Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Passing the time when it's really, really cold

What do New Yorkers do when the temperature is so low and the winds are so boisterous as to make the simple act of stepping outside a threat to one's well-being? Today was like that in New York and most New Yorkers stayed indoors. I should know because when the wind-chill index rose to 10 below this afternoon, I strolled down Broadway and wandered through Lincoln Center to see what was going on. For the 20 minutes or so I was outside I encountered few people willing to brave the cold.

So what were they up to? You can bet that a lot of them looked out the window constantly to check out the strength of the winds that had helped to create these dangerous conditions and to see if their neighbors had mustered the courage to venture out. Listening to the radio and watching the TV were also likely pastimes, mainly, you know, to keep an eye on how bad the weather had gotten and to enjoy an endless round of self-congratulations for exercising the good sense to stay put.

Reading must have been another common pursuit, with the main topic of literary interest being severe weather, cold snaps, and dramatic dips in temperature. After all, while most New Yorkers awoke to a downright balmy morning in the mid-50s, most pulled the cover over their heads that evening with the temperature hovering just a little bit above zero. Who wouldn't want to read about that spring day over 90 years ago when the Warren G. Harding Administration had yet to acquire its reputation as the most corrupt in history and when the temperature in New York City took an even more drastic nosedive than yesterday's.

Certainly, some people whiled away their time cooking up wonderful recipes, but you can bet they focused their efforts on the preparation of dishes that not only tasted good, but that took some of the chill off of this most frigid of days. Hot soups, warm stews, and spicy chiles were surely in demand as the day dragged on and as it dawned on all of us that it just wasn't going to get any warmer. You couldn't go wrong by staying home to feast on whatever goodies helped to stave off the cold.

I, for one, chose to spend a little time in the public library today to counteract the cold and keep my boredom at bay. It's really such an interesting place in which to wait out the bad weather. There are all those books for one thing, and even more, there are all those fascinating people who congregate at the library, sometimes to read, but more often to sleep, to hang out, to chat, to get online, or just to pass the time. They are a diverse and interesting lot, much more diverting than watching a movie.  But when you people watch you never quite know how the story is going to move forward or to end. And there are so many stories to keep track of! Pick someone and see what happens. Sure, a lot of these stories may end abruptly as the person you have chosen to watch suddenly heads for the exit, but turn around and start tracking a new one. There simply is no end to them

Which fortunately is not something you can say about the weather. It may feel as if the terrible conditions will go on forever, but they never do. But in the case of the stories there is no end to them and that, like the end of cold spell, is a blessing to be thankful for.

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