Best of the Best: Columnist on “sub-zero tolerance” • Cathy Best
Currently, Madison temperatures hover between 30 and 65 degree while much of the Midwest tolerates temperatures in the minus to single digits, -9 today- to be exact. So far, it’s the coldest day of the year in Wisconsin; we’re talking at least an additional dozen “R’s” tacked on to BRRRRRRRR. I’m not sharing this for pity, well, maybe a little pity; I just think it’s worth noting what it takes to tolerate polar temperatures on a daily basis. Bundle up, here’s a peek through the frosty window at sub-zero tolerance.
Extreme temperatures obviously require more than warm woolen mittens, a lot more; think Michelin Tire Man in a down coat. It begins with the base layer: a camisole or t-shirt, a second layer: top and bottom long underwear and wool socks, a third layer: pants and shirt, a fourth layer: fleece or sweater, a fifth layer: coat and boots, and a sixth layer: hat or earmuffs, scarf and gloves. That gets you to the mailbox and, if need be, prepared to shovel out of snowdrifts. Staying indoors, as Artic winds blast across the prairie, requires donning the first four layers, or you eat PB&J to pay the power bill.
Constantly dressing and undressing, each time you step out the door, any door, and back in, reminds me of honeymooning at Sea Island; the main dining room in the Cloister requires men to wear a jacket for all meals, and women to be dressed appropriately, no beach or sports attire. Post-nuptial days are spent changing from bathing suits to dinner jackets for each meal. It’s a lot more fun on a honeymoon.
In addition to wearing multiple layers, you must vigilantly keep up with the sixth layer, as you traverse cars and buildings, plus your purse, keys, phone, glasses, and any bags you might accumulate. Solitary gloves and winter essentials litter parking lots and store aisles like forlorn hubcaps at intersections; classified pages for lost items out-number foreclosures in the local paper. At least at the Cloister you know where you left your bathing suit.
This part of the country is not for Type Z, I can’t find my glasses or car keys, personalities. Yes Bernice, I’m talking to you. It takes diligence even for the Type A, I’m so organized 40 something, who still has a pair of gloves from high school- and wears them. I fall somewhere between A and Z; I obsessively check my pockets for sixth layer items. Being caught-out is never good. Frostbitten ears, due to misplaced earmuffs, makes wearing earrings while dining at the Cloister impossible.
Those who have fled the layered life, hopefully with ears intact, I beseech you to show some empathy; indulge me with a little pity party. Those who have never wintered on the prairie, if you can find them, wear your earrings to the party.
Printed in the February 7, 2013 edition.