Monday, February 20, 2006

The discontent of our winter

Winter arrived yesterday. Like mislaid baggage. Or a schoolbus you were hoping you'd missed. I stepped out of my apartment building and the cold slapped me in the face like an indignant mistress*. Every breath I took was like gargling with razors. Compared to this my refrigerator is a warm, fuzzy dog. Half way down the block I realised that these things gnawing at the side of my face were really my ears - I didn't worry too much about them though - it was clear they'd be falling off soon.

The trouble with my body is that it has a fundamentally imperialist perspective on blood circulation. It recognises that it needs all these distant, foreign parts, all these far-flung colonies of toes and fingers, but it figures you've got to give the natives the minimum possible otherwise they're just going to get uppity. So on even the mildest of winter days my hands will habitually be the kind of temperature that's guaranteed to make marble shiver. Worse, my jaw will freeze up till I have the diction of a neanderthal with too tight braces. "Aw won ko-po-ke-kho" I'll say, pointing desperately at the board, and the helpful lady behind the Starbucks counter will stare at me like I'm speaking Gagauz for a minute or two before the light of realisation dawns in her eyes and she goes and fixes me a Mocha Frappuccino to make me feel better this sub-zero morning. (You should see the hurt in her eyes when I finally manage to explain to her that I want a cappuccino, not a frappuccino - like, how was she supposed to know that I would want HOT coffee when the temperature was just 0 F outside).

But that's not the worst part, of course. The worst part is when you finally get back to your house and pull off gloves-hat-scarf and sink into the warmth of your chair, and your nerves, having watched the action thus far from a numb distance, decide to bestir themselves and join the festivities. So for the next ten minutes you discover what an ice cube must feel like when you drop it into your drink. You thaw. You melt. Your ears feel like they're on loan from an elephant for the sheer radius of the pain. You decide feeling is overrated. What's wrong with having just four senses anyway? You try to tell yourself that the fact that you can feel the pain is a good thing - it means you haven't, as per your earlier hypothesis, got frostbite. This makes you think of amputations with a certain tender fondness. You wonder if you'll still be able to listen to your iPod if your ears really do fall off.

It's just when you've finally got yourself acclimatized to the room that you open the refrigerator to make yourself some hot chocolate and realise that you've forgotten to get the milk.

The thing I really hate about winters in the US is their deceptiveness. I mean, at least back in Delhi** when it gets really cold, the days look appropriately glum. The sky glowers at you, the streets put on their drabbest, most faded colours. Any sunlight that actually puts in an appearance has the decency to look suitably sheepish and abashed - like it's only there because your mother knows its mother. But here you take a look out of the window and it'll be a joyous and cheerful day. The sky will be the most glorious azure. The sunlight will have that blonde, beaming look of hostesses on television quiz shows. You'll stand at the window like some mouse staring at a piece of great, golden cheese. You know it's a trap, but you think to yourself, "just a little nibble of a walk" and you step out of your house and the cold grabs you. Is that fair, I ask you? Shouldn't consumer groups be doing something about this? Shouldn't the surgeon general's office be sending up planes to write warnings across the sky in big white letters. Shouldn't days like yesterday come with a little tag that says 'do not remove under penalty of law'?

What price the sunny side of the street if you've still got wind chill?

Also, forgive me for being anal, but is anyone up there looking at the calendar? I mean, it's February people - the days are supposed to be getting warmer, not plunging towards absolute zero with all the grace of a Russian submarine. I've heard of better late than never but this is just plain ridiculous.

Thanks a lot, weather gods. Next time, use Fed Ex. At least that way we'll get our Winter on time.

*Not that I've ever had an indignant mistress, of course. Apparently you need to be rich enough to buy diamond necklaces and the like to have mistresses. If you're just a poor PhD student and can't afford stuff like that, all you get is the indignation.

** Contrary to popular rumour, there is, of course, no such thing as a Bombay Winter.

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Neela said...

Falstaff: a category called "Humour"???. Not cool.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I like winters actually, it brings two people that much closer dont you think???

Veena said...

Now is the discontent of our winter
Made content with Falstaff's rants...

So much for you trying to trick winter by going to India in Dec-Jan. He he!

Falstaff said...

Neela: I thought we already agreed that my ability to come up with cool names is practically nil. (remember the 'Falstaff' vs. 'The Game' debate?)

Anonymous: *Sound of Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston singing* "It takes two, baby". Ay, there's the rub. The only person I'm getting closer to stuck inside my apartment in winter is my own reflection in the mirror. And outside of scenes in Amitabh Bacchan movies that's just sad. Still, thanks for pointing this out to me. Feel free to stop by and crush what's left of my self-respect anytime.

Veena: Ya. Did I mention that while I was in India, Delhi had the coldest winter in some 70 odd years. The temperature actually went down to 32 F! Meanwhile, of course, in Philly, it was in the breezy 40s. My life is a joke.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

*Raises a frost bitten hand in a show of solidarity.*

aquamarine said...

The richness of words coming from a poor Phd student is mindblowing. An interesting contrast.

About the post:
A delighful post. I love the first blanket of snow. period.

Falstaff said...

Shoe-fiend: you too? I thought you were out wandering around markets?

AquaM: Thanks.

Mint Chutney said...

*tries to high-five you through 3 layers of winter clothes*

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

How do u think I got frost bite?
ps your word verification will kill me if the cold doesn't. zqbdpopl?

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