Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Jack Frost, Criminal Mastermind or Savior?

I am sitting here wearing two pairs of sweatpants, a sweater, wool stockings and a sweatshirt with a hood. I just drank my sixth cup of hot tea in an attempt to warm myself from the inside out. The heat is cranked up to 72 degrees but still, I can’t seem to thaw out. Winter definitely is here.

The truth is, I love winter. In fact, it ranks right up there on my list of favorite seasons. Am I a skier? A snowmobiler? A skater? Do I run a snowplowing business? Nope.

I love winter because there are no bugs.

Call me cruel, but the thought of all of the creepy crawly things that come out in the summer, now lying stiff and cold under a ton of snow somewhere, unable to hum, buzz, bite or sting, really pleases me. In fact, if they just could stay frozen for the rest of the year, I’d be one very happy person.

There are a lot of other things I love about winter, though. For example, cold weather is refreshing and invigorating. I love to bundle up and take long walks in the snow out in the woods, especially since I don’t have to worry about later stripping off my clothes and doing a full-body tick check. And it’s a scientific fact that walking or jogging in frigid weather burns more calories than walking or jogging in hot weather.

This year, however, I must confess that the frigid temperatures already have resulted in a few incidents that have made me love winter just a little bit less than in previous years.

First of all, on our street, the mail is delivered to outside lock-boxes at the bottom of the hill. For three days last week, the lock on our box was frozen solid. The worst part was that I knew my paycheck was sitting in that box, so I was eager (make that desperate) to get into it.

I heated my key with a cigarette lighter. The lock wouldn’t turn. I pounded on the door with my fists. Still nothing. I stood out in the wind and held an insulated glove over the lock to warm it…until I got so cold, icicles began to hang from my nostrils. Still nothing. Upset, I drove to the post office to complain.

“Well, you can have someone build a shelter around the boxes,” the postal employee told me.

Hiring a carpenter and waiting for him to build a shelter didn’t exactly sound like a speedy way to get my paycheck.

“Or you can try squirting some WD-40 into the lock,” he added.

“Can’t you just have the guy who put the mail into the boxes get it out again?” I asked. “He obviously knows some secret I don’t!”

“I can’t ask him,” he answered. “He’s not back from his route yet.”

I ended up buying some lock de-icer, which, after several squirts, accompanied by a few well-aimed whacks, finally opened the box. When I, at long last, got my frozen little paws on my paycheck, I rushed down to the bank. The lobby was closed, but the drive-up lane still was open. There were four cars in line ahead of me when I pulled in.

I sat there for at least 15 minutes before I finally made it to the front of the line.
That’s when I discovered that my car window was frozen shut. I pushed on it. I aimed the heater vent toward it. It wouldn’t budge. When I looked in my rearview mirror and read the lips of the guy in the car behind me, I figured that unless he was singing along with some song on the radio that had a lot of four-letter words in it, I’d probably be better off just opening my car door and getting out to do my transaction. The problem was, I’d parked so close to the concrete island, there was no room to open my door. Muttering, I drove off, my paycheck lying uncashed on the front seat and taunting me.

And the other night, I came very close to repeating a cold-weather mistake I’d made a few years ago; a mistake that had required my husband to use a blow dryer on my hand…because it was frozen to our back door.

I was doing the dishes when my dog, obviously in a hurry to do her “duty,” whined at the door. Hastily, I dried my hands and went to let her out.

Fortunately, in the nick of time I remembered that metal storm-doors and damp, dishpan hands make a dangerous combination in sub-zero weather…unless you’re a criminal who wants to lose his ability to ever be fingerprinted again.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that my own left pinky still is fingerprintless.

Maybe spiders and ticks aren’t so bad after all.