I am so tired--beyond words--not of Polar Vortex Marks I, II, and III (so far), but of people who mock the South's reaction to the truly radical weather change we're experiencing. Yes, it's a mistake to read comments on any article on a news website, but when someone from fucking Buffalo explains how people in Atlanta are just stupid if they're taking this cold thing badly because where they're from they don't even notice snow at six feet uphill both ways, something snaps. Advice from those who live in an area with regular, consistent subzero temperatures during winter is blessed--seriously, you people are wonderful--but those who seem to think it's just a matter of wearing a few extra layers and everything's fine, no, it's not.
Note: okay, I had no idea how much resentment I had built up to need this many words. Huh.
Years ago as a teen, I was an exchange student to Finland from August to January, which meant I left a Texas in the nineties and hundreds to go to a latitude that was technically higher than Moscow. If you ask me what the temperature was, I don't remember, but it was for me chilly and I was already pulling on a long t-shirt in the car ride to my host family while they comported themselves in shorts.
Here's what happened over the next week: I couldn't eat, I got very sick, and I wore three layers to go to the movies one night and slept in four layers under a heavy blanket. I wasn't just chilled--I was cold, all the time. The temperature during the day was possibly in the seventies (F)it wasn't bad, but my body read this as pre-winter, not summer, and was deeply confused. The happiest moments in my life that first month was when going to sauna: I had a religious experience with the stove, and when alone, would turn it up and pour water over the coals until I had a humidity level more appropriate for drowning in a lake. It was the only time I was warm. I fell in love with saunas. It was nice.
Here's where the story gets weird, at least for me: one, I lost weight, not much, but my jeans noticed, and then suddenly--and it happened very fast, because I was helping with the baking when I started getting tempted by the unbaked dough for bread--I went from normal meals to eating like it was my life's work.
I don't mean I ate a hefty helping or two three times a day at mealtimes. I mean I approached meals like I hadn't eaten in a month, and in between--about every three hours--I was starving all over again and had to eat something right now. And my host family had tea time, which was a meal in itself, so four meals plus snacks. The first month, I slept about ten to twelve to fourteen hours a day and woke up starving to death and moved from one to two helpings to two to three very large helpings plus snacks. The sleep problem tapered off about a month in, but the food didn't. During this time, I didn't gain any weight--remember, exchange student, I brought all my clothes with me and didn't do any shopping--but I did stop losing it.
By October at my language camp, I was up to a loaf of bread at breakfast--toasted with butter--and that's not actually an exaggeration, my hosts were staring at me like I was an alien (I was like, 125-135 pounds and five feet, nine inches tall; I think they were wondering if I had a tapeworm). I was a teenager and self-conscious as all fuck, plus I was shy, plus their English was much better than my Finnish and I still didn't stop eating. While they watched me consume an entire loaf of bread. And butter and jam and the rest of breakfast.
IF there's one defining characteristic of my life at that time, it was food, and within six weeks, I stopped being even marginally picky over what I was eating because food. Which is why I ended up with surprise!liver pudding and ate it all, every hideous bite of it and fish soup when I hate almost all the non-tuna or non-salmon fish. Intelligently, I dealt with this by never asking for the names of anything I was eating in English to spare myself the extra stress. I was going to eat it anyway, so why bother.
My host family had congenital high blood pressure, so all the meals were low fat, no grease, nothing fried, extremely healthy and delicious, dear God delicious; I suddenly quadrupled my milk and cheese intake. Again, this isn't an exaggeration here; the reason I remember is because it was that weird and I was a self-conscious teenage girl in a different country, and even seeing my host family look at me weird, it didn't stop me though I got into surreptitiously raiding the deep freeze for baked goods and extra bread to make lot of sandwiches between meals. My entire five months there I ate like that, and when it started snowing, I'd go out to play in the snow in the backyard while eating a sandwich and taking snack breaks.
I didn't gain weight, or at least not enough to have problems with my clothes, and context: I had a very, very high metabolism and was a high school athlete, but no one's metabolism needs a maintenance level that requires as much eating as I did. It was practically a hobby, and I got used to that, too, so much that my journal diary stopped having guilty entries about the my host mother having to buy milk every day.
October and the first snow, I wasn't cold anymore, and by the beginning of November, I biked to school in the next town--five miles, maybe--a few times a week and worked up a pretty good sweat on the uphills, enough to unbutton my coat and get some air. If it wasn't windy or snowing, I wouldn't even bother with my coat if I had to run outside for something, and I had no problem spending most of my weekends outside even when it was actively snowing.
