It wasn't until I moved to Wisconsin that I became familiar with the concept of a "cold day."
We had "snow days" in Philadelphia, of course, and by extension you could imagine there being an "ice day" or - as happened once when I was in college - a "hurricane day." But the thought that it might get cold enough to warrant closing the schools never occurred to me.
Though how otherwise to explain the fact that it is Thursday at 10am and the girls are still in their jammies, buried in the nest of blankets and pillows that they made on the living room floor and watching cartoons would be rather difficult. It's cold. The schools are closed. It hasn't snowed in - what? - 36 hours. The alternatives are rather scanty. It is, therefore, a "cold day."
And it is indeed a cold day. Cold, cold, cold. Ditch-digger weather. Freeze the 'nads off a brass monkey weather. Listen to the vibration of your atoms slowing down kind of weather.
The first time my tender east coast carcass was faced with weather like this was the winter I moved to Iowa. The end of my Christmas break was a three-city tour of the worst weather winter could offer. I was in Pittsburgh over the New Year for a friend's wedding, and spent an extra day there while the city dug out from 28 inches of snow. I headed down to Baltimore to visit a friend there, and got back to Philadelphia just before the city was encased in an inch-thick layer of ice that brought it to a sliding halt for three days. And then I drove back to Iowa.
The thing about cars is that they are their own little enclosed spaces. You really don't have much contact with anything outside when you're driving - it's just you, your heater, and, if you're driving across the country without a CD player as I was, a full selection of country music stations, leavened by the occasional fundamentalist preacher.
CD players are just the most amazing things.
I got out of the car in Peru IL to get gas, and as I'm standing with the pump in my hand I thought to myself, "Dave, it is unusually cold out here!" So I asked the attendant just how cold it was. He looked at me with that expression you usually reserve for people who say things like, "Why does it keep hurting when I stick my nose in that fire over there?" and finally he said, "It's six below zero."
Six below zero? Outside of Siberia? Really?
By the time I got to Iowa it was fifteen below, and we wouldn't see a temperature with a real square root for the better part of two weeks. On the first day of classes, the air temperature when I left my apartment for the mile-long walk to campus was -24, and the wind chill was -70. We were the only institution in the entire state, including the government and the other state university, that was open. I wrapped myself up in every thing I owned, stepped out the door, and immediately went blind.
When you wrap yourself up in that many layers, including four or five scarves, the only way for your exhaled breath to escape is up. And at that point two things happen: first, those breaths reach your glasses. And second, they freeze solid into an opaque shield.
So I had a choice - take my glasses off and be blind, or leave them on and be blind. I took them off - at least I could see large shapes like cars sliding to kill me that way.
It was a long walk.
It wasn't as cold as that this morning - only (he says, "only"!) 21 below for the low last night, though it had warmed up to -9 by 8am - but no sense in having the childebeasts freeze to the sidewalks.
So it will be a day of nests, cocoa and Scooby Do. Can't beat that, really.