Sunday, February 12, 2012

A cold snap—for once

Well, cold weather has come to Paris these past few days. Historically, that would not be exceptional, but these days (these past few decades, that is) it has become so. The past few days have been below freezing 24 hours a day, which is quite unusual for Paris. The last time this happened was back around 1987 or so. Still, one must look at this in context. Subfreezing temperatures are unusual for Paris, but they still are nothing in comparison to the incredibly bad winter weather that afflicts much of the United States every winter.

I don't mind cool weather, but I dislike hot or cold weather, which I suppose makes sense. For me, cool weather is between 0° and 12° C (32° and 54° F). Above that, and things start to get warm, and possibly too warm (at least for people like me who like to walk). Below that, and things start to freeze, which brings a whole truckload of problems along with it. So right now I'm not too happy because of the subfreezing weather. I have clothing that is warm enough, so that's not a problem, but my hands and face and head freeze a lot, and I haven't been able to find gloves that can both keep my hands warm and still allow me to manipulate the Tinkerbell-sized buttons on my various electronic gadgets (cameras and such).

A consequence of this is that I don't go out much if the temperature is below freezing. Gadgets don't like subfreezing temperatures, so I can't bring them with me, and even if I could, my hands would go numb if I tried to hold them. So I just stay home.

Staying home has other advantages, too, the main one being that it costs less. Every time I step out the door, it costs me €20 or so. My parents didn't want to believe this, so I've been keeping a log of my expenditures each day. Sure enough, every time I open that door, it costs me money. I have to buy groceries, for example, which are extremely expensive. I have to buy aspirin or whatever at pharmacies from time to time. I have to buy Métro tickets or transit passes. And if I walk for any period of time, I usually buy a soda pop or a cookie or something. So I'm always spending money on something. It amounts to hundreds of euro per month, and represents my greatest living expense after rent.

So I guess I save money when it's very cold. I do pay indirectly for heating, although the building is centrally heated, so I suppose that costs money. The heating system works very well in exceptionally cold weather like this, whereas it tends to overheat in seasonal winter weather, which usually has temperatures above freezing.

It's amusing to see people reacting to this minor cold snap. Temperatures have risen so much in recent years that people don't realize how cool Paris traditionally is in the winter. Last year, similarly extreme excursions on the hot side of the thermometer occurred practically all year long, but they are so common now that people don't realize how much the city has warmed up. The Seine River used to freeze over regularly 150 years ago, but not now.

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