December 2011- Getting the cold shoulder

Winter is here.

It doesn’t matter what the calendar says; nor does it matter that the suggestion of an early winter was instead followed by weeks of weather refusing to put any wintery winterness in the world at large this year. Winter has come, and I have become grumpy at the sight. (OK – grumpier.)

That’s not quite true – the sight of winter is perfectly fine with me. It’s the experience of winter I dislike. For every pure-white drift nestled comfortably against a coniferous tree; for every landscape coated in layers of blemish-hiding flakes of purity; for every puffy-coated black cat bounding across the omni-present negative space intermittently; there is the simple realization that these things are only enjoyable when seen through a window from my house.

Cold is not something I enjoy. Temperatures below freezing are not a pleasant thing for me. I have my personal temperate comfort zone, and it includes water that is liquid, not solid. Unlike some of my friends and at least one of my aunts, I lack the amount of body hair necessary to puff up into a warmth-retaining sweater at will. Unfortunately, I do have a body that likes to sweat when parts of it are exposed to extreme cold and the rest is at a comfortable temperature. Apparently, all the various thermostats for my various body parts are controlled by various arguing old people.

If my hands get too cold, the rest of my body begins to warm up in response. Even those parts underneath the entire cow I crawl into and call a leather coat. Those parts begin to sweat. The point of sweat is to cool the body through the physics of evaporation, which I can appreciate, because physics is awesome. What is not so awesome is the evil, opposite anti-evaporation- how much easier it is to lose body heat through wet clothing.

I understand that by dressing in layers I can eliminate some of these issues. The problem with layers is that each layer must be progressively larger than the previous one, which, when one is already wearing an Angus bull wrapped around one’s body, becomes a challenge. I prefer to eliminate these issues by simply going outside as little as possible.

Unfortunately, the universe conspires against me by requiring me to leave my house. So, really, I deal with the issues of varying degrees of warmth and cold brought about by various degrees of degrees under 32 Fahrenheit by squinting my eyes and scowling.

Squinting my eyes and scowling is how I deal with many issues in my life, actually. I’m pretty sure I developed this at a very young age in response to the same aunt mentioned above, as she liked chubby cheeks and kisses, and as a child I was overly “blessed” with the former, and she insisted on overly blessing me with the latter.

I squint and scowl at my vehicle a lot during the winter, as it enjoys the cold no more than I do. It likes to remind me of this fact by acting out to get attention. Over the years, it has played such tricks on me as taking 20 minutes just to start to defrost the windshield. I can always use my wiper fluid to help cut down on the ice and frost on the outside of the windshield, but I tend to get funny looks from people when I use my ice scraper on the inside of my windows.

It also once tricked me by running just until I returned to the house after starting the vehicle to warm up on a particularly bitter cold morning. As the headlights automatically came on when the ignition was engaged, combined with the minimum of 20 minutes defrost time which I spent indoors, the battery was totally drained by the time I returned to what I thought would be a lukewarm vehicular welcome. In a fit of rage, I replaced the battery with a more powerful one. That showed it, I’m sure.

This year, it began acting out at the first hints of snow and ice, by sliding whenever I touched my brakes. Apparently, it felt the tires just weren’t good enough anymore, even though they had plenty of tread and low miles. After skating through a red light one night and ruining a perfectly good pair of underpants, I accepted that better tires were indeed in order.

Since then, the vehicle has been sullenly content, although after a remarkably loud clunk one morning while adjusting the heater even less hot air now comes out, and it takes even longer running time in the morning before I give up and scrape the ice off the inside of my windshield. Which works up enough excess body heat that the sweat begins to pour into my clothes, and it’s not long before I begin to think of jobs that I can do telecommuting.

It’s not always the fault of the vehicles I drive, however. While living at an apartment complex once, I parked in a different space than I normally would because someone had parked there first. Apparently, this made some guy more upset than I would expect, judging from the large amount of yellow ice I found immobilizing my car door and lock the next morning (and I know it was a man who did it. It’s the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from the placement of the evidence.) Hopefully, watching me crawl across from the passenger side before going to the car wash briefly eliminated the squinting scowl from his face. I wish I could say that would make it all worthwhile, but it didn’t. It really, really didn’t.

I grew up in the Appalachian mountains of western Maryland, so cold winters have always been a part of my life. Heck, in college the fall commencement was once cancelled after a blizzard dumped over 6 feet of snow on the campus town. The college president was escorted from her home on the back of a four-wheeler and taken to the cafeteria by graduating seniors, where she famously conferred “whatever degrees each of you have earned” to the six students in attendance. So, while I know how to deal with winter, I just don’t want to.

Any more than I wanted to deal with squealing kisses from my puffy “sweater” wearing aunt. I just wish I’d known about the yellow ice trick when I was 5.

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