The reason I'm hitting food on this one so hard was it was so goddamn ridic noticeable and even with a teenager's terror of being made fun of, I still ate as much as I could. One of the more pleasant memories is the day we went to harvest potoates--there was a machine involved that dug them up and we gathered them--and I got to eat roasted potatoes all day between meals while harvesting them. No butter, no peeling the fuckers, just carried them in my pockets and ate them as I worked. I loved harvesting potatoes.
So I returned to Texas in January, it was forty or fifty something, and i had to strip down in the airport waiting room, because holy shit it was hot. Within a week, maybe two, my appetite cut off so fast it surprised me, and eventually, I went back to a more normal way of eating food and got to reject fish again. I also slept with a fan on me for at least two weeks, and I never used a sweater , and the heaters at school and home made me sweat. It was annoying.
Within any three to five day span during the vortexes, Texas has gone from twenty degrees to seventy and then dropping again, with short bursts of thirty-forty to sixty. It's like being on a perpetual yo-yo, and for me, it means I'm always, without exception, cold, even wearing like five layers and my coat when I'm outside and an extra blanket in my cubicle even with the heater on because it takes a while for me to warm up. I also lost weight again--noticeably--and while I'm eating more, it's not enough because when it gets to above sixty, I actively dislike the sight of food. I'm also constantly--and I do mean constantly--falling asleep when I get home from work--five in the afternoon, people--and waking up abruptly for a few hours before going back to sleep maybe and getting tired at work. I have insomnia, I have for years, and my thyroid fucks with me at random, but this is just freaky.
Normally, this could be all put up to being me and I'm just a freak, except I'm not the only one. Other symptoms--two coworkers with excellent work ethics who rarely take sick days are having to call in for two or three days every two or three weeks for now fourth month running because they're suddenly sick, and while this isn't scientific here, it happens in the yo-yo space between the twenties and the seventies. Our leave calendar is a minefield now, because we have a new high of unexpected call-ins for being sick, and trust me, in program testing, you really, really notice when people are out when you suddenly get assigned a lot of tests because releases do not get sick days; they have to go out. And this is from people who do not do this. Some who used to complain about people who do just that.
Everyone is more tired--sometimes worryingly so--and complaining specifically about that, which trust me is unusual. At least a few dieting coworkers are very grim about their weight watcher points and they're very long term on weight maintenance--this is new to them. Again, this is the least scientific thing possible, but observation says we're all living a perpetual loop of my first week in Finland and first week home. It's not just that we're whiners not used to the cold who need to man up; we can't get used to it and it's physically fucking with us. The cold is a problem, but humans adapt to problems. The cold/warm/fucking seventy/wtf cold--that's a problem in the lack of ability to adapt.
Some people are fine and have no problems with dramatic thirty to fifty degree temperature changes happening what feels like once a week, yeah, but this is very much luck of the genetic draw.
It's not a human tragedy for the eons, no, and mostly, it's just annoying and inconvenient, but its' annoying and inconvenient on a massive city-wide, state-wide scale in areas that do not deal with subzero temperatures and everyone is going through it all at once, all the time, for four months, and the weather is changing fast--three days, twenty to sixty or seventy, remember?--and it's fucking with us badly, and it's been doing this to us since November. Our buildings here are optimized for air conditioning, not heating, and a lot of people's homes have fantastic air conditioners but shitty heaters because they're not in use that much and they dry out the air.
Texas is still a drought state, let me be clear on this; we've had below optimal rain and ridiculously high extended three digit temperatures from May to as late as September this year. Consistently. We're under wildfire watch all of summer, and in case anyone thought the thing in Bastrop was the only time, it was only the worst time. Wildfires happen every summer, more of them every year.
To give you some context, my utility bill was 880 for July, 990 for the month of August, 870 for September, 750 for October. November, it dropped to 320. We use electricity for everything but the heater and water heater. Gas, a separate bill, tripled starting in November. I bet using that you can guess how much air conditioning costs per month. That is how hard and fast it hit us.
Seriously, if at random, every three to five days, you're magically transported from Minnesota to Puerto Vallarta and three to five days later back again, over and over for almost four months straight, I might consider your opinion on our wussiness valid about how we're not dealing with it well. Might, but probably not, since it's sixty-four right now with a high in the seventies for the next five days and last Friday, it was twenty-seven with a high just above freezing and I really don't care.
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