When 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.
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.