Snow day!

Or rather a cold day. My university has decided to close today because of the frigid temperatures that are all across this part of the country. It actually is a bright sunny morning with the kind of clear blue sky that one gets in winter and is quite beautiful, with white snow covering everything and glistening in the morning light. As long as one is indoors looking out, it is gorgeous but deceptive. For anyone outdoors it is brutal. It is the clear skies overnight that allow for heat to radiate away more rapidly, resulting in early morning temperatures of -8oF and today’s daytime high will only reach 4oF.

The coldest day in history in Cleveland was Wednesday, January 19, 1994 when the early morning temperature reached a low of -20oF. I remember that day well for two reasons. At that time, the president of our university was a genial physicist. He was also an immigrant from Norway and he thought our winters were puny affairs compared to what he grew up with and he never closed the university for bad weather, ever. He made sure that all the walks were cleaned and the buildings heated and you were expected to show up.

I had to teach a 9:00 am physics class in a large auditorium and it so happened that it had an emergency exit that opened directly onto the fire escape. For some reason, that door would not shut properly, perhaps due to ice forming in the gap, and so an icy draft swept through the room throughout the entire time. I taught wearing my heavy jacket and the students sat huddled in their jackets taking notes. Looking back, I think we were crazy. The university should have closed but at that time all of us, including the students, took a kind of pride in our toughness, surviving the trek across the campus in bone-chilling winds to get to the lecture hall and then suffering through the lectures.

But that was not all. At home we had just got a new puppy, Copper. I had never had a dog before and was reluctant to do so but my daughters kept pleading with me to get one and of course I relented. He had arrived a couple of days earlier and so of course had to be house-trained which meant us being on the alert for any sign that he had to go and quickly whisking him outside on a leash. Since my daughters were too young to do this, the task fell on me and I recall going out multiple times with Copper on that bitterly cold night.

Of course, since Copper was a puppy, everything was a great and exciting new adventure and he would enjoy going out and frolicking in the cold dark night while I, shivering, tried to encourage him to finish up so that we could go back into the warm house. Oddly enough, that experience of going outside multiple times that night and freezing together bonded me to Copper and I became extremely attached to him. His eventual death was devastating to me and it took me nearly two years to get over it and get Baxter the Wonder Dog, the current ruler of our home.