Friday, December 16, 2016

Baby, it’s cold outside

Yesterday, I was at a holiday function run by one of my clients, and as the event began to wind down, a Worcester-dwelling colleague checked his phone to see whether there was going to be school on Friday in Worcester. Indeed, school called on account of COLD.

Friday’s wind chill in Boston is supposed to keep the real-feel temp below zero until early afternoon, when it pumps up to single digits. If that’s what’s happening in Boston, I can just imagine what it must be like in Worcester. Other than the top of Mt. Washington and Presque Isle, Maine, I don’t think there are any places in New England with weather that’s worse than that experienced in The Heart of the Commonwealth.

I have to believe that there were plenty of times when it was this cold or colder when I was a kid, but we never had a COLD DAY when they actually called school off. Perhaps this was because the wind chill factor – which enforces the notion that we’re even colder than we actually are – was not yet a “thing”. We just went by the thermometer, and as long as the snot in your nose wasn’t completely frozen, it was okay to be outside. (I, of course, grew up in the era when you got home from school, changed into play clothes, and were booted out the door, which was promptly triple-locked and bolted behind you.)

Back then, hypothermia was unheard of. Not that it didn’t exist. We just never heard of it. And the biggest lessons that winter imparted were don’t fall through the ice, and don’t stick your tongue on an aluminum light pole.

No one worried all that much about freezing to death, even though we did hear from our mothers that we would catch our death of cold. And occasionally warned that we would freeze to death. As if!

We all knew that the only one who’d ever frozen to death was The Little Match Girl.

School called on account of cold was pretty much unimaginable. Even school called on account of snow was pretty rare. In Worcester, there had to be at least a foot of snow on the ground, and more predicted, before we could hear that wonderful radio announcement: NO SCHOOL, ALL SCHOOLS, WORCESTER PUBLIC AND PAROCHIAL.

There was one time in high school when school was called on account of cold, but it was indoor cold, not outdoor cold.

It was early April – still chilly enough to keep the heat on – and the boiler was on the fritz. After we sat there shivering for an hour or two, Sister Superior came on the PA and announced that we had permission to put a sweater on. (Can you imagine needing permission to put a sweater on? If I recall correctly, that sweater could only be put on if it were white or hunter green, the color of our uniform jumpers.)

After another hour of sitting in class flapping our arms and blowing on our hands to stay warm, Sister Superior came on with another announcement: we had permission to put our coats on.

For yet another hour or so, we trudged from class to class, wearing our loden coats and seeing our breath.

Finally, we could hear the buses – diesel engines revving – pulling up in the parking lot. School’s out! A couple of hours early! What a treat.

My, how times have changed.

My Worcester colleague said that one of the reasons Worcester called school was because there were a lot of poor kids whose mothers would send them out to wait for their bus wearing nothing more than a sweatshirt. Which is why there are coat drives…

My husband grew up in a poor town in Vermont, and he had a classmate who came in from a farm just outside Bellows Falls. On the bitter cold days, Theresa M. came to school with a baked potato in each pocket of her coat to keep her warm. She ate those praties for lunch, then walked back home cold, I guess. (This was the 1950’s, by the way, not the 1850’s…)

Wish I didn’t have to go out today, but I have an appointment at the bank next door, and then I’m working on some volunteer stuff for Christmas in the City that will take me out. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about catching my death. I have an LL Bean down parka that still has plenty of loft in it, and some wonderful bunny-fur lined mittens that my cousin Barbara – who lives just outside of bone-chilling, no-schooling Worcester  - gave me for Christmas a few years back.

It’s supposed to be in the 50’s on Sunday, which is New England weather and/or climate change for you.

But as for today, baby, it’s cold outside. 


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