Around the Island

The big chill: Stupid cold at southernmost tip

OMG! Enough already.

Every time I go out into the frigid air my nose runs, my fingers turn blue and my toes freeze. Just like everyone else on Shelter Island, right? Oh, sure, except for one thing — I am not on Shelter Island, okay? I am in Key West, where it’s supposed to be not just hot, but tropical heat-wave hot, sweaty hot, uncomfortable hot. At least, that’s the Key West I signed up for. But for nearly two weeks it’s been cold here. 

Actually, while I’ll admit that I’d like it to be just a little warmer, I wasn’t whining about the weather back in the beginning of what has turned into a prolonged cold spell. On the first day temperatures dipped into the low 60s some of the locals with their heat-thinned blood were hugging their shoulders and going “brrrrrr!“ but those of us who left behind 4-foot snow drifts and sub-freezing wind chills declared it pleasantly refreshing. 

Unfortunately, pleasantly refreshing is evolving into progressively colder and today, which would be cold-snap day number 10, I could see my breath. 

This is not a good trend.

It might be the Southernmost Point, but baby it’s cold outside! How cold is it? So cold that most of the snowbirds, even the ones from Fargo, North Dakota, are complaining and cold-stunned fish are flopping, belly up, on the beach — or vice versa.

The locals will tell you that bad things happen down here when the temperature dips. Iguanas go into shock and drop out of trees, but worse, snowbirds start recycling their bad jokes: “Where’s global warming when you need it?” Or “Well, if it’s cold out then put it back in.” 

And every snowbird offers some variation of “it’s so cold here I could have saved a fortune and just stayed home” to the locals who roll their eyes and must surely wonder, “so why didn’t ya’?” 

It’s bad enough that such unusually cold weather kills so much of the wildlife and hurts the businesses; what’s become obvious to me is that people who live in the Keys all the time aren’t prepared for prolonged frigid temperatures. And, please don’t quote me, but some of the locals have a wild sense of style when they put together a cold-weather outfit. 

Right now, as I write this, I am wearing flannel pajama bottoms and my Alaska sweatshirt over a tee shirt that says “Orange you glad you’re in Florida?” so I’m not claiming to be a fashionista or anything, but when was the last time you were served by a waitress wearing shorts, a halter top, knee-high Ugg boots, a furry Russian hat and gloves? She seemed genuinely puzzled when she licked her woolly finger but still couldn’t turn the page on her order pad. 

On cold day number four or five or seven I spotted a lot of women wearing long pants under their dresses, and two or three sweaters. I also saw girls wearing tights under their short-shorts, a guy with Hog’s Breath Saloon bar towels wrapped around his head like a turban and one woman who wore a short hooded sweatshirt and what she might have thought were tights, but are what we on Shelter Island would call pantyhose. As in underwear. I mean, I was 5 feet behind her and could read her day-of-the-week undies! I couldn’t decide what was worse, wearing nothing over pantyhose or Thursday’s undies on Sunday!

Speaking of Sunday, which was day number nine on the cold weather countdown, I watched as a cursing man fumbled with a pair of insulated socks. See, a lot of people here don’t know from socks. He was sitting on a bench just outside the door of a K-Mart, where just inside the door was a table piled high with wool hats, mittens and thick socks instead of the sunscreen that’s usually there. 

Anyhow, the guy struggled so much that I almost butted in to tell him that the socks are supposed go on the feet first, then the shoes, but he was so angry I decided to MMOB. Eventually, after much cursing and tugging he got the socks on — over his flip flops, which is probably how slipper socks were invented.

How cold is it here, really? The best description I’ve heard came from a local weatherman on the radio who answered that question using a technical, meteorological term: “It’s stupid cold.”