24th December 1983, I was standing on an elevated subway platform with the wind chill around -82 F, because I had to get to work. I was bundled up like Ralphy in A Christmas Story. My skin didn’t hurt though. I remember there was a deep pain in my bones that I felt as soon as I stepped outside. All my long bones ached, my fingers ached, my skull ached. My teeth wanted me to go back inside. It was like my skeleton was trying to contract in the cold.
Before cell phones, internet, notification chains, and anything else we use today, I had to stand up there long enough to decide the trains were probably frozen as well.
I don’t recall perfectly, but it seems like I got back to my apartment, dropped my coat and went directly under the bed covers while still dressed. Mugs of hot cocoa and tea later, and I eventually warmed up.
As a writer, I’ve learned that winter has its own uses to introduce trauma into the life of a character. It keeps me thinking about how Native Americans managed so wonderfully, and why are we such pussies?
I remember as a kid in the 50s and 60s, we had a large in-floor furnace. It was a huge square in the floor that was covered by a heavy grate. When that sucker kicked on with gas, I remember the bottom of it would get so hot that it glowed red – and such a deep hot red that I recalled that shade when reading about Tolkien’s Mordor. It was a huge immediate relief when frozen solid from making ice forts to come inside, kick up the heat and stand on that grate.
My last furnace died a few weeks ago, and this apartment is about 30 years old, so it was time. It sounded like a rusty chain saw and blew warm air when I needed it to, so I didn’t pay it much attention otherwise. This new model furnace is efficient beyond what I was expecting. It would rather whisper some warm-ish air most of the day instead of just getting pissed enough to get hot and get it over with. It blows more air volume when it’s about to quit, which is I guess saving the stored heat. Not bad, but I’m thinking of an actual bonfire in the kitchen today.
All just to say I don’t prefer it by any means, but I don’t let Old Man Winter stop me.