Living and Breathing in Cold Arctic Air


The sting doesn’t hit right away.  Just standing in it usually isn’t enough.  Turn around however and you’ll feel it’s devastating blast.  Walking around in subzero temperatures is not an enjoyable experience and it always goes downhill seemingly in concert with the wind chill.  Today I believe it was minus forty degrees.  The regular temperature was only eight below.  I was outside for less than five minutes today, but my bones still hurt and my face is still recovering from the bombast of the wind I was exposed to today.  It didn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t be this way tomorrow.  Most schools have learned their lesson after trying to hold classes when it was clearly too cold to travel any great distance.  I had instructors tell me not to come to class because it wasn’t worth it.  You can always learn a little about who really cares about you when the weather gets bad.  Anyone who cares about you will make sure that you’re properly insulated.  Those who really care will try to make sure you don’t go out at all.  It wasn’t surprising that my school didn’t care about the health and well-being of its students.  I don’t know what they get for keeping school open and exposing everyone to the elements, but it must be something pretty magnificent because you didn’t have to travel far to hear the cursing among students in the hallway.

The school in Palmyra that I drive by on my way to school was closed.  There was a total of twelve cars on the road on my way to school and there were so few cars on the road as I headed home that I didn’t bother keeping track.  It irritated me the whole day that the school would remain open when basic transportation nearly made me sick.  Why put people through the hassle and what are you going to gain by keeping the school open?  It’s not just the students that are impacted but the teachers as well.  Many of my teachers have kids and their schools didn’t have classes today so guess where their kids wound up?  In our classrooms.  Today became a default take your child to work day because there’s no way these folks are going to be able to afford a sitter, not on a teacher’s salary nor should they have to do so to begin with.  It’s a sad image to behold.  I saw lots of kids at school today.  These weren’t kids that went to our school, but kids of the teachers that taught at my school.  Many were between five and ten.  They couldn’t stay home alone.  What option did the teachers have?  Another problem is that many students have kids too.  Whitewater is a commuter college.  We have many non-traditional students.  What are they supposed to do?  In most classes you’re allotted one or two absences per semester so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to waste one on a day when it’s too cold when faced with the reality that there will come a day when we’ll get a foot of snow and the school will, in it’s infinite wisdom still keep it’s doors open.

It’s a miserable situation.  The migraine headache I’ve had since I left this morning is still with me.  I don’t think we notice a lot of the short term problems that the cold gives us because we’re so used to it, but in many respects just getting the car started a miracle in itself.  We’re students.  We have enough stuff to worry about.  Whether or not we can make it to school on a day where the temperature will not reach above zero is not something we should have to worry about.  When I look at situations like this I always about what is gained by taking an extreme position.  Let’s say you approach life with an abundance of caution.  What’s the worst that’s going to happen to you?  You’ll miss some opportunities I’m sure, but you’ll probably live longer.  Let’s say you are a reckless risk-taker and think that school and businesses should be open regardless of weather conditions.  What does that get you?  Is there a Scrooge factor?  Do you get bonus points for making people suffer?  It seems a bit cruel to force people to battle the elements when they already have so much to battle to begin with.  People are going to get sick as a result of the schools decision to stay open.  Worse, kids are going to get sick and exposed to elements that their schools had the wisdom to try and keep them away from.  Walking from building to building I noticed that people kept running into each other.  It’s a bizarre thing to watch, especially because so many students wisely stayed home.  I wondered why this was happening though.  Why were so many students running into each other outside?  The answer was relatively simple once I started walking to my car at the end of the day: everyone has their head down.

You know it’s cold when you can’t even get your head up long enough to avoid running into someone.  I felt bad for the students who didn’t have scarves.  That wind is blowing hard and the wind chill is piercing.  Any contact that it makes with your skin is going to hurt.  The whole thing is just so ridiculous.  It boils down to what you value more: one day of education or overall health and well-being.  It’s not surprising that someone would choose one day of school as more valuable, what’s surprising is that they keep telling us to stay warm.  It would be a lot easier to stay warm if we stayed home.  Given the situation that would be the best answer for all involved.  When I was walking from one of the administrative buildings I couldn’t help but notice all the space heaters that were running inside.  I thought about that as I walked to my next class.  Even the people who were making these decisions were freezing.  Why on Earth would you think that this is a good idea?

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