Indoor gloves

I live in northern California, where the weather is generally mild and Mediterranean. People in this area worry more about rain–which comes during the winter season, if we aren’t in a drought–and earthquakes. The weather here isn’t generally severe enough to be a health or safety problem. People usually dress for fashion, rather than warmth. And the weather is rarely a problem that would prevent you from safely traveling wherever you want. So when the rest of the country is in the depths of winter, it’s hard for people here to understand what winter–as in, a Midwestern winter, with actual snow and blizzards–can be like.

I’m not a native Californian. Not a lot of people here are, actually, but many of them appear to be from other places that also don’t have severe weather. I grew up mostly in downstate Illinois, and before that I lived in New York (state, not city) and New Hampshire. And whenever the subject of winter comes up in conversation, and I find myself trying to explain what real weather is like, I tell the story of my indoor gloves.

 This is a pair of gloves that I’ve owned since I was in college. I think I bought them at some outlet store, and I’ve had them ever since. They’re made of leather and lined with what is probably Thinsulate or similar. These have become the only gloves I now own, for the reasons described above, which means that whenever I’m wearing a coat, the gloves are probably in the pocket. So I pull out these gloves to explain. Here’s a pair of nice leather gloves that I’ve had for years. They’re well made and lined with Thinsulate. Great, warm gloves, right? Okay, here’s the thing: when I lived in Illinois, I wore these gloves indoors.

People usually do a double-take when I tell them that. So then I explain that these gloves are more accurately referred to as my driving gloves, because when you live in a place with four seasons coming at you hard, there’s a lot of things you have to think about in order to safely get from point A to point B, and keeping your hands from freezing when in subzero conditions but still able to manipulate car controls is one of them. I also tell them a bit about what it’s like just getting dressed to go outside, and then having to climb into a car that has its driver’s side door frozen shut, climbing over the gearshift in heavy winter boots, and starting the engine–and the heater–up. Then and only then do you get out of the now-running car and start cleaning it off.

This commercial is a pretty good illustration of what it’s like to get going first thing in the morning after a significant snowfall.

For the record, this guy appears to be wildly unprepared to live wherever he does–nobody who’s lived in a northern climate for any length of time would go outside without a hat or their coat open like that in winter conditions, and not having one of these in your car during the winter is…well, never mind. This guy also clearly doesn’t know that you have to get in the car before you do any cleaning, to start the engine and get it warmed up, so the punchline of him cleaning the wrong car is funny but not realistic.

So the point of the indoor gloves story is that the weather in places that aren’t California can be so bad that a pair of gloves that looks perfectly serviceable and warm is actually completely inadequate to keeping your hands warm in actual winter conditions.

So I’ve shoveled, and scraped, and swept, snow, face-planted on frozen driveways, hydroplaned in storm conditions, fishtailed on black ice, run for cover when tornado warnings sounded, and felt my lungs burn when opening the door in Illinois on a July afternoon during an extended 100-degree-plus heat wave. I’ve seen the rust on my car advance from season to season, and wondered for how much longer the car would be structurally sound, i.e., safe to drive. I’ve heard the windowpanes in old apartments rattle in blizzard conditions, and I’ve turned the key on a car during a cold snap only to hear nothing from an otherwise serviceable engine that was temporarily felled by the cold. Compared to that, drought and seasonal flooding and occasional earthquakes aren’t weather, they’re entertainment.

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