27 Below 0°F; 45 Below 0°F Wind Chill

Ever been out in near 50 below temperature? I recommend it.

Since I am in Winnipeg to speak at a CFA conference today, and I had to eat lunch anyway, I thought — what the hell — let’s see what it is like out there.

How often do you get to voluntarily go out in insane weather? As long as I am here, I was determined to experience life in the great white north.

I had told the steward on the flight in I was staying at the Delta, and he recommended a local place — Thida’s Thai Restaurant (one of 22 Thai restaurants in town). The concierge said it was less than 10 minutes walk away.

I wore jeans, very thick Timberland socks, Merrill shoes, a turtleneck, over which went an insulated Spyder sweater, then my Descente ski coat (I am not name dropping, if you ski you know the insulating qualities of these articles). That was followed with scarf, than a full turtle (to cover my mouth and nose) then a fleece earband. No long johns, no hat.

The restaurant was 3 blocks away — about as far as my office on 44th & 5th is from a food truck that parks on 46th & 6th.

I asked the desk clerk the temp, and he said “right now its 27 Below 0°F; 45 Below 0°F with the wind chill.

I set out for my 10 minute adventure.

It was cold, but I felt protected . . . for the first 20 seconds or so. You quickly realize that it is damned cold out.

I was heading SouthWest, and despite it being 12:30pm, the sun was low in the sky, casting very long shadows.

After about 2 minutes I felt my eyes kinda freeze close — batting my eyelashes  untangled whatever ice had accumulated. The inner part of my nostrils and nasal passage also felt frozen — pulling up the turtle so my mouth and nose were covered helped a lot.

This is one of the only cities I have ever visited where people walk as fast as they do in New York City. Everyone was hustling: Jogging, trotting or fast walking to where they had to be. No one was lollygagging down the street.

I approached what looked like my destination — only it was an Indian buffet joint. I looked up and down the street, didn’t see any other restaurants. Hey, maybe its set back from the road. I turned west and kept going.

I stopped to wait for a light — big mistake — the wind kicked up and my legs and head felt naked. (Mental note: Do whatever you have to do to not have to wait for a light up here). Your head begins to pound like you have a headache — brain freeze! — from the cold.

The light changed, and I hustled across the street. Still no Thai restaurant in sight. Its funny, when you don’t know where your destination is, time takes on a weird perspective. I could not tell you how long I was out, or how much further I had to go.

I felt the early sensation of panic. Damn, it was cold out here. I was pretty objective about my emotional state (Is that sensation actual panic rising? I do believe it is!). Never hurts to ask for help, so I duck into a tailoring shop to request direction. “Down the street” she says in broken English.

The 30 seconds indoors rejuvenated me. I head out down a block, and set back from the street is a little Thai joint. The food was not bad, but did that really matter? IT WAS INDOORS.

Warmed by my repast, I gird myself for the long trip back. Only this time, I use the timer on the iPhone to see how long I am out in this almost 50 below with the wind chill environment — 10 minutes? 15?

Fully dressed, ready for bear, I head out.

Its so cold, the snow does not even crunch under your feet — its solid like white cement. I walk by a public lot, where many of the cars parked outdoors were also plugged into electrical outlets, keeping their engine blocks warm.

I begin to think about the people who went to Alaska or the South Pole a 100 years ago. How impossible was that? I remember reading about what you need to do to stay alive if you fall through the ice in sub zero temperatures. If you had paraffin coated matches (they stay dry) and some flint and dry kindling, and keep your wits, you stay alive. Most often, you died. If you were really smart, you would not find yourself within 1000 miles of anywhere those things mattered.

No wonder the Germans lost to the Russians on the Eastern front.

The wind slices through my pants, I feel the front of my thighs chapping in real time. The top of my head hurts, as does the little exposed skin between my hairline and forehead muff.

It is brutal out.

I try to stay on the sunny side of the street, but the shadows are now even longer than before. The sun is behind me, and I make a dash across the street just before the light changes — no way am I waiting there again. A quick left then a right and a short block to the corner, then another left — there is the hotel.

In through the goddamned automated revolving doors — they are too slow! — I pull off my glove and hit the stop button on the stopwatch.



A lesson in perspective, to say the least. Yes, I am a giant pussy. I wrote a lost in the tundra short story for a mere 5:09. I would have guessed at least 10 minutes, maybe more.

If you ever have a chance to be outside in utterly insane conditions for a mere 309 seconds, I strongly suggest you give it a shot.


UPDATE: January 24, 2013 1:45pm

Today is Regina, Saskatchewan — only its 17 degrees below 0°F, not quite as windy, but the walk is somewhat further, and the lunch is Vietnamese. Oh, and I have a hat today — which makes a big difference.

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