People called me crazy for biking to work today. It wasn't the first time, but it was certainly the coldest: our weather source told me it was -6° F with a windchill of -20. Sounds cold, doesn't it! So I suppose it's no wonder that my fortitude was remarked on. But really, it wasn't that bad. Frightened by the forecast (and the "Wind Chill Advisory" from the National Weather Service) I started out all kinds of extra layers, but ended up taking them all off and doing most of the ride with my regular winter (or late-fall-through-early-spring) gear. And I enjoyed myself tremendously in the clear sunny air, both riding and walking with the dog morning and evening. I think it's safe to say that I love being out in the cold.
Admittedly, I handle cold weather better than some other folks do, for whatever reason. Fast metabolism or somesuch. But just because I can stand being out when the temperature dips into the single digits doesn't explain why I enjoy it so much; for that, we have to enter the realm of psychoanalysis, which I do in this old post. Something else occurred to me this afternoon, though, which is why I drag this tired old topic up again. That is, it seems to me that many people's experience of the cold is powerfully mediated by the way the weather is presented in the media, and then by their friends and acquaintances.
After all, it was a sunny day. When the wind stilled it was positively balmy: I had some trepidation about taking off my gloves to make a repair but found that I didn't mind at all being barehanded for two or three minutes at a stretch. The very fact that some parents hurried their kids into school this morning without gloves, a hat, or even a coat for themselves suggests that I wasn't the only one to find the day survivable even without the right clothes on. So why did the principal feel the need to make an announcement at the end of the day letting us know that, while dismissal procedures were going to be normal, students should be aware that it is very cold out and should not linger before moving to their parents' cars. Can't they, I don't know, tell if they're getting cold and act accordingly? On their own? Maybe not, in Coldmageddon 2011.
Happily, it's possible for us to think and act for ourselves. One reason I enjoy being out in the cold is that the inherent pleasure I take in the weather is multiplied by the feeling of doing something counter-cultural. Sure, it can be a little annoying to listen to all the comments about my questionable sanity, but that's what you get when you don't do what everyone else is doing. Of course, I don't want to suggest that I'm somehow more virtuous than anyone else for wanting to stand around in the sub-zero temperatures. Not only, as I say, does it not really bother me, it also offers no benefit at all to anyone besides myself. But it does make me happy, and I don't need to listen to tv weathermen or coddled suburbanites tell me any different.