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It is Cold

The trucks around me had their engines running – with nobody inside of them. I had parked outside of the local store where we usually do our shopping. I was dashing in for a moment to collect some necessary essentials:  soup for supper (because it is cold); and ice cream for supper (because cold ice cream on a cold day is perfectly logical); and chocolate (because).

Before getting out of the vehicle I checked the thermometer, which read -8 Fahrenheit with windchill of -15F (-22 Celsius with a windchill of -26C). Basically it is cold. Minus cold. I have been cold for weeks already, but the citizens of South Dakota have assured me that it is not yet cold. Today they grudgingly admitted that it is cold – “but it could be worse”!

So I put on my gloves, and my beanie, and my coat and gingerly duckwalked across the ice in the car park to the door of the store. It slid open to admit me to a centrally warmed inner sanctum, where I took off my coat, and my beanie and my gloves and placed them in the trolly (in the USA it is called a shopping cart). And I whisked around the isles getting the stuff I didn’t need as well as the one thing Jenny had sent me to get – soup. I am amongst the very few who wear a mask, because despite the spike in the Omicron variant of the Corona Virus, South Dakotans do not believe that there is anything more to worry about. A friend in the local hospital tells how people are denying that they have the virus even while they are being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

I passed swiftly through the self-checkout. There is a dire shortage of workers right now, so the number of self-checkout tills have increased. I then dressed for the voyage to my vehicle – coat, beanie, gloves – and gingerly navigated my route to where I have parked. Oh Yes, the trucks: they were still running. Because if you are wanting to get into a warm vehicle, you leave it running while you do your shopping. ”.  I threaded my way through idling, unattended vehicles, emitting puffs of vapour from their exhausts into the very frozen air, and found my (non-running) vehicle.

Yes I know that my South African friends are shaking their heads in disbelief. I did too when we first arrived. But I have got used to the idea. You can either leave the vehicle running, or alternatively you can start your vehicle remotely while you check out at the till. Recently I saw a report in the local newspaper, when someone indignantly commented about his vehicle being stolen while he was shopping: “I left it running and someone stole it”.  Imagine the cheek of it?!  In South Africa we would describe leaving an unattended idling vehicle as equivalent to placing a sign on the roof of the vehicle that says “Help yourself”. That vehicle would vanish within five minutes.

This morning the temperature was -15 Fahrenheit, with a windchill of -36F. It warms up by thirty degrees tomorrow to a toasty 14 F (which is -10C). I will be less cold tomorrow.

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“To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936)