It’s been five years I’ve lived in Minneapolis, and about time I froze my ass off (or some other body part).
When I typed this last Wednesday night, it was 9 below zero outside. 9 below zero? Big deal, you say, if you are one of the one 12apostrophes reader/contributers who lives in Finland, or are someone’s grandparent, and have reached the age of scoffing hyperbole (“9 below? We used to walk to school when it was 9 below, on our hands. With paper bags for mittens. And we were grateful.”).
OK, 9 below zero, big deal — but with windchill, it felt like 25 below zero, if anyone’s exposed skin could have stay attached to their body long enough to feel it.
We had a week or so of this in the Twin Cities, and it’s starting all over again tomorrow. A week or so, give or take every winter in Minneapolis since the earth’s crust cooled. So when I went to shovel snow last week in the frigidness, I wasn’t stupid. I waited until the 3 p.m. tropical doldrums, when the mercury bubbled up to 7 above zero.
After a half hour of shoveling, my fingers hurt. I was wearing “Thinsulate” gloves, so I figured I was good. Frostbite is that shit in Jack London stories, it can’t happen to me, I thought. Another five minutes though, and I decided I preferred my fingers sans ice crystals.
I came inside and placed my fingertips directly on the radiator in my office. The ring finger on each hand was the worst off. Reddish-purple, swelled like a sausage, and throbbing like a bass drum.
Oh crap, they’ll have to amputate, I thought. But after a little harried research online, I found that my symptoms best match a condition called “chilblaines,” which is a kind of a bo-bo frostbite, from the latin, “really cold fingers, just get over it already.”
I learned my lesson — if God wanted us to remove snow from sidewalks, He would have given us shovels for hands. Knowing me and my proclivity for dumbassedness, it’s kind of hard to believe I haven’t had some sort of run-in with the cold sooner. The only thing protecting me until now has been my aversion to actually going outside.
I cried because I had chilblaines, until I saw this video of Dennis Wounded Shield, resident Minneapolis homeless guy, talking about how his cheeks turned black.
Pulao, Dingusx, and I were really cold the other night, walking the 14 drunken steps from the CC Club to the car in sub-zero temps, and we wondered: “What about the homeless folk in the Twin Cities? When it gets cold like this?”
Well, turns out, of course, that sometimes the homeless sleep outside, even when it’s really, really cold. Go figure.