"I'm having a heat wave," said Arthur Foulger. You could see his breath even though the cigar in his hand was not lit.
Foulger, construction foreman for Hutchinson Brothers on the site of the National Geographic, was wearing more clothes yesterday than he had ever worn before. In fact, it was too many. He steamed forth with the inventory from foot to head: buckle arctics (galoshes), insulated shoes, cotton socks, two pairs of insulated underwear, corduroy pants. Then: a corduroy shirt, a wool shirt, insulated vest, insulated shirt, quilt-lined hooded parka, fur-lined gloves and a hard hat and liner. And a long skinny cigar. "It's a must. It doesn't keep me warm but it keeps my nerves under control."
Most people outside yesterday seemed to have a good reason for being there. At lunch time, streets and stores were remarkably empty. You could have any chess table you wanted in Lafayette Park.
But Washington's record cold temperatures brought out record ingenuity for those who had to be out on the street. Vendor Charlene Barber, whose selection of leg warmers, mufflers, gloves and hats was fast being depleted by customers at the corner of Connecticut and K streets, was a model for her own wares. She had on two of almost everything she sells, plus thickly padded moon boots.
Leg warmers and gloves were the two best sellers yesterday, she said. "Someone is always leaving something at home." Even with all the extra gloves handy, what sometimes gets cold are the tips of her fingers -- "but never when they are full of money," she laughed as she sold a woman a woolly face mask for a child.
Matthew Marcus, riding his bicycle past the frozen fountain in front of the National Theatre, was wearing, for the first time, a nose warmer hand-knit in hand-spun wool by a friend. Only his eyes and lips were left uncovered as his body was warmly packaged in, among other things, a pair of wool bicycle shorts, fishnet underwear, regulation long johns, nylon warm-ups under sweat pants, and two pairs of gloves.
"Unfortunately, I recently trimmed my beard," said Marcus, whose beard and long hair were hardly visible under a bandanna and face-covering wool knit hat. In his backpack, Marcus, who works for Action Courier, had tucked an extra windbreaker. "That's in case it really gets cold," he said.