Baby, It’s Warm Outside. So, Why Am I Still Freezing?

Recent No’easter notwithstanding, New York has been enjoying an especially mild winter, with few stretches of subfreezing temperatures and minimal snowfall (consider that the city gets an average of 30 inches of white stuff each winter; this year it’s been less than a third of that).

Around my corner of the Upper West Side people have been walking around without headgear and open jackets, and many runners in Central Park are wearing shorts, many shirtless. Restaurants along Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues have been offering outdoor table service. Heading out to a balmy 38 degrees one morning I noticed my upstairs neighbor was in a pullover and flip-flops.

shirtless runner central park

Meanwhile, I had on my usual attire: two pairs of long underwear, a heavy sweater under a Patagonia fleece, with a down shell jacket over that, topped by a puffy Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Hoody, designed for “cold-weather alpine missions where moving fast and talking less is essential.” Maybe it works best while trekking up the Matterhorn but I still shutter heading to Trader Joe’s a few blocks away.


But there’s more. I’m usually sporting three Turtle neck warmers covering my face and another one or two to secure my baseball cap, held down even tighter by two ski caps to prevent penetrating wind chill. It’s all I can do to keep my cheeks from chafing even if I have to give up my peripheral vision and can only speak as if locked in a safe. And let’s not forget the HotHands Super Warmers in each pocket to keep my fingers from going numb after holding my phone or the dog’s leash.

While my overstuffed Arctic-wear may not seem strange on early morning outings, I’ve come to accept the stares that greet me later in the day, especially after 3 pm, when the streets are overrun with kids from the many neighborhood’s private and public schools, bustling by with coats wide open and heads unencumbered. What do they have flowing through their veins?

For as long as I can remember I have been cold-averse, by which I mean anything below 72 degrees with no breeze. Misery for me is one long polar arc from mid-September to Memorial Day. While I should be happy we’re hitting winter’s home stretch, with extended daylight beginning to signal spring along with temperatures reaching 60 degrees, I know that March and April are often the cruelest months, with frequent deep freezes and more Nor’easter storms dumped. Just you wait.

There are valid, clinical reasons for cold intolerance, ranging from an out-of-whack thyroid to anemia, anorexia, vascular disorders, poor hypothalamus regulation and just plain lack of body fat, which may apply to my beanpole physique. I think my suffering stems from childhood traumas, such as shivering under scratchy wool blankets at summer camp in Ohio, or having to shovel perfect pathways and steps around the house I grew up in. Maybe it was seeing the ghastly photos of frostbite victims that my friend Ben showed me from his father’s physician’s desk reference. I had no desire to ski, ice skate or sled, and even ice hockey on TV gives me the chills.


I don’t mean to be a climate denier and accept that the earth is heating up – news reports confirm that this January was the warmest on record, with El Niño and other factors producing a global average air temperature of 55.6 degrees, which may sound sweltering to John Kerry or Al Gore, but wouldn’t get me to remove my neck warmers.

Nor does that trend comfort me when traversing some of the Upper West Side’s coldest quadrants – Riverside Drive at 79th Street with the gusts sweeping up from the river, or Central Park and 81st Street, where a phenomenon I call Margaret Mead Wind Shear slices like a razor from West to East past the Beresford apartment across from the Museum of Natural History. And I have schooled many dog walkers on the microclimate at the Great Lawn – the southern loop is at least two degrees warmer than the opposite end only a few hundred yards north (according to my hypothalamus!).

There was a chilling 1961 Twilight Zone episode in which the world is literally melting from an irreversible orbital shift that draws our planet ever closer to the sun. Those New Yorkers who aren’t frying eggs on the sidewalk are fleeing to Canada, and looters are on the prowl searching for cool water, but there’s no stopping the doomsday broil. The thermometer reads 110 degrees and I’m thinking that doesn’t sound too bad.

But then we discover that Rod Serling flipped the script – the frantic lady at the center of the story seen sweating up her tenement apartment is actually having a fevered dream because the earth is in fact tilting away from the sun – there’s nothing anyone can do to stop the global freeze. Now, there’s a nightmare I can relate to!

Mr. Ripp, who lives on West 96th Street, runs a press relations firm.


Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply