Flannery Correspondence

April 11, 2013

Being Cold

Being Cold

I hate being cold.  It’s my least favorite discomfort.  I guess I’m soft.  I can handle brief cold — like walking from a warm car to a warm building.

Far worse is when you must remain cold, working in the cold, sitting there miserable while trying to be productive.

In the summer, when it’s most natural to wear thin clothes and short sleeves, some big corporations (like my employer) turn up the air conditioning past cool, past chilly, to refrigerate:  People wearing sweaters shiver and gaze longingly out the conference room window where the real world is sunny and 89°F.  Keeps employees awake and alert, helps avoid the after-lunch sleepies.

In the winter, those same companies are cutting back on their heating expenses, as some cost saving exercise, perhaps to compensate for the summer’s AC bill, or perhaps only out of sheer sadism.  The only time it’s comfortable indoors is when the weather suddenly changes before the system can bring the big building back to uncomfortably nippy.

My nose gets cold.  My ears get cold.  Most of the time I’m not quite cold enough to shiver — but almost.  My fingers get so cold I can no longer type quickly.  My carpals are all tunneled and rusty.

When people describe cold weather as gnawing or biting, that’s right — a subtle, nagging, persistent bother.  I hate that.

I wear layers.  A tank top undershirt then a t-shirt then my proper long sleeve button down shirt.  When that doesn’t cut it, I wear a sweater.  Then a thick wool hat that looks absurd.

Being Hungry

Going hungry is much like being cold.  It’s a steady pester, bugging you subtly and regularly.  Scientists have linked the sensation of hunger to stomach contractions:  It’s trying to grind up food but finds only emptiness.  It makes you generally grouchy and mean.  People learn to avoid you.

Volunteering to be hungry is like volunteering not to warm up.  No coat for me, thanks.  The shivers come and go.  Life plods on, slower than usual.  You act slower, think slower, like you’re freezing.  You’re running out of fuel like a car coughing and stalling — then surging — then stalling.

I’m not starving.  I’m not totally out of fuel, just living on much less — maybe 1000 fewer calories than usual (say 60% of my norm).  The body adapts.  We are excellent at coping — biologically the body will endure as long as it doesn’t totally run out of fuel.  Your metabolism slows as your insides learn to live on less.

Hunger Chill

Here’s the best part:  When your metabolism slows down, you get colder.  It’s harder to stay warm (less fuel for your internal furnace).  Everything I hate about being cold and working while cold and being uncomfortable and being hungry all meet together in this experience.

I’m wearing long underwear all the time, besides my usual layers.  I pulled out the big, puffy, down-filled coat and I wear it around at work no matter how dumb it looks.  I drink tall mugs of hot water to try to bring my core temperature up.

I can start to imagine what it would be like to live hungry all the time — how steadily exhausting and annoying, how hopeless and helpless it would be.

That’s why I’m doing this [1] [2]:

  • To experience and inspire empathy with the hungry and
  • To make sure a few hundred thousand children can escape that hunger.


[1]  http://flann.co/100
[2]  https://flannco.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/quick-sponsor-…-i-wither-away/


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