'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
WHY WEAR A COAT? ITíS ONLY BELOW ZERO
When I drive to work each morning, I pass a number of children waiting outside for the school bus. Here in the middle of January and February, I am amazed by the winter clothing owned by these kids. Specifically, I am amazed that the winter clothing owned by these kids still hangs in their bedroom closets while they stand outside freezing to death.
On a recent morning, the temperature was in the single digits. And with the wind chill factor, it felt like about a million degrees below zero. (Well, thatís what it felt like to me while I was scraping the ice off my windshield.)
Anyway, I drove by a group of kids waiting for the school bus, and the boys were wearing shorts and sneakers, and the girls were wearing skirts and short sleeve shirts. There were no boots, no hats, no gloves, no scarves, no coats, and no old 55-gallon drums with a makeshift bonfire burning insideósomething I surely would have lit if I had to stand outside for more than 30 seconds in that weather.
But the kids seemed oblivious. They were dressed exactly the same way they would be if it had been a sunny morning in mid-May. In fact, while looking at this group of kids, the only way I could tell it was not mid-May was the white steam billowing from their faces every time they exhaled. Another hint that it was not mid-May was when one of the boys burst out laughing at something that was said, and an unexpected bit of nasal discharge instantly turned into a frozen snot-sicle hanging from his nose. (Which, not surprisingly, produced an even greater burst of laughter from the entire group and multiple snot-sicles hanging from multiple noses.)
I asked my high school-aged daughter why kids nowadays refuse to get bundled up when itís cold outside. She explained to me that itís a social thing. Itís just not cool to show up at school wearing a winter coat, a ski hat, and boots. ďAlso,Ē she added, ďitís not really that cold outside anyway.Ē
Not cold outside?! I was about to check to see if my daughter was on drugs, but then I remembered back to when I was young, about a million years ago. (Well, it feels like itís been that long since I was a youth, especially when Iím scraping ice off my windshield and the wind chill factor is a million degrees below zero.)
Back when I was in high school and college, I didnít own a ski hat or a pair of gloves. I didnít have winter boots. I wore flimsy, canvas Converse All Star sneakers wherever I went, even when there was a foot of snow on the ground. If it was especially cold outside, I occasionally put on a hooded sweatshirt, but that was it. So I guess itís not so much that kids these days are nuts because they refuse to put on warm clothing in the dead of winter, itís just that young people donít seem to mind the cold all that much.
However, thatís not the point. The point is, now that Iím middle-aged, just seeing a youngster improperly dressed for the cold weather sends a chill down my spine. And I know Iím not the only person who reacts this way. Whenever my wife feels chilly, she automatically instructs our daughters to put on sweaters, regardless of their comfort level at that moment. It has become a running gag in our household. One daughter will say, ďGee, should I wear a sweater today?Ē And the other daughter will reply, ďOnly if Mom is cold!Ē
If all those kids waiting for the school bus each morning would have a little more respect for their elders, they would put on some of the winter clothing hanging in their bedroom closets. Not because they need it to stay warm, but because we need it to stay warm as we drive past in our cars.
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