A list of cold-weather complaints

Published 7:39 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2018

in the short rows header

A few days of weather like we had last week serve as a reminder of the things I don’t like about winter or, more precisely, what I would call deep winter.

Here’s a brief list, though not all-inclusive.

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• Cold toilet seats. They’re just downright uncomfortable for that first few, shocking seconds. But they’re not nearly so cold as they were in the unheated bathrooms of our youth. Ours wasn’t totally unheated. My parents had one of those reflective heaters that consisted of a polished dome with an electric coil in the center. It wasn’t very efficient, but it sure beat nothing.
And even an unheated bathroom beat the chill of an outhouse and the trek to get there. In the 1950s there were still plenty of those around.

• Bundling up to go outdoors. Clothing today is incredibly efficient compared to what was available a half century ago. It’s much lighter and more efficient, but when the temperature is in the teens, it still takes a lot to keep old bones warm. We were introduced to modern clothing when we received insulated underwear for Christmas. Those quilted synthetic tops and bottoms that were light years ahead of long johns. They were so revolutionary that they were advertised with pictures of entire families sitting around in their underwear enjoying a roaring fire in the fireplace.

• Cars that won’t — or might not — start. That’s not nearly the problem it was a half century ago. And I learned long ago that a good battery is one of the most reassuring items you can own. Still, when the temperature dips below 10 degrees, you tend to hold your breath as the engine turns over an extra cycle or two before it catches.

• Ice. I pay increasing attention to slick highways. In fact, the older I get, the less appealing I find driving about on roads that are covered with snow and ice. And walking on slick surfaces makes me far more cautious than it did just a few years ago. That may have something to do with a broken ankle that came from what should have been just a minor fall a couple of years ago. Old bones break easily, and a slick sidewalk is just lying in wait for old folks.

• Eating too much. Winter is a lean time for wild animals and they generally weigh less then than during the abundant warm months. It was probably a lean time for humans as well during much of history. Today, however, the refrigerator and pantry are full, and while sitting around waiting for the weather to warm, we snack. At least, I do. It’s a terrible habit, accentuated by the boredom of cold days and nights. And the bathroom scales tell all.

• Listening to doomsday weather reports. While I am cautious about driving or walking, I really get tired of doomsday weather reporting. We had seven or eight inches of show last Wednesday. Combined with the single digit temperatures that followed it, the weather was serious. But weather has become another television drama.

I much preferred the days of old Joe Folks, the “weather man” on Channel 3 back when the television image was in black and white. Joe used a magic marker to draw his own weather map while viewers watched, and he would warn you to be careful during bad weather, but in a reassuring sort of way. There was never “the world’s going to end” sensationalism that we find today.

The good news is that with the internet, you can now go directly to the National Weather Service, which still reports weather in a more unemotional way.

And the additional good news is that this is still Southeast Virginia. We had nothing this past week compared to what people in the upper Midwest had to contend with. A cold toilet seat doesn’t begin to describe what hit those folks. And by Friday, we may see 60 degrees. What a change a week can make.