It’s cold. That’s all I can think about right now, as I sit in my drafty 80+ year old Passaic house, five feet from my front door.
As I’m writing this, it is 7 degrees outside, and according to my device, it feels like it’s negative six.
How do they know what it feels like? There are no instruments to measure that. That’s not scientific. Do they have a guy standing outside who’s just really good at judging what it feels like?
“Hey, Gary! What does it feel like?”
“It feels like… No, not negative five… Negative six.”
“Great job! Stand outside until we ask you again.”
How does anyone even know what it feels like? On any given day, two people can’t agree what it feels like inside the house. One person says it feels cold, and someone else thinks it feels hot. I myself can be shivering, but then I have a hot drink and I have to take off my jacket. And in fact, we can’t even decide what day of the week it feels like. People say, “Oh, it feels like a Monday.”
“Um… That’s not how that works.”
(For some reason, we never think another day feels like Shabbos, though. Shabbos has its own feel. Except for about five seconds when we wake up in the morning and panic that we’re late to work. Though I haven’t felt that in a while, come to think of it, ever since I started waking up earlier on Shabbos than I do during the week. Hashkama davening: It solves everything.)
But why when it comes to the weather do we get to hear what it feels like? The news never says, “Today is Wednesday, February 3… but it feels like a Monday… maybe April 22.”
People were not meant to live in such frigid temperatures. Hashem didn’t put us here. Hashem put everyone in the Middle East. People chose to move up here. Probably during the summer. And we say dumb things, like, “Oh, I want my kids to know what snow is.” Why?! What if we lived in Eretz Yisrael and we got snow once every few years? Our kids would still know what snow is, the whole country would shut down for a half a millimeter, and we wouldn’t have to shovel. How many ducks do we have to slaughter so we can make coats out of their feathers? Ducks themselves go south in the winter.
Sure, the sun is out, but how effective is the sun going to be on these short days anyway? It’s so cold that the sun is trying, but it really can’t get through. It’s just like, “You know what? I think I’m going to take an early day. I’m not accomplishing anything here anyway. I think I’m going to go on vacation.”
Even the sun goes to Florida.
Sure, it’s nice that the streets are a little quieter because of the cold. I bet crime is down. And the criminals who are still out there are pretty easy to catch. The police say, “Freeze!” and they do. Or they try to get away, but they can’t get their car doors open.
And it could be worse. Right now, there are parts of the United States where it’s negative 46 degrees, and the people here are saying, “What do we have to complain about? It could be worse.”
Yeah! Don’t be cold; other people are colder!
It happens to be that I don’t really like writing about weather in the first place, because in my experience, by the time the article runs, the weather has totally flipped and nobody knows what I’m talking about. In fact, there’s something about weather – and cold weather in particular – that makes people forget what’s other weathers are like. Whatever is not happening right now seems unlikely to ever happen again. Like if the forecasters say it will be cold, everyone says, “What are you talking about? It’s not cold now!” Because you’ve never witnessed the weather changing before, right? This is the first time this has ever happened in your lifetime.
And then we walk outside, and even though we know, on paper, what the temperature is, as soon as we open the door, as say, “Oh… Are you kidding me?”
And then when we come in, we have to show everyone how cold it is, in case they don’t believe us.
“Here – feel my hands!”
We brought samples from the outside. And heaven forbid if they don’t immediately feel your hands, they should brace themselves, because you’re going to touch their neck.
“AAAAAI believe you!”
So I try not to write about the weather, because by the time you read the article the weather is totally different, and you don’t believe that was ever weather like I’m describing to you, and I can’t exactly reach out of the paper and touch your neck.
For example, the last time I wrote about the weather, I talked about how we never have a spring anymore – it just goes straight from winter to summer these days – and then as soon as I sent the article in, the weather cooled off and we had a decent spring. Hashem is willing to change the laws of nature to make me look stupid. (Now I know how the weathermen feel.)
So my guess is that no one is going to relate to this article. On the other hand, since I’m pointing this out this time, it probably is going to be cold when the article comes out. But since I said that, it’s not going to be. I’m going to stop pointing things out now, because I’m the only one of us who doesn’t know what the weather is outside while you’re reading this. I guess if it’s not cold, please put this article down and continue reading it when it is.
I do have to go outside, though, despite the weather. Though that’s not easy. Today my son woke me up at 6:30 to tell me that he couldn’t get outside to catch his ride because the front door was frozen shut. The last thing I wanted to do was force it and make the door fall off the house when it was that cold, so I told him to go out the back door. I had no time to get the blow dryer. And this is not to mention the sliding door on my van – the one I use to do carpool in the mornings – which sometimes freezes when it’s not even that cold outside. We’re actually on our third door handle.
And one of the worst parts of going outside in the morning is sitting down in the car and having your suddenly ice-cold pants leg press against the back of your leg.
“AAAAAI believe you!”
I would consider wearing snow pants just because of that.
(For those who only wear normal pants, snow pants are something you put on when there’s snow on the ground so that people can hear you coming. And it doesn’t actually have to be snowing. They also keep our legs warm, due to the friction you make when you walk. It’s like trying to start a fire with two sticks that squeak when you rub them together.)
And this is not to mention that the second you turn on the car, the heating vents blast you in the face with colder air that it’s been saving for the occasion.
“Make me stay outside all night, will you? The heat will kick in when you get home. Have fun!”
And inside the house isn’t safe from the cold either. All week long, we’ve had to keep the sink running and the tub dripping, and we have to flush the toilet every five minutes… If we don’t, the pipes will freeze, and then we’d have to quickly turn the heat all the way up and start blindly blow-drying the walls in an attempt to guess which part of the wall the pipes are in exactly, because otherwise the pipes will burst, and if you think it’s bad to have ice all over the inside of your home, think about what’s going to happen once the pipes thaw and there’s still a hole there.
And yes, our pipes freeze, because our house was built back when builders said, “I know! Let’s run the pipes on the outside wall of the house! It’s not like we’re putting insulation there anyway!” This was in a time before science was invented.
And if that’s not enough, I have to keep reminding my kids all day not to turn off the sinks, because they’re having midwinter vacation at the moment. What is that? I don’t remember having midwinter vacation when I was in school. If there’s a midwinter vacation, why is there no winter camp? I can’t even send the kids outside.
“Go outside and ride your bike.”
So you’re saying, “Why not have them play in the snow?” There is no snow! It’s too cold to snow. Even the snow is like, “Nuh uh. I’m not going down there. It’s cold.”
What, are we supposed to go on vacation somewhere so our pipes can freeze without us knowing?
“Um, did we leave the water running?”
“I think so.”
“Why, is it that cold?”
“Yeah. Hey, Daniel! What does it feel like outside?”
“Can I climb down off the roof rack now?”
“No, your door doesn’t open.”
By Mordechai Schmutter