“Bring your coat; it’s cold out!”
I was reminded recently of the last time I visited Arizona. It was 1982. I was attending college1 in southwest Washington. My mom, who had remarried a couple years before, was living in Phoenix with my stepdad and the older of my sisters2.
My sister was getting married3 on Christmas Eve, so I came to visit for Christmas break to attend the wedding and have Christmas with Mom.
Every time we left the house, Mom would urge me to bring my coat. And everywhere I went, I wound up carrying my coat draped over one arm. I regretted not packing several pairs of shorts. The temperature, as I recall, never dropped below the low 60s (Farenheit)4. My Mom and Step-dad weren’t the only people wearing coats at the restaurants, movie theaters, and so on. I was sweating, but surrounded by an entire city of people practically shivering from the “cold.”
December in Phoenix, at least that year, was like June in Seattle.
On the other hand, I start complaining about the heat when the temperature gets up into the high 70s—and whining by the upper 80s—which makes friends who live in Phoenix (and Texas, southern California, Florida, et cetera) laugh5. Since for only two or three weeks in August or July does Seattle temperatures get into what most people would classify as summer-ish, my tolerance for heat is nearly non-existent.
Mom’s acclimation to Phoenix winter was particularly amusing to me, because during my childhood we lived in much, much colder places. During my junior high years, for instance, one of my morning chores during winter months was to carry an extension cord out to the driveway and plug-in the engine block heater for Mom’s car. It was actually two heaters: one built into the oil pan, the other into the coolant system. It warmed up the engine block enough to make the car start easily in the cold. On those mornings where the thermometer out on our front porch showed the temperature was colder that -10°F (-23°C), I had to string the second extension cord out to plug in the engine block heater for Dad’s pickup.
It got cold enough to justify the second extension cord at least a couple dozen times each winter.
Some years ago when on Christmas Eve I called my grandmother who still lives in that small Colorado town, she told me it hadn’t been a terribly cold Christmas thus far. “We only got to 25-below6 once or twice this week!”7
And one of my cousins who was there chimed in that the windchill factor was only “minus fifteen.”
Mom lived in that part of the country for a good 18 years, yet only a year or so in Phoenix was all it took for her to start thinking that what I considered early summer weather required a coat. Not a jacket, but a coat!
People are adaptable. We get used to the environment we’re in (physical, emotional, or cultural), adjusting our comfort levels without concious thought. Adaptability is a good thing. It doesn’t hurt, every now and then, to try to step outside yourself and look at what you’ve learned to accept as normal. In the abstract, are those really good things? Is this really where you want to be? Are you really who you want to be?
Similarly, are the people you disagree with just looking at things from a different perspective? Just because I think it’s madness to wear a coat when the temperature is in the upper 60s doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Not in the way they would be if they were huddled under an umbrella complaining about getting wet when the sun is shining and the precipitation is zero.
It’s important to distinguish between the way a person reacts to facts and the facts themselves.
1. During the long stretch of attending part-time, while living with my grandparents and working several jobs.
2. Our younger half-sister was living with my dad and stepmother back in Utah.
3. Which is a story so convoluted that if I used it in the plot of a novel, critics would universally pan the book as being totally unbelievable.
4. I have been known to be out and about wearing shorts when the temperature is 50°F (10°C)—and sometimes colder.
5. Of course, the last time I was in Texas in the summer, I noticed how many people spent those hot, muggy months inside their homes air-conditioned down to the lower 70s, riding in air-conditioned cars to sit in restaurants or churches air-conditioned down to the upper 60s, so I’m not sure they have as much to laugh about as they think.
6. That’s -25°F, or -30°C.
7. Just today my half-sister, who lives nearby, commented that the high temperature this week had been 6°, or -14°C.