Sunday, February 12, 2012

outdoor speed skating

Keizersrace photo source 

Winter and I aren't friendly.  We never were.  It's a mutual destain.  I hate it and it obviously hates me, which leads me to hate it all the more, as vicious a cycle as that is.

Funny thing though, when sub-freezing temperatures appear, the Dutch start smiling.  Yes, smiling.  During a time when I fear I will have to chop off my extremities due to frostbite, they're happy. While I'm cursing the heavens for cursing me with bitter cold air, they're acting like it's no big deal.  As I suffer in a house that won't get any warmer than 63 degrees no matter what I do, teenage kids are biking to school in 9 degree temperatures without a hat on. Which, actually, makes me want to slap them upside the head. Who cares if I used to be one of them.  (In Wisconsin, as a kid. I wanted earmuffs. Instead my parents got me a boy's navy blue knit hat which my grandma adorned with three small back-stitched flowers on the front to feminize it. But, flowers or no flowers, I was NOT going to suffer the humiliation that would ensue with that thing on my head. ...I've smartened up since then, OK?)

Sometimes I get so bundled up outside, with my Nepalese hat and convertible mittens, long coat and thick heavy-duty scarf, that I'm sure I look like a homeless person. Add a few re-usable bags full of groceries in my hands and people start smiling at me in pity.  I bet if I'd pick a spot to sit down, those same people would give me money. But it's too cold to sit.  So I'll never really know.

The kicker is when I complain about the cold, it invariably leads to this overly excited response: "but Claire, just think! We might actually have the elfstedentocht this year!"*  I wish you could see the expression on their faces as they relate the possibility.  It makes me want to plaster a cheesy grin on my face and in mock excitement exclaim: "what joy!" But I don't.  Instead I respond in a gloomy, monotone voice that I have perfected in the 31 winters I've experienced in my life, "then why don't the freezing temperatures stay localized up north, while we have the decent, mild winter temperatures I deserve?"

If, like every year since 1997, the elfstedentocht is called off, my complaints of the cold will get a different response: agreement.  But unlike years past, this year a new rumor went flying around once news of a no-go elfstedentocht was announced, the Keizersrace was on.  Excitement started spreading.  Everyone who was anyone was going to show up on Saturday night at the Keizersgracht to watch the race that hadn't occurred in 15 years.

I had every intention of going, especially since the speed skating race was on a canal close to home.  But then I stepped outside during the day of the race to do some shopping and my toes froze. My nose got red. I began daydreaming about my 63 degree house. And when the time came for the races to begin, I couldn't bring myself to leave the confines of my home, no matter how great an experience it would have been to see it in person. Instead I watched the first ten minutes of it online... since that is as long as I would have watched it had I been there.

So go ahead, call me a wimp if you'd like.  It's a title I'm willing to live with.

Keizersrace photo source
*(The elfstedentocht, or eleven cities tour, is a 125 mile speed skating course held on a series of canals which connect between eleven cities in the northern provence of the Netherlands. It was last held in 1997, since the ice needs to be at least 6 inches thick throughout the entire course and it just hasn't been cold enough since then.  This is the first year that the elfstedentocht committee had gotten together and discussed the possibility, and teams of ice measurement people were sent out to test the thickness of the canals. And no, I'm not discounting the awesomeness of the race. But please remember the mutual hatred winter and I have).

1 comment:

lenworth scully said...

You grew up in Wisconsin and you hate cold weather. Wow! I though I was the only one!