I get a lot of grief in the newsroom because of my sensitivity to the room’s subarctic chill. It may be November, but the building’s air conditioner seems to have seasonal dysmorphia, convinced that it’s just not cool enough inside, that we warm-blooded humans must be sweltering in the early winter heat. So it routinely pumps out cold air — and I sit right in a draft.
My co-workers, especially Sports Editor Les Gehrett, News Editor Kim Jackson and Sunday Editor Steve Lundeberg, apparently don’t have functioning temperature sensors in their skin. While I shrug on my coat, brew some tea and wrap myself with the blanket stowed in my desk drawer, Les sips his icy beverage, Kim dumps a bucket of ice over his head and Steve hires some peasants to fan him with palm fronds.
It’s cold, I feel. “It’s hot,” they contradict. My goosebumpy skin and chattering teeth prove them wrong, though.
I am, quite obviously, not a candidate to be climbing Everest or mushing across Greenland. I hate the cold, and I revere it. I read “To Build A Fire” enough times in school to know we mortals have few defenses against the great, bitter fury of nature.
The aforementioned trinity of male editors seems to have more hubris about the cold. If the apocalypse takes a cue from its midwinter due date and takes the form of, say, an ice age or extreme weather conditions, they will probably laugh at the thermostat, leave their coats at home and die. Deservedly.
I plan to survive. I plan to face my deepest enemy, cold, and burn a way to life.
“But science!” you say. “The planet is warming, not cooling!”
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Well, that may be the case. But there have been some especially frigid winters around the Northern Hemisphere in the past decade or so, which experts largely regard as results of the melting Arctic ice caps, which are initially cooling off the oceans and thus pushing cold temperatures south.
There are plenty of skeptics of man-made global warming — former D-H editor Hasso Hering and my mother included — and plenty more believers — my “National Geographic” subscription and Al Gore included. But to avoid environmental politics, let’s just agree that global warming, real or not real, as Katniss and Peeta might say, doesn’t even need to be a factor for a chilly apocalypse to occur.
Earlier this year, I talked about volcanic super-eruptions and nuclear bombs, both of which could cause a nuclear winter, thus probably killing us all.
And even if science doesn’t have strong reasons for us to fear an imminent ice age, the Mesoamerican calendar-writers, and their more contemporary interpreters, probably knew more than modern science, right? The conquistadors may have conquered the Mayans, but nothing can conquer the transcendent fear we have of their abruptly ending mathematical scribbles! (Except, perhaps, waking up to a perfectly normal Dec. 22.)
You may not be swayed by these improbable causes for the world to end coldly, but as with many doom-and-gloom scenarios, being aware of how to survive in an extreme-though-unlikely condition will prepare you for circumstances you may actually encounter. Like getting lost while winter camping. Or having your car break down on a mountain pass on the way to your grandparents’ for the holidays. Or being stuck without power thanks to a hurricane-based Frankenstorm. Or, most harrowing of all, having your apartment’s furnace malfunction, as the case may be currently for this poor journalist.
So let’s be cold weather friends; let’s learn to find warmth in a frozen world. Winter may be coming, but we will weather it.
(Also, if I ever become pope, I promise to beatify anyone who ups the base temperature in the newsroom.)
Next week: Pyromaniac’s delight.