Hello! Good morning! Washington metropolitan area, you have woken and you are on your eighth day of being very cold. Which means, if you are originally from a place accustomed to lower temperatures — New Hampshire, say, or Ely, Minn. — you are on your eighth day of pompously explaining how you used to ice-pick your way to the office while riding the carcass of a frozen walrus.
And you know what? Just stuff it.
“I mean, I have dealt with cold weather,” says Alexandra Palombo, current Washingtonian. “I went to college in central New York. But there’s a certain smugness Northerners have about cold and their ability to handle it. We get it, you’re from a tundra. But I just think, why are you here, if it was so great?”
Plus, as Palombo has considered while walking to her office near the currently frigid Union Station neighborhood, “a lot of the cold in those other places is lake effect. It’s more snow than ice and wind. For those four years I was in Ithaca, did I have better coats? Was I just a dumb college kid? Or is it possible that it actually does feel more bitter here? Is this whole city a wind tunnel?”
“I think it must be a wind tunnel,” offers Mike Koschak, who has pondered this question on his own commute to work in Washington. “Look, if you are in one of those Midwestern states where everyone boasts that they’re used to the weather — you are driving everywhere. Here, you are walking, or you’re biking, or worst, you’re just standing. You’re waiting for the bus, and you’re standing.”
Koschak cycles to work, and his upper body is appropriately swathed in layers of Patagonia, but he has been wondering whether it would be possible to rig some sort of blanket situation for his lower half. “Like, the carriages that go through Central Park. Like, an elegant lap blanket.”
The people who are from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan would have you believe that you are a ninny because you might wish for such a thing. The people from Michigan would love to tell you about the time they were frozen to their snowmobile for 70 hours until they were licked free by a domesticated elk — but frankly, that is what you sign up for when you live in Michigan. If you live in Michigan, you get cheap real estate, nice lake access and below-zero mornings.
The Washington pact is that you get crap traffic, and you get certain annihilation in a nuclear attack — but you also get sufficient warmth via a coat from Target instead of requiring a leftover yak prop from the Night’s Watch scenes on “Game of Thrones.”
Of course we are not prepared for a bomb cyclone.
We are not supposed to have a bomb cyclone.
The Washington pact is that you might have to be 20 minutes late to work because of Mike Pence’s motorcade, but you never, ever have to wake up and see only a single digit on the thermometer.
“When I first moved here, I knew I was in for disgusting, muggy summers. That was clear to me,” Palombo says.
Yes — yes! To be clear, we in Washington are so opposed to single-digit temperatures that we accepted the tradeoff of three-
digit temperatures in August. We should not have to do both.
“I did not expect this,” Palombo continues. “I’m not angry, I’m just baffled as to how it got this way.”
Things that are currently frozen in the godforsaken Washington metropolitan area that are not supposed to be frozen:
The mulch in public playgrounds.
Those rivet things on jeans where your hipbones are.
“I am going to go to the grocery store today, and I will need to have my face completely covered,” says Shannon Stamey of Arbutus, Md. “I think I’m going to try a scarf? Just wrapping my head completely in a scarf. I am a little concerned that the people there are going to think I am trying to rob the store.”
Stamey has a neurological disorder that causes facial nerve pain when the temperature gets too low. “I had an attack on Monday morning for the first time in a long time,” she says. And now, to get between buildings, “I must run like there is a bear chasing me. . . . This is not the weather that I order — ow!” she breaks off, a victim of the weather.
You know whom we need here? We need Jim Cantore.
Jim Cantore — the Weather Channel’s mascot, the trustworthy meteorologist who appears at every significant hurricane or blizzard, who has experienced every possible temperature variation. We’ll call up Jim and ask him to arbitrate, to tell us whether Washington is full of weenies or whether it is, in fact, actually cold.
We catch Jim in Massachusetts, where he’s awaiting the northeastern arrival of the bomb cyclone and wondering whether he should have packed the waterproof diving suit he sometimes wears under his parka. (“Tomorrow’s going to hurt; I won’t lie,” he says.)
So, Jim: How cold is cold?
“Cold is relative to sex, it’s relative to age,” he hedges.
“And if you want a number, you’d have to assume there was no wind — because if you throw wind into the mix, it’s different — we all know there’s a ‘what it feels like’ temperature.”
Of course, Jim, just give us a number.
“I’m not telling you in a scientific expert way,” he cautions. “Just as a guy who has stood out in it for 30 years.”
“I’m going to say 22 degrees,” he says finally. “At 22 degrees, whether you’re Canadian or Floridian, averaging the whole thing out, I promise you, everyone is cold.”
The predicted temperature in Washington for Friday morning is 11 degrees. And with wind it will feel like seven below.