Minnesota Advice for Those Suffering the Cold Weather in the East

Cold Weather in St PaulWhen I moved to Minnesota, it got below 30°F or so. I called my mom in Oregon, to complain about the cold weather. But she was a Wisconsin native and did not take my discomfort all that seriously. “The day will come,” she told me, “when you think of zero as warm.” I did not believe her. But she was absolutely right.

As it gets below zero, and lingers there like God has a grudge against you, your best friends are layers. Lots of layers. Put on warm clothes. Then put warm clothes on over your warm clothes. Then put on a coat.

Real Cold Weather

My first winter in Minnesota, I was standing at the bus stop. A group of attractive women were across the street lined up to get into a happening bar. Most wore pantyhose. It was perhaps 5°F outside. I commented to the other person waiting at the stop, “I don’t care how great my legs look, I would not wear pantyhose in this cold weather.”

The other person responded, “Seriously? You’re not from here, are you? They’ll wear that when it’s 30 below!”

And, indeed, this is so.

The worst thing about cold weather is living in a ratty, broken down apartment building. My building dates back to 1908. It’s charmingly archaic — the first hotel in Saint Paul to feature electricity. Alas, this doesn’t mean quite as much as it did a century ago. And that means the storm windows also exhibit the high tech efficiency of the Edwardian period.

Every winter, I have to caulk up the windows and apply a layer of plastic film over them. It’s quite the process. For some reason, you need to run a hair dryer over the plastic film until it shrinks so every last plastic wrinkle is gone. This makes it warmer, I am told.

It’d be better if I lived in a newer building, of course. But apartments in the Twin Cities are crazy expensive. So, if you get an affordable one, you hang onto it for dear life — from 1908 onward, if necessary.

Cold Sweat

You can compensate for this with very thick blankets. That’s how the pioneers did it. Unfortunately, you start to sweat underneath those warm blankets, so now you’re wet. If there’s one state of being that you don’t want to inhabit when getting up and getting ready for work, it’s wet and cold.

Maybe that’s why pioneers all died from dysentery.

Oh, well — could be worse. I could own a car. Warming up a car in awful cold weather takes forever, it never gets comfortable. Compare this to the bus, which is perfectly nice the moment you step on board. I tell car owners how sad my life is, walking in lots of layers to a bus stop. And I am completely lying. I’m fine walking.

But my apartment is still cold! And don’t I deserve a little sympathy for that?! All you on the east coast will be warm soon enough.

4 thoughts on “Minnesota Advice for Those Suffering the Cold Weather in the East

  1. It is currently 65 in my house. I am very displeased by this as I prefer it to be around sixty or less.

    It will probably reach seventy outside too. Ugh.

  2. When I was attending ASU I noticed you could identify the in state students because they were wearing coats in January. Mom grew up in St. Paul, so I’ve heard all the stories. Last time I lived somewhere cold was in New York from ’77 to ’79. I was too young to drive, so I have no experience with that. I remember my brother and I made a snowball so big we couldn’t push it anymore. We had to chop it up with snow shovels because it was right in front of the driveway. Around mid February was when it would start to warm up and the snow was all dirty, and there was mud everywhere. Probably not this year. And we lived in an old house, it would be over 100 years old now, 70 then, with storm windows. We didn’t know what they were, my brother, sister and I. We thought you put them on when there was a hurricane approaching. My older brother got to repaint them every year. We were always painting and fixing things in that place.

    • That’s the thing about a big blizzard like the East got. If it melts all at once it’s such a terrible mess.

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