Five years of living in California has turned me into a wuss of epic proportions. In 70 degree weather, I search out a sweater and add a blanket to my side of the bed. In 60 degree weather, I start to ponder buying thermal underwear and wrap a scarf around my head. In 50 degree weather, which is the norm here lately, I put a hot water bottle in my pants. Of course, that's not just because of the cold, if you know what I mean, Plus, I love it when people ask me, "is that a hot water bottle in your pants or are you just happy to see me?" It's a great ice breaker ... (ha ha ... get it? Ice breaker?! And you just thought I was another pretty face!)
So if it gets down to - god help us all - 40 degree weather, panic ensues. But it's not just me. Everywhere you turn in California when the weather gets below 50 degrees, you'll find people complaining like teenaged girls who just got their cell phones taken away. At work. At the store. In line at the post office. I'm afraid of what would happen if a single snowflake actually fell from the sky. Mass hysteria, most likely. Republicans growing hearts. Britney Spears growing a brain. Paris Hilton growing a hymen.
It hasn't taken me long to forget I used to live in a climate that could get cold enough - and I'm not making this up - to freeze your eyeballs. In the Rocky Mountains of Canada, where young Cookie spent her youth, it could easily get to 40 below. That's below freezing, for you native Californians, or as we like to say in Canada-land, fucking cold, eh?
Radio announcers would warn all of us hosers not to keep any membrane-like material, such as our eyes or our lungs, out in the cold for prolonged periods of time. And if it was cold enough to freeze your eyeballs, just imagine what it would do to your nipples! When I lived in Canada, my nipples were always erect, as it took a month (also called "summer" in Canada) to thaw them out. And you just thought I were horny all the time, didn't yah?
For people who have never experienced winters in New England or the Great White North, it is hard to imagine. I realize most kids in California have never reveled in watching their spit freeze before it hits the ground. Nor have they ever been warned at school assembly, as I was, not to climb the mountainous piles of snow left by the snow plow to touch the power lines. Although looking back, this may not have been the wisest decision by school authorities, who only put ideas in our warped little heads.
People in warm climates like California, or Florida or Hawaii also don't have to worry about plugging in block heaters in their cars to keep the engine from seizing up from the cold. Nor do they keep their water running on purpose to ward off freezing and bursting pipes.
They don't have to go to the expense of buying a whole different set of tires that will keep them from sliding on black ice, and they don't understand the concept of putting kitty litter in their trunks to keep the back end of the car weighted down, or to give them traction if they are stuck in the slop made once the snow melts.
They don't have to rise an hour early each day, just to shovel their way out of the driveway. And they don't have to spend an hour each night digging our way back in.
When they suffer a winter cold, they don't have to worry about the embarrassment of having little icicles hang from our runny nose.
Here in California, a snow storm would have schools closing for a week and warrant front-page news. Back home, I actually remember seeing people cross country ski to work, or take their snowmobile, which for you Californians is kinda like a motorcycle, only it works in the snow. Crazy, huh?
Snow was just another challenge to be dealt with during the day in my home town - like traffic or standing in line at Starbucks is for us here.
When I remember what it was like to live through these winters, it's a little surreal now. Like a bad dream that has, with time, gotten a little fuzzy around the edges.
On a recent business trip to Kansas City, that dream cleared to a 24-hour nightmare in which we got caught in an ice storm and almost didn't make it home. As I was forced to scrape ice off our rented mini-van, which was parked next to a trailer park, I began realizing that this indeed could be my hell - all I would need is a hound dog and 12 screaming children to complete the moment. And possibly a part-time job as a Wal-Mart greeter.
The rest of the night I spent praying for a reprieve in the weather so I wouldn't have to stay in Kansas City. I had not packed in preparation for such an occurrence. Nor would I have found anything to pack, if I had tried to prepare. Moving to California has meant that most of my practical winter clothes have been given to Goodwill. I own only three pairs of socks, and all my shoes are for show and tend to have three inch heals instead of rubber soles with traction.
My warmest jacket is made of denim, and my scarves are all fashionable, not functional. I forgot what it was like to not be able to feel your face because it's so cold - not to mention the painful burning sensation when it begins to thaw out.
Fortunately, we were able to get out just before a foot of snow fell and hell opened up to swallow us whole - that is, if hell was a cold, gray, flat place, where sisters and brothers married each other and lived in doublewides with their mutant, retarded children. (No offense to my Kansas City readers, by the way. If I have any readers in Kansas City. Do they have Internet there?)
When I walked off the plane back home, I kissed the warm California ground. The trip made me realize that I am no longer able to live in a cold climate. I've turned a corner, and I don't ever want to go back.
There's just something to be said about California living - even when it's not 80 degrees outside. Some people may say I've gotten soft. God knows my nipples have. But I prefer to think I've gotten smart.