Staying Warm (Or Just Staying Inside)

Winter is here! It’s definitely here in Chicago, where it was 22 below zero (that’s -30 for folks who live by Celsius) at 8:15 this morning, with a windchill of a mere 50 below zero. (I only went outside to take out the garbage and clear junk away from the furnace chimney.) It’s in Wisconsin, where it’s so cold that the beer deliveries have stopped. (This means it’s crazy cold: nothing but a virtual apocalypse stops the beer moving in Wisconsin.) I mean, the mail has also stopped, and I’m really glad because my mail carrier deserves to be inside on this frigid day too, but the beer not moving is honestly a lot more shocking.

It’s so cold that I am, as I have said, hanging out inside, which isn’t something I do, so cold that the ground is breaking and the ice exploding, small winter bombs. I like it cold, but not, you know, White Walker cold. This is weather like our like: it’s beautiful, and it wants to kill you. (It is really, really beautiful out there, in a thoughtless, primal, perfect way—and perfection like this is deadly.) Or, more precisely, it really does not care. It’s no wonder my ancestors’ gods were such thoughtless, beautiful creatures: weather is, too. In this thoughtless weather, it’s best if you can stay inside.

Can’t stay inside? Make sure to dress the part. Skip the shorts (even if you’re Year Round Shorts Guy!), and wear as many layers as you can. For realz. The CDC has this terrific guide to dressing for cold weather, but remember: layers. And cover your exposed skin (hands, nose, you name it), because you’ll freeze fast when it’s 50 below. Frostbite is also no joke. You might freeze in five minutes, or even less, which means it’s a terrific day to basically wear every piece of clothing you own. (I am wearing wool leggings under my pants and a wool shirt under a wool sweater while inside. My windows don’t fit.) Need to drive (or find transportation other than a train, since lighting the tracks on fire apparently wasn’t enough)? The National Weather Service has good information for winter weather and winter travel.

The Midwest is a land of extremes: we got really hot summers (or, at any rate, hotter than I’d like—and, often, unbearably deadly), and cold winters. They are usually not this cold. So, while we are the city that keeps on going, no matter what, and while in my experience we do a better job of protecting our people from cold than from heat (and here are warming centers, in case you have need of them), this is a little much for us. And it, like our increasingly extreme heat, is related to climate change. Storms are more extreme, vortexes form (and come south), and White Walkers are unleashed upon the land, because no wall ever did keep anything out anyway. Want to fight White Walkers? Fight climate change. For real.

Wherever you are, I hope you’re warm, and that your power hasn’t gone out, and your companion beasts are having as good a day as my cat, who’s spent it racing from frozen window to food dish to frozen window. Stay inside, if you can; stay well-wrapped, if you can’t. Give thanks to the crews keeping our cities safe (those guys driving the plows are union, by the way). And, while you’re enjoying the Onion‘s amazing articles about moving south to Michigan and the cold Bean, remember that summer is coming—and we need to do a better job of protecting our people from the heat.

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