October has been unusually warm this time around, not a record-breaker or anything but distinctly warmer than average: barring wholly unexpected meterological phenomena in the next couple of months, the air conditioner shut off for the last time this year late Friday evening. As is seemingly typical of weather out here, feast and famine are often crammed together cheek by jowl; the best we could manage the following Saturday was a modest 61 degrees Fahrenheit, about ten degrees below seasonal norms.
Saturday afternoon is my normal grocery-shopping time, and 61deg; is not enough for me to break out a jacket; I ventured off to the store (and to gas up the car) in the usual T-shirt/vaguely Dockerseque slacks combination. I parked, grabbed a cart from the lot, and the very first person I encountered on foot was a guy in a parka. Was he cold? Maybe, maybe not: he may have been all fleece from here up, but he was wearing shorts and a pair of flip-flops, strangely summery for a fall day with clouds so close you could almost grab them.
After that, I vowed to pay attention to my fellow shoppers. This particular store is about halfway between upscale and its opposite, located in an ethnically mixed area, so I figured any numbers I might obtain were not likely to be skewed by socioeconomic factors. As usual, women made up about 75 percent of the Saturday shoppers, and men shopping solo were few and far between. And while there weren't that many flip-flops to be seen, at least a third of the women were sporting some form of open-toed shoe on this last Saturday of October; nobody was in really short shorts, but there was no shortage of knee on display. I had a brief flash from the past, recalling one shopper from a couple of summers ago who wore so little that, had she chosen more neutral-looking colors that day, might have appeared nude to those of us at the far end of the cereal aisle. This is not a good day for that, I thought.
And then unthought it. After all, I'm hardly in a position to grumble about someone's lack of wardrobe. Still, 61° is above my threshold of discomfort, which is calculated in this matter: "It's five on a Sunday morning and they just dropped the newspaper and I'm wide awake. Can I go outside and fetch it without getting dressed and not freezing to death?" Historically, if it's at least 40°, the answer has been Yes, though I haven't actually had to think along these lines for rather a long time, partly because I don't move as quickly as I used to, a valuable skill at moments like that, but mostly because whoever is throwing the paper these days doesn't arrive until six, sometimes six-thirty. Today 6:30 was pitch-dark; next Sunday, when we're rid of Daylight Saving Time for a while, it won't be.
Along these lines, once upon a time on Family Feud, the following question was posed: "Name a state that's too cold for a nudist to live." Unsurprisingly, Alaska was the number-one answer, followed by North Dakota, Maine, Nebraska, Colorado, Minnesota and Connecticut. First thought: why not South Dakota, which is north of Nebraska? Maybe it's that word "South" in the state's name that threw off the audience that day. That said, some of the clubs and resorts for the unclad close up for the winter, and the single largest population center for American naturists is Pasco County, on Florida's Gulf Coast, where 61° is the average temperature for the dead of winter, rather a lot warmer than it is here in the frigid-ish interior.
What I'm worried about, of course, is a consequence of aging: less resistance to the cold. In years past, while suitably dressed of course, I've been able to clear the driveway with my handy-dandy Snow Pusher without freezing my battered old carcass. (Lowest temperature I've experienced in the last decade is -5°.) How long I'll be able to continue doing this, I don't know. It helps, perhaps, that I'm down 89 pounds from a decade ago, which may permit me to do more layering than before. However, I also now have to deal with equilibrium that isn't as rock-solid as it used to be, which may increase the possibility of falling — and if I can't get up, maybe I will freeze my battered old carcass. Of all the ways to go, this seems one of the least emotionally satisfying.
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Copyright © 2015 by Charles G. Hill