobes turn a mottled red and the skin flakes. Yuck. So I'm wearing a pale blue tuque that I got, unbelievably, at a San Diego Padres baseball game. Much more useful here than in San Diego.

I also have a soft black scarf wrapped around my neck and over my mouth. I wish I could wrap it over my nose too, but I wear glasses, and that means instant fogging up. Not good to be stumbling around outside when the goal is to get IN, as fast as possible.

Even with all this protection it's still painfully cold for that top half of my face that's still exposed. The worst, really, is my nose. The instant I step outside my nose hairs freeze--I'm not kidding! It's a nasty sensation. Tickly, but sharp, like hundreds of little doll-size needles inside your nose. I try not to inhale very much, or very deeply. My cheeks and my forehead ache with cold before I take ten steps. My glasses freeze and the metal frames become heavy; I'm aware of each point they touch my face. In spite of my gloves, the tips of my fingers ache and tingle, sending a warning to my body that I recognized even when I was a newbie at this. ("This is ridiculous! Why are we outside in this? Get the hell in!")

Cars, even new, fancy cars, don't start when it's this cold. Our CRV did, but only reluctantly after a couple of tries. Once you do get on the road every car pumps massive clouds of steam out the tailpipe, a rolling chain of fog. Everyone goes slower, because you have to wait for the car-cloud in front of you to clear before you go. If you stop somewhere for an hour or so the warmth inside the car, from your breath or the remnants of the heater, freezes inside the windows, and you have to run it for 10 minutes or so or drive anyway, peering through patterns of ice.

But we're in Montana, and we're supposed to be tough. So everybody smiles at each other once we're in, rubbing our gloved hands, stomping our feet. "It's a bit cold out today," someone says. "But actually not that bad," someone else answers. "Remember when it used to be -40, for 3 weeks at a time? We have it easy now."

Yeah. We have it easy.

Medieval Word of the Day: inlaw: One who is within the domain and protection of the law: opp. to outlaw.

(Okay, I had to laugh at that one. That would be confusing for time-travelers, wouldn't it?)

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