Cold Spell, Part 1

I am often amazed at the temperature.  Here in San Diego, where I live, the changes in temperature are much smaller than in other parts of the country. The desert can fluctuate from a pleasant below freezing to above toleration. Right now, while I am enjoying the brisk 50’s, others are enduring the mid-0’s. 50 degrees F is cold enough for me.

It seems like everyone else is amazed by the temperature too. Temperature is a great subject to discuss. Have you ever walked up to someone and started a conversation about the weather? It’s even easier when the day is cold. Just walk up to a perfect stranger.

“Brr, it is really chilly today,” I’ll say.

“Yeah, it is very cold. Need to stay warm with my jacket,” the stranger will reply.

“Exactly. Stay warm. Have a good day!”

Recently my wife and I moved into a brand new place. At least brand new for us. It is a lot bigger than either of us are used to. And, despite the size, there really isn’t a central heating system. We thought there was- there are vents on either side of the largest room – but we were wrong. They are just small radiant wall heaters. We turned them on once. The room remained cold.

On any given winter day in San Diego, our new home gets very cold. It is true that living in San Diego gives one a small tolerance for cold, but this is bone-chilling, breath watching cold. The worst time of the day seems to be somewhere around eight in the morning. The sun peers in through our sliding doors, suggesting the warm outside, while the shadows of cold inside grow. I used to think it was funny to pretend to smoke when I could see my breath. Nowadays, though, I just shiver and run my hands under the warm water of the faucet.

Being so cold made me think about the people who built our place back in the seventies. What were they thinking? I am guessing the builder was being cheap. They probably lived in some place with wall insulation, central heating, and really cheap electricity. And back in the seventies people had more hair, so maybe they stayed naturally warm.

Sometimes it is comical how cold we get. My wife wraps herself in layers of shirts under a bright red robe, occasionally with a vest on top, and scoots around the floor in cow slippers. I keep it classy under multiple sweaters and a winter coat. We will use anything to heat up; cups of tea, the stove top, the shower, scarves, beanies, gloves, boots, down comforters, and the sunlight, when it is available. The best method is to try to use all of the above in tandem, so you keep moving.

As post-modern people, we couldn’t battle the cold for long without mechanical intervention. So we went out and purchased a space heater. It isn’t anything flashy – it is an oil heater that looks like an old fashioned radiator. And, not surprisingly, the heater has become a treasured belonging. It follows us into every space, like an inanimate R2-D2. Too bad it can only heat small spaces. I was hoping for more beeping noises and sarcasm. Still, it is not bad company, and often my wife and I find ourselves getting closer to it than our neighbors. Temperature is a powerful thing, especially when you are cold.

Do you ever stop and think about the cold? Not just talk about it, or feel it, but think about it. When I am waiting outside in the morning for the train to come, I think about it. Cold is like a force permeating my layers of clothes, tugging and ripping at me. It is one of those strange things that exists solely as an absence of something else. Fundamentally, it is a non-entity.

Sometimes I picture the cold as a vacuum, pulling on the heat radiating from our bodies, trying to neutralize and dissipate it, so that all that there is left is a void. If we saw each other through infrared lenses, all we could see would be radiating beams of heat. And when no one is around, you can’t see anything. If the cold started to win its battle, there would be nothing to see at all. Cold would be darkness.


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I like the sun in San Diego. It is out almost every day. I normally follow it as it ushers in the day, then leave with it in the evening. Day in and day out it is beautiful. Sadly, most days I don't think much about it being there.

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