It Is Supposed To Be Cold Tomorrow


I have to write this piece today. Tomorrow we in Lansing, Michigan are supposed to be getting some cold in. By ‘some cold’ I mean ‘all the cold’. The sort where the temperature (Fahrenheit) isn’t just dropping below zero but all the way into the imaginary numbers. It’s the kind of cold where they warn you it’s too cold to leave buildings outside. Where you don’t see sparrows coming to the bird feeder anymore because they get halfway to the freezer, ice up, and these feathery snowballs tumble into unsuspecting squirrels.

So I have to talk about all this before I call my parents. After lives spent happily in New Jersey, with roughly similar weather, they moved to South Carolina. “What the heck,” my mother said, “We don’t know anybody there and my whole experience there has been one weekend with my friends in Charleston. That’s where we’ll spend retirement,” and my father said “What?” because his hearing aid had iced over. It’s worked out really well for them, except that between September and April the first twenty minutes of our phone calls are about how much warmer it is down there.

And it’s not like we always have terrible and cold weather. This winter’s been warm enough we’re all a little bothered by that. I know this makes us just sound disagreeable. But we’ve had it warm enough that it was, like, in the 60s and sunny, with nice strong breezes and seagulls coming in from the Great Lakes. Let me remind you, this is Lansing, Michigan. We’ve been having the kind of weather that gets incompetent seagulls. But most of the time it’s been a more normal winter, just a little warmer than average.

And it’s not like South Carolina’s weather is always better. Between May and August the first twenty minutes of our phone calls are about how their evacuation for the hurricane has gone. It’s not always a hurricane, mind. Sometimes it’s a tropical storm. Sometimes it’s a very lost nor’easter. Part of what’s nice about South Carolina, as a retirement state, is the low cost of living, which is to say they don’t have taxes, because they don’t do things like build a second bridge off the island where my parents live. Or have roads that don’t flood when it rains, or it’s very muggy, or someone leaves the sink running while brushing their teeth.

But we’re not in hurricane season now. So I have to get this written before calling them and they talk about how frigid tomorrow should be. This won’t keep them from hearing about it. But if I can get to talking out the weather here, before I call them for the week, I … don’t actually know what I’ll accomplish. At least I’ll have done something.

And weather this cold you do have to do something for. It’s the kind of cold that even being warm doesn’t help with. We have a good-quality water heater, the kind that gets the water hot enough to melt the water heater, but that won’t make a shower hot enough to completely revive my toes. Dressing is also a problem. The only thing to do wear layers. This means whenever you encounter any piece of clothing, put it on. Since I work at home this is tricky. I’ll pop into the bedroom for something or other, and have to put on another shirt or pair of underwear. By about 5:30 I’m a rolling ball of fabric.

And that’s staying inside. I don’t figure to go out. In this cold it’s a bad idea to let your tongue touch the air, as it’ll get stuck. Your tongue ices over. Then the ice that that’s caught on will get stuck on the air. That ices over, and again and again, and then you’re dangling a five-foot-long ice tongue out your mouth. And then you can’t go anywhere except on foot. Driving is out since you fit the encased tongue through the car door. You can’t lift your head enough to see when the bus is coming. All you can do is try to walk somewhere and find the doors there are frozen shut.

So that’s why it’s important I finish this, then call my parents, and then deal with tomorrow’s nonsense.

The Mid-Winter Fashion


To explain why I discovered only at the end of the day Monday that I was wearing a shirt inside-out I need to give some context. I don’t think I need to explain the wearing of shirts, as that’s been popular nearly my whole adult life, and Monday has been almost perfectly assimilated into American culture since its invention in 1964 as a way to ease the transition from Sunday to Tuesday.

Now, it’s wintertime. It hasn’t been as cruel a winter as last year, but last year’s was exceptionally cruel, frequently using the power of social media to ridicule individuals and harass them in what had been safe social areas. This winter has been much nicer, but it has still been getting cold, and the weather’s been getting bad. My love pointed out there isn’t any such thing as bad weather, only people badly dressed for the weather. I answered this by asking what about when the weather is minus two degrees Fahrenheit, and a heavy, wet snow is coming down so hard you’re on the verge of whiteouts, and it’s about ninety minutes after sunset. My love went “hrm” to this, and I added that you were stuck with a flat tire more than an hour away from home, on a frontage road outside the abandoned scrap metal recycling center, and your cell phone, which you never use and you charge all the time, is out of battery, as it always is, and none of these additions are properly the weather per se but they do help set the scene. My love walked away to ask our pet rabbit if he wanted a raisin, which he does.

Still, the right way to deal with weather like that is layering, which we start doing around November and let up on around March. The principle of layering is simple: you can stay somewhat less cold by, whenever you find an article of clothing, putting it on. Whenever you find an article of clothing. So just strolling around the house I’ll put on underwear, sure, and long underwear, and here’s a t-shirt by the bed, and a regular shirt that was on the dresser, and a dress shirt that was in the bedroom closet, and the soccer shirt from that one time I played soccer in tenth grade, and the novelty “2010” eyeglasses because eyeballs get cold too and what the heck New Year’s Eve might roll around again, and go downstairs and put on the blanket we put over the couch for guests because that’s kind of a dress shirt for furniture, and then put on the reclining chair, and that’s all before I’ve even got to the closet where we keep the jackets.

If it’s done right, by about mid-February you’re basically a gigantic elliptical bundle of flesh and cloth, and it’s not all that cold as you step outside, trip over your six pairs of shoes, and go tumbling down the road. People from warmer climates may believe that mid-Michigan in the upcoming weeks will be a field of spinning balls of population bouncing off one another until they roll into a snowy creek, all the layers keeping folks from freezing to death until the currents can sweep them into the Grand River. This is absurd. Given the plowed streets, people are much more likely to roll down to the strip mall and into the nearest Michael’s, where they bounce into the folks waiting in the line where, even though there’s four registers open and nobody has more than maybe three things to buy and everybody’s paying cash, the line never advances any. The disruption is appreciated since it gives customers the chance to give up on their plans to buy decorative boxes and plastic flowers and run off to the Petco next door and stare at heaps of sleeping ferrets instead.

You might think this makes laundry terrible, since there’s so many clothes to wash if you got them all taken off at once. And it’s true that the laundry loads are bigger than summer, but you don’t have to wash all the layers at once. The two great sources of dirtiness, in clothing, are the outside world, and only the outermost layer of clothing ever touches that, and the body, and only the innermost layer touches that. Everything else is just touching other clothes so you can let them slide a while or, if you’re wearing enough layers, let the accumulated fabric pressure crush any dirt that might somehow get through into little bitty lint diamonds, which are good for industrial lint needs.

Anyway, so this all gets back to how I discovered I wore a shirt inside-out on Monday: it was underneath that thing I wear that isn’t a hoodie, I guess, but that I call one because I don’t know what else to call it, and I didn’t discover this until I was getting ready for bed by taking off the outer eighteen layers. I feel kind of silly about it, but, I understand how this sort of thing happens and nobody else noticed.