I live in Portland, Ore., which is actually farther north than Chicago. In fact, it’s farther north than Toronto—and even than Montreal (though by only a mile or two). But because Portland’s climate is softened by the Pacific Ocean, we get snowstorms once or maybe twice a year, making it a novelty. So when I was in Chicago last week (part I; part II) I found the snowstorm and cold spell somewhat exciting, in the way of a tourist safely ensconced in a hotel room.
On day two it got cold. When I left the hotel the next day, the temperature had dropped into the “bitter” range, and the story on the street had changed. Though Michigan Ave. still had a lot of pedestrians, the cold-weenies like me hoofed it with purpose, instead of dawdling and window-shopping.
Signs also appeared on the sidewalks in front of high-rises: Beware of Falling Ice.
The odds were stacking up against a life of ease: it was bitterly cold; the streets were slick; snow was still blowing; and, if the prospect of freezing, falling to the pavement or getting snow in your eyes weren’t enough, you could got smacked by falling icicles.
Winter: It’s not for sissies.
My hotel was a big box, with the eastern side all glass … much of it single-pane. That meant that if I opened the drapes, I immediately felt the draft. The second night I went out and bought goodies at Trader Joe’s, including a bottle of white wine. I cooled it in my ice bucket at first. Then I realized the huge single-pane windows were great for keeping my bottle of wine cold: I just placed it against the aluminum frame and glass.
The windows were such a bad layer of insulation, there was a sign next to the thermostat that read, “At certain times of year, you may not be able to achieve a comfortable temperature.”
I should have taken a picture of that sign. I’m sure it applies to the city of Chicago as much as my room.