Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cold and True Minnesotans

It's pretty cold in the Twin Cities today. Like really cold. Like high-of-minus-17 cold. When I set out this morning it was -24 with a wind chill of -36. It's hard to believe that just a few weeks ago we couldn't keep any snow on the ground. If we just had some snow, this would be a pretty good winter. Anyway, in preparation for the extreme cold I went all-out on bundling up this morning: a scarf over my mouth and nose, ski goggles, a hat, three layers of shirts, and long underwear under jeans. I had a pretty warm walk to class, but the wind stung on any exposed skin. At these temperatures you have to start seriously worrying about getting frostbite on the way to class. (Note: I am quite happy about this weather; consider this a mirror image to my post on heat)

And then on my way I see people with exposed faces, even exposed heads with no hats. Are these people crazy? It's not just silly and painful, not bundling up on a day like today is potentially hazardous. Then I realized the true difference between native Minnesotans and lesser beings. We aren't naturally any more resistant to cold, but we're familiar with it. Someone from a warmer climate where negative temperatures are rare and below -10 are almost unheard of might see 'cold' as a monolithic entity; in winter, it's cold, so you wear your "cold gear" consisting of gloves, a coat, maybe a hat. Minnesotans see different kinds of cold. 5 is autumn-jacket cool, -5 is wear-a-jacket-and-gloves cold, -15 is hat-and-multiple-layers cold, -25 is no-exposed-skin cold. It's just a theory, but I have no idea how else to explain it.

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