Polar vortex. Historic cold wave. Subzero. Dangerous wind chills. Coldest in 20 years! Flesh will freeze! Auuughhhh!
Ok, yeah it is f’ing cold out there. Yup, it really hasn’t been this cold in 20 years, I guess. (Hello all you global warming naysayers, there’s a data point for you …) That said, I really don’t like to play the “well when I was a kid” card, but hell … when I was a kid …
… I remember it routinely got to -20 in Central Iowa during January. We were sort of proud of it! “Booyeah! 20 Below!” If it was promised to hit -20 and it “only” got to -19 or so, we were disappointed.
… We weren’t horrified of the cold, we were fascinated by it. Different things happen when it’s that cold. One of my friends always liked to say he could feel the boogers freezing in his nose. If you wore a scarf over your mouth, you’d get a “frost beard” on your scarf by the time you got done walking to school (yes, we WALKED to school!). You’d do things just to see how cold it was – spit on the sidewalk, pee in the snow (“Really, I swear it froze into an icicle on the way down!”), and of course the continual dares to lick the flagpole, although I don’t ever recall enacting that famous scene from A Christmas Story.
… Never, EVER burned a snow day on cold weather that I remember. Didn’t happen.
… I can remember heading out to ski and sled in the back yard of our second house when the temps were below zero. You just wore extra clothes and came in a bit sooner. And the hot chocolate tasted that much better.
… Growing up, in our first house, we had an ice rink in our back yard – so much fun skating around back there. Every night my mom would go outside with a bucket of water to groom the ice – no Zamboni – just pour fresh water on the ice. On below zero days though (which were common …), sometimes the water would roll out across the ice and stop – creating a bumpy surface that sucked for hockey … but it’s just what happened. No one thought much about it.
… Remember cars had carburetors back then? That’s when you really had to worry about the car starting. Carbs don’t like cold – the engine running right depends on fuel atomization into a mist, and that little process doesn’t work well in below-zero temps. Nowadays? Fuel injection and computers – turn the key, start cranking and when the computer senses things are at the right conditions, it squirts the fuel in and bang – no problem. Biggest thing you need to worry about is keeping a full tank and a good battery.
… I remember my dad’s cold weather routine with the cars – both cars had engine block heaters that you’d plug in at night, so we had cords running all over the driveway – both were plugged into an outlet that was controlled by a switch in the kitchen. For some reason, my dad thought it wasn’t smart to leave them plugged in overnight or he was just too frugal for that, so he’d wake up super early – 5:00 AM or so, and go down and “flip the switch” to turn on the engine heaters. The mantra was if you had to wake up to pee in the middle of the night, then you needed to go flip the switch in the kitchen. If it was going to be colder than 20-below, then the routine was modified to go outside and start both cars about 10 PM and let them both run for 20 minutes to come to operating temp (ah, cheap gas …) before going to bed.
… the other big, important thing was to go get the milk from the milk box (remember those?) before it froze. The milk man from Anderson-Erickson dairy would deliver our order every other day (1 half-gallon “homo” – I don’t think they use THAT term any more for whole milk – 1 half gallon “skim”, 1 quart Tropicana OJ) at about 5:00 AM and on 20-below zero days, the milk would start to freeze pretty quickly, so immediately after “flipping the switch” you needed to get to the milk box by the door to bring it in.
… on super cold days like this, we’d have school, but we’d have indoor recess, and that was always fun – you’d head to the gym and basically have a free-for-all – it was like disorganized gym class. Occasionally, they’d organize something for recess like a show, or music, or something and you’d have to go sit in the gym, which sucked, because the point of recess was that we had been sitting too long and were needing to jump around.
So, as I sit on this empty train, and it’s a chilly -10 outside with a -35 wind chill, I think, would this train have been empty 40 years ago? Nope. We didn’t have 24×7 news cycles, The Weather Channel, social media, You Tube videos, etc. all telling us that hell is officially freezing over. So we just soldiered on.
Maybe we need more soldiering on in this world.
As you were,