C’est Froid! Vraiment! 15/12/2009Posted by brendan in La Vie en Paris.
Tags: france, freezing, paris, winter
It’s the middle of the afternoon and we’re enjoying a high of 0º. Actually it’s slightly below freezing, 30º to Americans, but this fraction is not taken into account by the celsius scale. This is as warm as it’s likely to get all week, with nighttime temperatures in the sub-zero range and snow expected Saturday.
While I’m no sun-soaked California stereotype I’m still not accustomed to extreme temperatures. Gloves have been added to my arsenal of outdoor protection and thermals have been unearthed from the closet. A little cloud of steam follows me as I storm down the street trying to keep my muscles from contracting. Our neighbors think I’m insane as they pass me, hugging my coffee cup on the front stoop, in the morning. I gave a homeless guy and his dog fifty cents yesterday– he could hardly keep his voice steady enough to thank me. I’ve been considering the scarf.
There’s something called Le Plan Grand Froid which requires regions to provide housing and additional medical care to the homeless during freezes. A worthy state obligation, but the plan doesn’t kick in until temperatures drop below -5º overnight and stay below zero during the day. Last night I stood shivering at Marcadet-Poissonniers waiting for Beth to return home. The inside of my nose and roof of my mouth grew numb from breathing and it couldn’t have been below -2º. A French medical advocacy group states that approximately 6,000 homeless or marginally housed people died from cold last winter.
My body is having difficulty with the adjustment. A couple nights ago I was out and about wearing top and bottom thermals. After walking the streets I went to a show which was packed tight and stifling, requiring the removal of all but my t-shirt. Back into the night, back on with the layers, then ditched my coat when we stopped for drinks. Back on with the coat, onto the overheated Métro, then back into the streets to walk home. When I was safely inside my body was suddenly racked by hot and cold flashes, nausea and disorientation.
My empirical evidence is faulty as I had essentially operated on coffee, tea and a couple beers throughout the afternoon and evening. Once the insta-flu left me I ate dinner and went to sleep, feeling fine the next morning. However, I often operate on coffee and tea for most of a day without such jarring consequences.
I want to adapt, knowing that the weather now will be the weather until Spring. Frequent walks are taken, day and night. I refuse to turn on the heater. So far I have only worn thermal pants once when I knew I would be out for several hours. I try to ignore the pain in my fingers for as long as possible before flipping the mitten tops over my gloves. I still have not worn a scarf.