**This was originally published on Thursday, October 25, 2012, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**
Sometimes you feel as lonely as a salmon in Belews Lake. You think you’re the only one who feels the way you do. You wonder if perhaps you are an oddball—a square peg trying to fit into a round-holed world.
Then something happens to prove you are not alone. Yes, you may be in the minority, but rejoice—there are others like you!
For example, I once thought I must be really weird to always reach past the first few slices of bread in the bag to get some middle pieces for my sandwich. When I confessed my idiosyncrasy on Facebook, numbers of folks chimed in excitedly that they did the same thing and had thought they were the only ones.
In my relatively new mode of admitting potentially embarrassing things (I don’t care as much what people think as I get older), I decided a couple of weeks ago to confess another oddity of my existence. I told my friends on Facebook that I find it challenging to see how long I can wait to turn on my heat in the autumn. (Mind you, I typed that post with hands that felt like ice on a colder-than-normal October morning!)
I like to tell myself that it’s because I am thrifty, but I wonder if it doesn’t go deeper than that. Perhaps it is indeed the challenge of the ordeal which makes me freeze for a while before turning that dial from AC to heat. (Disclaimer: I do not torture my children with the cold. They use a portable quartz infrared heater and stay cozy.)
I imagine that some of you are nodding right now or grinning as you think, “So it’s not just me!” No, I found out from Facebook comments that we are part of a large company.
My hubster—a thrifty, somewhat oddball soul like me—was the first to chime in. He said, “Let’s see if we can make it until November.”
Before long, a friend agreed, “We are covered to our eyeballs but no heat till November.” My cousin’s wife said she was determined not to turn on her heat just yet. A friend much farther north commented that she picks a specific time to turn on her heat and tries to stick to it. It might mean wearing socks to bed or throwing on another blanket, but doggone it, we’re going to hold out!
Three different friends told me it was “the principle of the thing,” leaving me to ponder just what the principle is. I have some ideas. Bear with me as I psychoanalyze you heat-postponers.
For some of us, like Angela, it’s a matter of conserving fossil fuels—a worthy principle indeed. If we all held out a little longer turning on the heat (or AC in the spring), we would save huge amounts of the fossil fuels we don’t want to use up.
Another principle also involves conservation—of our money! Don’t you love the lower power bills that come in spring and fall? There were times in my past that money was so tight it might mean buying fewer groceries if we ran the heat any more than was absolutely necessary. Even now with better financial conditions, my decision to once more be a stay-at-home mom means we must be very thrifty.
My daddy clings to yet another principle—that it’s a matter of building toughness of character. This is the man who would, in fun, make me bear him tickling my foot when I was a kid—telling me to set my mind that I could take it, that it would make me tough. It worked, and I’m grateful. Try tickling my foot; I won’t budge.
You say, “How silly.” No, not really. Such principles in seemingly “silly” things carry over into more important things. That “I can take it” stamina that Daddy helped build into my character propelled me through the births of my last three children with no medicine at all—a healthier situation for all involved.
It has helped me be able to go for 18 years (this coming December) without taking a pain reliever—yes, not even one Tylenol or Advil. This has to be good for my liver and overall health. America has become such a nation of convenience that we self-medicate at the merest hint of pain.
Daddy preaches that we have become a country of spoiled people who “can’t take it anymore.” He tells me how people on the old paths used to function just fine without AC. Now we virtually melt without it. It’s a matter of how we condition ourselves.
Some of my Facebook friends agree. A pastor friend of mine commented that she hasn’t used the heat yet either and tells her family that their bodies just need to make the adjustment to cold weather. My pal Jill believes the first cold spell “hits you the most, like a jolt, then your body starts adjusting.”
Conservation of fossil fuels, money savings, character training—have I named the principle that describes why YOU don’t run the heat until the last minute? (Yes, I know there are many of you like Tonya who says she doesn’t want to be uncomfortable in her own home or Chris who declares she isn’t interested in freezing to death! But bear with me as I address my minority group.)
I believe there is another principle at work here—the need to prove our toughness, not to be bested by the elements. This rationale is similar to my daddy’s principle of building character but is perhaps rooted more in pride. Yes, it was possibly my stubborn pride which made me suffer in a house where the thermostat has registered as low as 54 degrees several mornings recently.
This is the principle that comes into play when we turn the issue into a contest. Angela has a friend in Colorado who takes part in a delay-of-heat contest called “Freeze Your Buns OFF.” Holly tells how she and her boyfriend would have a competition “to see who could go the longest without turning on the heat.” (Once she won because she went to his house and turned on the heat. Talk about fierce competition!)
Whatever the reason, many of us in Stokes County have been uncomfortable here in mid-October as autumn hit us with the first cold temperatures of the season. And although warmer weather may resurface, don’t be fooled into thinking it will last.
Either bring out the flannel sheets, fuzzy socks and fleece hoodies and grit your teeth a little longer or turn that heat on! It’s a long time ‘til spring. . .