Been there, survived that – don’t need the t-shirt

Emmitt B. Feldner  for The Review

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our columnist is slacking off this week – at least, that’s the best we can figure out – so we’re filling this space with one of his previous gems – or duds, depending on your point of view.

I’m sure somebody’s already selling the t-shirts, but I think I’ll pass on that.

I refer, of course, to the ones that say “I survived the Big Chill of 2014.”

If I wear a commemorative t-shirt, I want it to be something I actually enjoyed – a concert, a ballgame, a museum, a festival or something like that, not our latest visit to the deep freeze.

Before this week, I thought the Arctic Vortex was the nickname for the athletic teams from the University of Antarctica, not something I’d have to live – make that shiver – through.

It’s no secret by this point that winter is my least favorite season, coming in far behind flu season, rutabaga season and kumquat season.

I had no choice where I started out in life – my parents were living in New York state, so that’s where I got to spend the first 18 years of my life, including 18 cold and snowy winters.

After that, however, I seem to keep getting stuck in cold climates, usually by my own hand.

For instance, with colleges in 50 different states to choose from, I elected to go to college in far western Wisconsin, at a latitude farther north than some parts of Siberia.

It probably should have been fair warning that all the thermometers there went further below zero than above, but I didn’t get the hint – probably because the first time I visited the campus was in the middle of August for an orientation session.

If I’d attended an orientation session in mid-February, I probably would have torn up my acceptance letter and started looking for schools as far south of the Mason-Dixon line as possible.

Instead, I started school in the fall and soon learned that it was simply a short – all too short – interlude between the Fourth of July and an endless winter.

I soon learned how to go from one end of campus to the other by building hopping – going out of one building and quickly into the next one and so forth to get to where I was going.

I also learned essential tricks such as dressing in layers – although I don’t think even an onion has enough layers to keep out that cold – and walking into buildings backwards so my glasses didn’t fog up (don’t laugh, it worked).

My first Christmas vacation from college, I left the sub-zero temperatures of Wisconsin to find balmy temperatures right around the freezing mark in New York.

I spent one day of my vacation helping to unload lumber for our local church, which was constructing a new building, in temperatures on the warmer side of 30 degrees.

While all the locals were bundled up against the cold, I – have just left true numbing cold behind – was down to my t-shirt by the time we finished our labors.

For the next month, every time they’d see my parents in church, everyone in the congregation would ask them if their crazy son had come down with pneumonia yet – which I hadn’t.

Of course, cold is relative – and some relatives are cold, but that’s another story.

That was brought home again when I spent one Christmas with my parents in South Carolina after they retired down there.

We were watching television Christmas Eve when the local news came on with a lead story on “bonechilling cold” that was expected on Christmas Day.

Just when I was wishing that I’d brought my long underwear and parka along, the newscaster explained that they were expecting the temperature to get down to 32 overnight.

It was the best laugh I’d had in a long time.

I felt like calling up the station and telling them that 32 isn’t bonechilling, it’s not even bone-tickling, but try explaining that to someone who’s never been north of North Carolina.

When I tried to explain to my parents’ friends in South Carolina about Wisconsin winters, it was a concept more incomprehensible than suntan lotion would be to a penguin.

The best I could say was imagine taking all the food out of your freezer and climbing inside – then staying there for weeks at a time.

They did understand, though, when I said that my favorite winter sport was hibernating – and it still is.

Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out yet how to make a living at that, so I have to keep going outside in winter for things like work and shopping and so forth.

I’ve been doing it for more than half a century, and I’ve managed to survive somehow, so I guess I’ll just keep surviving somehow.

But I sure don’t need a t-shirt to mark the passage of another winter – if I did, I’d need another closet to hold all the t-shirts I’d have in my collection.

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