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In the Suburbs / Hoping the Arctic blast won't last

Updated 5:03 pm, Thursday, January 9, 2014
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Give me global warming over the polar vortex any day!

Waking up to bone-chilling temperatures of 7 or 8 degrees, needing to coax our pampered pooches outside and dealing with temperature extremes in the school building where I work convinced me that this deep freeze is not where I wanted to be.

Maybe I'm just too old to tolerate this kind of cold. I used to manage just fine, especially when I was commuting to Manhattan in the 1980s and early `90s. Sometimes we had to put up with what felt like air conditioned rail cars, and my feet were nearly numb when we arrived at Grand Central. And that was after standing on snow or ice covered platforms.

As a kid growing up in Chicago, I walked eight blocks to elementary and high school, often in sub-zero temperatures -- and they never called off school. I looked just like the urban Eskimos pictured in current articles about the frigid weather from Texas to parts of the South, but my parents saw no reason to keep me home.

Years later, after I was married, the Chicago area continued to have temperature extremes, and I remember many a below-zero night, walking our first dog outside our apartment complex. The winds howled and my pants often froze to my legs, but I managed.

I was in Minneapolis once during extreme cold, visiting a friend while on business there. It was early only December, and he lived near a lake in the city. Everything was frozen solid, the snow banks were so high that drivers had to inch out beyond intersections to check for oncoming traffic, and I just couldn't seem to stay warm. While I had brought warm dress clothes and a really great top coat, it was a different kind of cold than I had ever experienced.

Ironically, my wife and I were transferred to Florida in the early `70s', and once there, couldn't wait to get out. We were used to the change of seasons in Chicago and never got accustomed to the humidity and the bugs. Our Florida friends told us we were crazy and said we'd rush back once we vacationed in Florida or decided to retire there. We never did.

Even today, as I struggled against the cold while pumping gas for my car, I had no fantasies of rushing back to Florida. Besides, I've gotten used to New England weather. After a couple of sub-zero days, temps will skyrocket to the 50s and we can peel away most of our layers of clothing.

Our younger daughter called us last night from her home in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the temperatures will stay low a little longer and there's plenty of snow. A lot of her whining stems from the fact she was born in Fort Lauderdale. Her blood thinned out and never thickened up again. So we keep suggesting that a move to a warmer climate might be perfect for her and her husband, who is originally from Mexico. They've spoken about San Antonio, which we understand is beautiful and has a beautiful, riverfront downtown.

Our older daughter is a hearty skier, and when she was married, she and her then husband never concerned themselves with sub-zero temperatures. They skied weekends in New York State, traveled to Austria and Germany and on one trip to Quebec, they stayed at the Ice Hotel, which she said was quite an experience.

I recalled the winter of 1977, which we spent in Jackson, Mich., about 35 miles from Ann Arbor. It was not only one of the snowiest winters in Michigan history, it was one of the coldest. During one blizzard -- when many folks were actually cross-country skiing to their jobs -- we were dismissed from work early, and I walked about four miles to our home, bundled like an Eskimo and worrying about how anyone would find me if I collapsed in a snow drift. No cell phones for us common folk in those days. Fortunately, I made it.

What's hard this year is to think that we still have two more months of winter. It's only January, we're already in the deep freeze and I can't wait to see what Mother Nature is cooking up for the coming weeks. Global warming may not be so bad after all.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at steven.gaynes@yahoo.com.