In The Rhinorrhea Zone

This winter I’ve been experiencing rhinorrhea pretty much on a daily basis.  In fact, I’m hit by a bout of rhinorrhea whenever I go outside for a walk on a cold day.

img_8058No surprise there — rhinorrhea is the high-falutin’ medical term for a runny nose, from the Greek word for nose.  (That’s why plastic surgery on the nose is called rhinoplasty, incidentally, and it’s got nothing to do with comparing the size of the schnoz being operated on to the horn of rhinoceros.)   My daily dose of rhinorrhea therefore isn’t a cause for alarm, it’s just an annoyance.

I begin my walk in the bracing cold, take some deep breaths of the crisp, clear air, and about halfway into my stroll my nose has turned into a roaring mucus machine and I’m leaking fluid like a sieve, leaving me to either sniffle it back down or remove the glove for a quick wipe-off with a tissue.  But it’s just a temporary fix, because inevitably the sputum production ramps up again for however long I’m outside, making the Kleenex box my first stop after I get home.

Why do our noses run during the winter, even if we don’t have a cold?  The medical websites will tell you that it’s just our noses working overtime at doing their jobs of warming and humidifying the cold, dry air we’re breathing.  The nasal membranes produce more mucus and fluid in the winter to protect our delicate lung tissues from the frigid air onslaught.

So congratulations!  That irksome runny nose means you’re perfectly fine and your body and its defense mechanisms are working as millennia of evolution intended.  Just be sure to keep an endless supply of nasal tissue on hand for the winter, because you’re going to need it.

Advertisements

Deploying The Mad Bomber

The weather app on my iPhone cautions that it’s 2 degrees Fahrenheit outside, on its way down to a low temperature below zero.  There’s a brisk 14 miles per hour wind blowing steadily from the west that, combined with the temperature, has created a wind chill factor of minus 16 degrees.  And the National Weather Service has issued a warning that the extreme cold and wind could produce wind chills as low as 40 below zero, which could cause exposed skin to experience frostbite in as little as 10 minutes.

That kind of scary cold is an assault on all that’s holy and everything warm and pleasant in the world.  But nevertheless, in a few minutes, I’ve got to take an exuberant, cold-loving dog out to do her business.  What to do?

Alert the armed forces!  It’s time to deploy the Mad Bomber!

The Mad Bomber is easily the warmest hat in the house.  In fact, it’s easily the warmest hat in any house.  Made in China, it features a nylon shell, natural rabbit fur trim and interior lining. It even has a little clasp that allows you to lock the hat around your chin, the better to protect those delicate, flabby neck wattles by swathing them securely in fur.  When you don the hat, your encased head immediately begins sweating.

Of course, it’s not a stylish piece of headwear, as a bit of doggerel I composed some years ago acknowledges.  The Mad Bomber belongs on the head of a rustic villager trudging across the windswept Siberian tundra, or perhaps your high school janitor out salting the teacher’s parking lot on the coldest day of the year.  But then, no one turns to the Mad Bomber for style.  It’s deployment is purely a defense mechanism, designed to give humans a chance at surviving the most brutal temperatures and crippling cold.

Brace yourselves, Columbusites — it’s Mad Bomber time!

On The Shores Of Lake Schiller

Thanks to the melting of the snow we got over the weekend, followed by the persistent rains that fell more recently, Schiller Park had become Lake Schiller this morning, with many of the pathways completely flooded.  The whole area had a certain ghostly beauty under the light fixtures, with the watery areas just beginning to freeze as the temperature dropped.

I imagine the Columbus water reservoirs are full to bursting, given the amount of precipitation we’ve received already this winter.  If California wants to bring an end to its long-standing drought, I’m sure the water-logged states of the Midwest would be happy to work out a trade in which our excess water is swapped for the Golden State’s excess sunshine.

Fear Of “Running Out”

Lately we’ve been exposed to lots of curious storm-related behavior.  Among the more interesting phenomena are the phobias that seem to be triggered by the approach of a significant storm.  You’ve got people who worry compulsively about how snow is going to affect their lives, and many of them decide the appropriate, rational response is . . . to head to the store and buy toilet paper.

Lots and lots of toilet paper, in fact.  When I walked past the Giant Eagle in our neighborhood in advance of one of this winter’s storms, I saw multiple worried people trotting out of the store to their cars, clutching huge, 24-roll packs of bathroom tissue.  At that post-purchase moment, with the toilet paper safely in hand, they undoubtedly felt an enormous surge of relief knowing that, even if the storm was a historic disaster that left them snowbound for days or even weeks and every member of their extended families decided to visit at just that moment, they would have enough toilet paper in the home to take care of business.  In short, they wouldn’t “run out.”  And they weren’t alone, either.  The rush to buy toilet paper in advance of a snowstorm has been the subject of some reporting; traditionally, toilet paper, milk, and bread are the panic buying items of choice.  With the increasing popularity of low-carb diets, I’m guessing that TP has now moved past milk and bread to occupy the number one snow-buying slot.

Oddly, there appears to be no official name for the psychological condition that causes otherwise rational people to rush to the store to lay in enormous supplies of toilet paper when storms are near.  Perhaps we can call it Cottonellophobia, which sounds like something you could find in the DSM-VI.  Nevertheless, the toilet paper effect is so pronounced I’ve got to believe it influences grocery stores supply decisions and sales figures for companies that produce Scotts and Charmin.  If Mr. Whipple were still alive, he would be squeezing his brains out during the winter months.

 

Winter Samaritans

Winter is not the Midwest’s finest season.  It’s bleak, and sloppy, and often bitterly cold.  It’s the primary reason so many “snowbirds” head south to Florida for the winter.

But if winter in the Midwest has one redeeming quality, it’s this:  it tends to bring out the best in people.  The snow and polar temperatures seem to be linked to neighborly qualities that aren’t quite so evident during the rest of the year.  In the spring and summer neighbors might pass by with just a wave, but during the winter you’ll probably get into a friendly conversation with the people down the street as you’re cleaning the snow off your car and scraping the ice off the windows, and as likely as not you’ll go down and lend them a hand as they are working on their cars, too.

You’ll see people helping complete strangers rock their cars out of the snowdrifts on icy mornings, or shoveling their elderly neighbor’s sidewalk, just because it’s the right thing to do.  I took the photo that appears with this post yesterday, on the morning after a storm that dumped about six inches of snow and ice on Columbus.  That trail of cleared-off sidewalk was accomplished by the single, bundled up guy with a snowblower you can just see in the distance; he’d worked diligently to create a walkway for his entire block.  I suppose it’s possible he was being paid for the job, but somehow I doubt it — it was too early in the morning, and the idea that all of the neighbors got together to hire someone so quickly seems unlikely.  The much more plausible explanation, and the one that’s consistent with my experience, is that he got out with his snowblower, took care of his own property, and just thought that as long as he was out there in the cold he might as well do something nice for his neighbors.

The Winter Samaritans of the Midwest help to make a brutal season a bit more tolerable.