Mom wrote last week to report 60 degree temps in southwest Ohio. We played spring baseball in 60-degree weather when I was a kid. Times and weather patterns have changed: January is the new April.
Back when, the coldest days of the year in the Midwest clustered in mid January. 20-below temperatures persisted for two weeks in 1977. When a February mini-thaw arrived that year, folks basked in the relatively balmy, just-above-freezing weather. I also remember a January day in a mountain valley in Pennsylvania where college kids strolled around campus in shorts and t-shirts. The mercury read 36 degrees.
We had several harsh winters when I was an undergrad at the University of Dayton. One of my friends, a fellow biology student, spent his early years in sub-arctic Minnesota. He kept his thermostat set at 50 degrees and didn’t mind when frost formed on the floor beneath drafty windows. One particularly frigid night, he noticed my running nose and shivers as I huddled in a winter coat on his sofa. He took pity and offered some advice: he told me to shed my coat and stand outside on his porch. He said, “You’ll feel nice and warm once you come back in.” I didn’t follow his instructions but chose to go home where I sat near a register and sipped hot chocolate.
This same friend suffered the tortures of the damned during the summer. He worked in a factory with no air-conditioning. The most relief he could summon at home came from sitting in front of a floor fan. I felt tempted, when he chafed and moaned about steamy Dayton summers, to tell him to go stand out in the full sun until he felt faint. He’d feel much cooler when he came back inside.
This week, the Canadian Arctic reclaimed its normal dominance by sending waves of frigid air south. Miami had a low of 43 degrees this morning. Comatose iguanas fell from trees creating cold-lizard precipitation, a weather phenomenon occurring only in south Florida. Our temps in Orlando flipped from an 80-degree-high/60-degree-low to a 52/38 split. A blustery wind whipped by at 20 m.p.h. further chilling cold-averse central Floridians.
Judy and I drove to the grocery store this morning. Wind shuddered the car and sent plastic grocery bags and bits of paper (trash day in a neighborhood lacking in garbage can lids) drifting by like the jetsam in the tornado scene from “The Wizard of Oz”. I saw Judy shivering in the seat next to me, her arms wrapped tightly around her chest. I took pity and thoughtfully echoed my college friend: I told her that when we lived in the frozen north, we’d consider a day like this a lovely spring day. I implied that temperature is a relative experience. Her discomfort was all in her head.
She didn’t agree. She turned the car heater to full red.