As I hail from Buffalo, I have the winter drill down to a system. I start by dressing normally, then I add a second pair of socks. Next, I wrap one of my pashmina scarves around my neck (they work really well at blocking wind as opposed to regular scarves) and put my jacket on. I slip my boots on, tuck the pants into them and add my gloves and hat for the finishing touches.
It seems simple enough, but there have been many days back home where I learned the hard way that one pair of socks wasn’t enough when trudging through the three feet of snow that accumulated in the eight hours you were asleep. True, that doesn’t happen as often in Erie, but at times, it can be just as windy, icy and cold as Buffalo.
And it’s not just for walking, either. If your car or other mode of transportation gets stranded in a blizzard, you may have no choice but to walk five miles in it to get home, because you know that the snowplows aren’t reaching those side streets until well into the next day. Yes, I have been there. It’s not fun. Just this past winter when I was home, what is normally a 20-minute commute from work turned into two and a half hours. Luckily, I have four wheel drive, but even that was challenged. It was a whiteout, -30 degree temperatures and there was a travel ban implemented after I had already left to go home. The icing on the cake was that there was a huge power outage as well. Lucky me, right?
However, when I exited my car to dig my tires out of winter’s fury for literally the eighth time, I was happy I decided to look like a goofball in my multitudinous layers and hideous yet warm winter coat and boots.
You know little Randy from “A Christmas Story?” Do you remember the hilarious red snowsuit and mountainous layers of scarves? Yeah, my mother did that to me and my sisters every winter. In her defense, winter is treacherous. But at what point does practicality cross lines with fashion? Should there be a line? I prefer to look like a dingus and be warm rather than look like some cool cat who, deep down inside, is screaming at how cold they are.
This was greatly challenged and illustrated when I was on the bus to school in first grade. It was dark and there were blustering winds. Looking out the window, you could maybe see 10 feet ahead of the bus. I was happily dozing off when we crashed head-on into a snow plow. We had to sit there in the bus for quite some time. Yes, the bus’ heat was on, but heat in vehicles doesn’t work as vigorously when the vehicle isn’t moving. So as I sat toasty and warm in my purple Stay Puft Marshmallow Man coat, others around me were shivering inside their trendy little fashion coats. I admit I never followed high fashion. Just look at any picture of me pre-sixth grade. I rocked a bowl cut for too many years.
With the last winter we had in Erie, harboring -40 degree wind chills and enough ice to turn the city into the world’s largest ice rink, when do you draw the line and pull out the clunky space boots that keep your feet warmer than those little fashion boots from Macy’s? Some people will always choose fashion over practicality. That’s just the way it is. But you need to keep your safety and well-being at the forefront of your concerns.
Good Erie winter wear is cool, so to speak. It may not be pretty, but it keeps you from being cool and freezing your fingertips off. Make sure your boots are waterproofed and that they have a decent amount of insulation. Use layers under your coat! I usually buy a coat size larger than I need so I can stuff myself along with up to two sweaters underneath. Learn how to wrap a scarf the right way so it’s tight and keeps snow out and so you can pull it over your mouth and nose.
Let your parents’ nagging voices enter your brain as you get ready. I can always envision my mother shouting, “Bundle up!” at me as I get ready to leave for classes. Don’t sacrifice your health to look like some tough cookie out in the snow. After all, you’ll look a lot less tough in a hospital gown being treated for hypothermia.