The thermometer says minus 60, but it feels like minus 70

I like to look at the thermometer outside my kitchen window first thing in the morning. I could just listen to the radio or the TV, but I want to know what the temperature is outside my door, not their door. Why do they always tell us the temperature at the airport? Who lives at the airport? And why do they muddy everything up by saying “and with the wind it will feel like minus 2.” No, it won’t. Minus 2 feels like minus 2. And 10 above feels like 10 above. If the wind is blowing, that’s fine, but don’t try to tell me what it feels like.

“Oh,” the weather experts say, “that’s what it feels like on bare skin.” Well who is going outside in a bikini when it’s 10 degrees outside? If you’re wearing a bathing suit in the middle of the winter, the low temperatures aren’t your biggest problem. Besides, everyone feels the temperature differently. Sue thinks minus 2 is T-shirt weather. I start wearing sweaters when it hits 63. We need a wind-chill index tacked onto the real temperature like Britney Spears needs another baby.

My growing preoccupation with the weather is a sign of age. Trust me, teenagers don’t care. Eighty-five or minus 20, they’re still going to the mall. Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night will keep them from the cell-phone kiosk. It’s getting so you can almost tell how old someone is by how much they talk about the weather, by how many hours a day they watch the Weather Channel. If it’s never, you’re under 30. If you just tune in for hurricanes and thunderstorms, you’re over 40. If it’s twice a day, every day, you’re over 50. If you watch it an hour a day, you’re over 60. If it’s more than two hours a day, you’re over 75. If you Tivo it when you leave the house, you’re over 90. And what are you doing with a Tivo at 90?

But I could no longer read the thermometers outside the kitchen window on dark winter mornings, so I bought a new one with bigger numerals and a large red needle that I can read from 10 feet away. But I’m going to get rid of it and go back to my old one.

The old thermometer went to minus 40 degrees. The new one goes down to minus 60. Minus 60? How many thermometers do they sell in places that reach minus 60? If you live in a place where you need to know if it’s minus 50-something and you’re not some kind of scientist taking observations, move. Just pack up and go. You have made a terrible mistake.

Every morning when I look at this thing and see minus 60 I tense up. Is there something the thermometer people know that I don’t? Or maybe the thermometer is made by the same people who make car speedometers. The one in my car goes up to 140 mph. My car has as much chance of going a 140 as it has of breaking the sound barrier. And exactly where would I do 140? On the way to the supermarket? I’m not even sure why they put any numbers on the speedometers. Instead of 5 mph, it should read “Bumper to bumper.” Forty could be “Construction next 5 miles” Eighty could be “Moving Violation.” As you drive you could watch the needle swing between “Rubbernecking” and “School Zone.”

Of course, we all know why they put 140 mph on the speedometers – so we think we’re buying a more powerful car than we are. Who hasn’t dreamed of putting the hammer down one day and pegging that needle?

But who dreams of waking up to minus 60 on the thermometer?

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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