Last Wednesday the temperature hit a long-time low of 25 F. and a lot of folks complained about it. But not me.
I didn’t complain due to my greater maturity. Matter of fact, when it comes to my maturity versus everyone else’s, the less said, the better.
No, I didn’t complain was because of a promise I’d made almost 40 years ago.
Out of the frying pan…
It all started in mid-June, 1969. I’d just gotten off a plane in Pensacola, Fla., ready to report to my navy Class A school and as soon as I stepped on the tarmac, three things happened.
First, I was completely blinded by the sun.
Next, I gasped as my lungs filled with the blast-furnace air.
And third, every pore in my body burst into torrents of sweat.
As I stumbled to the terminal, I could think only one thing: I’d just landed in the hubs of hell.
And it didn’t get better after I checked into the barracks. They were WWII holdovers —huge rooms full of bunks, lockers and guys walking around in their skivs. And conspicuously missing was air conditioning.
After I checked in I went to my bunk and sat on it, trying to think. It was impossible. All I could do was sit there, head hung down, watching the drops of sweat fall off my nose and splash on the floor.
Finally, I decided I’d cool off by taking a shower. I was half right; I took a shower … but I didn’t cool off. The water was body temperature and about as refreshing as showering in spit. I got out of the shower sweating, and for all I know, I’d been sweating while I was in it.
Something you’ve got to understand: I was an Adirondack kid. Now, I don’t know if global warming is real or not, but I do know the summers of my youth were nothing like the summers of the last ten years. When I was a kid their average temperature was in the low 70’s and if it hit the mid-80’s, it did so for a day or two. Plus, it always cooled off at night.
So when I arrived in Pensacola, not only had I never lived in 90-plus temperatures, but I hadn’t even felt them. But feel them I did in Pensacola, where the temp hit the mid to high 90s during the day, dipping to brisk mid-80’s at night.
And to those jamokes who claim discomfort isn’t based on heat but on humidity, we had plenty of that, too. It was like walking in soup.
The school lasted six months and I was doomed to stay there unless I somehow evaporated in the meantime.
My class didn’t start for another two weeks, during which time my duties’d be groundskeeping. So I’d be outside in the sun all day and in the steaming barracks all night. So I knew I had to do something, but what?
Well, first, I took advantage of the air-conditioned buildings — the chow hall, the library and the snack bar. The chow hall gave me blessed relief three brief times a day. At night I’d hang in the library till its closing at 8 p.m., after which I’d sip root beer (with ice, and lots of it) in the snack bar, till it closed at 9 p.m. But what about the rest of the time?
, I devoted a whole lot of Dopish thought to that, and as opposed to all the other times I’d devoted Dopish thought to things, I actually came up with a sensible solution.
It was simple — at least in theory. I figured if I could handle regular and rigorous exercise in that weather, then I could easily adjust to simply existing in it. And maybe I’d be able to sleep in it, even without air conditioning.
So that’s what I did. And being the compulsive lad I am, I did it with a flat-out and full-bore. I started out reasonably enough, but within a few weeks I spent all my free time running, playing handball and lifting weights — often into the wee hours.
And the results were better than what I’d hoped for: Not only did I adjust to the weather, I even thrived in it. I was comfortable during the day, and I slept through the entire night, waking up refreshed, not exhausted and wrapped in a set of soggy sheets.
…and into the freezer
But while I adjusted to life as a lad of the tropics, I never liked it, nor did I lose my appreciation the Great Frozen North in general and the Adirondacks in particular. And so I made a promise to myself -- I would never again complain about any place being too cold.
And good thing I did: After Pensacola I was stationed in Germany, arriving there in the middle of their coldest winter in 35 years. I’ve no idea what the temperature and wind chill were (I was afraid to ask) but it was so frigid that guys drove their cars from the barracks to the radio shack – a distance of maybe 150 yards – and nobody got called a wussy for doing it.
Beyond that, the barracks were pre-WWII German army with almost Neolithic heating and plumbing systems. I don’t know if I could’ve seen my breath in the barracks, but that’s only because I spent all my time there huddled under my blankets, with my eyes shut tight.
Of course I got through that winter and a couple more, and then 35 Adirondack winters after that. And in the process I have never complained that it’s been too cold.
I’ve complained that it’s been cold, really cold, miserably cold, even horrifically cold.
But, keeping to my vow, I’ve never once complained that it’s been too cold.