It may be heresy for someone who has lived in this town for more than two decades, but if I had to choose between Minneapolis's cryogenic winter and Washington's summer sauna, I'd take the shivers over the shvitz any time.
You always can put on more layers if you're cold. But if you're hot, once you're naked, there's not much more you can do. And most of us can't go to work that way.
As I wilt in Washington, I have wistful memories of being in the Twin Cities when it was minus-37 degrees Fahrenheit. I don't know if that included the wind chill.
At the hotel where I was staying, the parking lot was so close to the lobby entrance that after bundling up, I was able to start the car, return to the lobby and not worry about the car being stolen while it was being warmed up (this was Minneapolis after all, not Manhattan).
When we drove downtown and parked in a public lot, we were less than 20 yards away from a heated walkway, which led to a building within a web of structures connected by sky walks. We could walk, eat and shop for hours without going outside. And places such as the Mall of America allow people to shop and go on a roller coaster or water slide without ever stepping outside. Minneapolis gets the small things right too. At a bat mitzvah we attended, for example, guests were given polar-fleece yarmulkes.
How does the District cope with its own temperature trauma? Two letters: AC.
We live in air-conditioned homes, work in air-conditioned offices, drive air-conditioned cars and eat in air-conditioned restaurants. But at some point, skin must make contact with outdoor air, and thwack, you're dead meat. Where else does a person need to take a shower after taking a shower?
The fundamental problem in this city is the AC. It's the bane of Washington existence, not its salvation. AC deludes us into thinking that this place is habitable in the hot weather.
In the old days, when everyone got out of town for the summer, both the residents and the nation were better off. The residents were more comfortable, and the government had less time for mischief.
I confess that I was once a throwback to those pre-air-conditioned days. When my car's air conditioner conked out in the '80s, I became one of the District's first "aggressive drivers." I would dart from side to side during my commute down 17th Street so that I would be in the shade at stoplights.
I got so used to my heated situation that I bought a new car without air conditioning. But my future mother-in-law had a 2-degree temperature comfort zone, and when we were looking for a suitable site for the wedding one August, she nearly fainted from the heat several times. I caved in and bought an air-conditioning unit for the car. Something wasn't connected properly, though, and when winter came, the heater didn't work. That prompted my mother-in-law to complain she was freezing. There was no pleasing that woman.
For better or worse, my strong ties to Washington after all these years mean I won't be moving to Minneapolis. But I wouldn't mind spending more of my summers out of the city.
During next year's election, most of the politicians will be sure to get out of town. Maybe they should do it every year. Going back to the days of old could be, well, really cool.
-- Stan Crock