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Archive for January, 2012

After more days than I would like to count of below zero temperatures in the -30 and -40 degrees Fahrenheit range, I put together the following survival guide for other cold climate librarians.

  • Arise and face the morning darkness (days are still short) with equal amounts of grim fortitude and hot tea.
  • Prepare to depart for work by putting on these garments: socks, wool winter boots with ice grippers, two pairs of pants, sweater or long-sleeved T-shirt, Arctic expedition-weight parka with fur ruff, knit hat, scarf, and gloves. Now attempt to squeeze Frosty-the-Snowman-sized self into small foreign car.
  • Question own sanity as you drive through ice fog (a combination of fog and car exhaust) so thick that not only could you cut it with a knife, you could carve a commemorative statue out of it.
  • Marvel at the logic of a university that won’t run the snow removal equipment at -30 below (too cold for the machines), but still insists that staff and faculty show up for work, requiring them to bump through lumpy parking lots, wade through shin-deep snow, park their cars ptarmigan-like in parking spaces that are essentially hollows in the drifts, and excavate the plug-ins by hand.
  • Replay scenes from Jack London short story “To Build a Fire”  (hint: it doesn’t end well) in your mind as you court frostbite with finger gloves that don’t keep your hands warm, but allow you to handle vital objects like the plug-in cord and mittens that, while warmer, don’t allow you to manipulate objects like the steering wheel.
  • Trudge into office and proceed to remove multiple layers of clothing before you overheat and die. When preparing to leave work for the day, reverse process (see #2 above), but stagger the dressing in stages so that you add the final layers in the library entry way where the chill air will keep you from overheating.
  • Experience face being flash frozen as you head back out into the cold darkness.
  • Contemplate the twisted sense of humor of the grounds crew who polish black ice to a high gloss, but fail to add a decent amount of sand, gravel, or snow for solid footing. Wonder at a university administration that stubbornly refuse to make the connection between inadequate traction and seasonal, fall-related injuries among staff, faculty, and students.  Raise a Spockian eyebrow at the Risk Management office that attempts to solve the traction problem on the university grounds by issuing a multi-point bulletin that essentially says “don’t fall down.”
  • Trek up goat path over snow-covered stairs to find frozen hunk of plastic and metal that is your car.
  • Allow car to run for good twenty minutes to warm up its vital fluids while simultaneously freezing your vital fluids in your veins.  Lurch back home through the ice fog on square tires. Repeat again and again and again as long as cold spell lasts.
  • Wake up one morning to discover that it is -17 degrees below Fahrenheit outside. Rejoice in tropical heat wave!

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