Monday, December 14, 2009

Cold As Ice

So it's Sunday morning, and I am sitting down here in Fort Lauderdale now. The sun is shining; the temperature is going to be 85 this afternoon. That temperature is about 85 degrees warmer than it was on Friday.

And I am happy to do the conversion for my metric buddies - that's about 30C difference from one day to the next.

Back to Friday. The drive from Rutland to Pittsford was one of the easiest imaginable. In a week filled with winter storm warnings and dire predictions of snow, Mother Nature decided to give us a break. The sun was shining brightly; the roads were dry. In fact, there was barely any traffic and the drive was made double easy by being able to use cruise control.

Now when I say that Mother Nature gave us a break, you've got to know that she didn't give us a complete break. The winds howled around our car the whole trip. Trees were swaying, reeds were rocking back and forth, and every once in a while a gust would push the car a few inches to the left or right.

But as King Lear said, "Blow winds, and crack your cheeks." What difference does it make, I thought. After all, the car has a heater and the windows close tight. I should have remembered one of the chief messages of King Lear was a warning about arrogance.

With about 30 miles to go before we arrived at Peg's, the fuel gauge started to edge towards zero. I could have tried to make it, but why risk it. We pulled into a service area on the Thruway and drove up to the pumps.

My first clue that perhaps things were not balmy here was this poor old dear trying to fuel her car in front of us. She was probably in her 70s and had that hug-yourself-all-over look that people adopt when they're very, very cold. She spent minutes reading the rules about how to fill the car. Well, it was either that or she had frozen in place.

When I got out, I started to think she had frozen in place. The temperature was in the low 20s, but the winds were screaming. Wind chill factor is a misnomer - chill is what you do to a bottle of wine. Wind frigging freezing factor is more like it. Factoring in the wind, the temperature had to be well below zero. And that's Fahrenheit. Try -18C, if you can imagine it, you Aussies.

One of the things I discovered on Friday is that, having lived in Oz for 21 years, I have acclimated to the more reasonable temperature band of Sydney. On our coldest days, we don't even come close to hitting zero - and that's on the centigrade scale. So there I was trying to pump fuel while feeling that my face was going to freeze, crack and blow away in the gale.

I had intended to fill up the tank. I got to 9 gallons and decided that I could not stand one second more. So back inside the car for a blast of heat. And a little anatomy lesson as LK asked what it felt like to have your testicles sucked into your belly. I had to explain to her that it wasn't like a vacuum or one of those old pneumatic tubes, and there really wasn't any sensation - especially since most of the bits down there had lost any feeling in the freezing cold.

We had plenty of time for the discussion as we sat waiting for the older woman in front of us who was still trying to figure out how to fill up the car. I don't know if her hair started out white or frostbite crept up. This won't qualify as my proudest moment, but I saw that the service station attendant was staying comfy in his little glass booth. I figured if anyone was going to come to her rescue, it was the guy on the clock. So I sat in my seat and thought, "Take your time, dear. I'm in no hurry. I will just sit here and warm up while you finish."

The next day we flew to Florida.

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