Sunday, January 09, 2005

I was born in December in an area that reached the minus double digits in winter. Whenever people in Vancouver donned toques and mittens in mild weather and complained about the cold, I would scoff. I never wore scarves and other head warming gear, I could handle the cold. Besides, I found them scratchy. So when reports indicated that Vancouver was having an unusually cold winter, and when people on the street started wearing eight layers and gave muffled complaints behind their jackets, scarves, neck warmers, animal fur, and Starbucks mugs, I was absolutely thrilled. This winter was made for me. I will rejoice and walk around bareheaded and barehanded! Bring on the cold weather!

Last Tuesday was the first day of classes after the winter holidays. I had stored my bike in the basement of a building on the edge of campus, and woke up half an hour earlier than usual to pick it up and ride it to class. This was prior to the arrival of the gorgeous blanket of snow that currently covers Vancouver. The day was rainless, and bitingly cold – my kind of weather. Past experiences biking in the cold have taught me that if I want the skin on my hands to remain on my hands, I should wear gloves. So however tough I like to pretend I am, I wore gloves and a toque that day.

As soon as I started to bike, I realized that it was very, very cold. I was going a lot slower than usual, with the added pounds from unrestrained holiday consumption and whatnot, but the wind felt like a thousand pins gleefully sticking themselves in my face every second. Every breath I took burned. I pulled my toque down to my ears, but when my ears were covered, the top of my forehead was not. A tug of war began. I would cover the ears for a while, and then tug the toque down to my forehead. I biked with one hand on the handlebars and one hand on my toque the whole trip.

Wind flew down my scarf-less neck into my jacket, and I felt the wind at my ankles. I suddenly wondered why I always wear low ankle socks. I had a mental image of Britney Spears and her ridiculous leg warmers. “She had a message there,” I thought to myself.

After a while I warmed up and stopped grimacing. I don’t know what I looked like during the first excruciating moments. I might have looked constipated. I think I was also talking to myself. In the middle of the coldest moments, I spotted a runner slightly ahead of me. He wore red shorts and a thin long sleeved cotton shirt. He was running so he must have also felt the cutting wind. However, he did not look like he was dying. And he was wearing shorts. Without a jacket. In a thin cotton shirt.

I almost screamed, “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?”

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