It is mid-October. I am sitting in my home office in Stonington. I’ve shooed Debbie out of my new space and she has her own office across the way. The indoor temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The outside temperature is 45. I am wearing a T-shirt (also correctly spelled tee shirt).
If I were writing this in DC, I would be wearing a tee shirt, a long-sleeved shirt and an open fleece vest. I am trying to toughen up. I am trying to assimilate.
It is not enough to suggest that locals are less sensitive to the cold than year rounders. It is more accurate to say that most locals are impervious to the cold. If the sun is out, the wind is less than ten knots and the absolute temp is above 40, then the locals are wearing tee shirts while working or running errands.
It is a common sight to see mothers in tank tops driving their kids to school with the windows open in temperatures that would drive me to a parka and a hat.
Even when locals are up before dawn and put on a jacket, when the sun comes up the jacket is discarded. If on the move, without a spot to discard the jacket, it is tied around the waist.
Proving you are tough
Why take off a layer of protection and leave only a tee shirt at 50 degrees? It cannot be because the jacket is uncomfortable. It cannot be because the wearer is overheated. I think it is done to prove they can, to prove they are tough.
It is clear that fishing ten months of the year will select out a breed of weather tolerant men and women. The water temperature in Penobscot Bay is frigid year round. The wind on the water with attendant sea spray is punishing. The rawness of the wind off the water is hard to describe.
Even workers on land strip down to less than their southern counterparts. Why bother with a jacket when a tee shirt will do? Work harder and warm up. Ignore the drop in temperature in the shelter of the shadows or the shade. Ignore the wind chill in the sunny open space.
The variation between the windward side of a boat, building or island where a windbreaker is appropriate and the leeward side where only a tee shirt is needed might inspire so many quick changes in a work day that it is simply more efficient to tolerate the cold.
A different kind of golfer
Similarly, the provenance of golfers can be gleaned from their apparel; tee shirts, and possibly shorts on locals, sweaters and windbreakers on outsiders.
When I advised my regular, local golf mate that a rule of thumb for the country club crowd in DC is to cancel tee times if the temperature is less than 55 degrees, his response referred to frozen ground rather than temperature. “When the ground is too hard to push in a tee, we tee off from plastic bottle tops,” he said.
And when it is too cold for a simple tee shirt, what do the locals choose to add? A cotton hoodie is the answer. What about wool? What about fleece? Go figure.
I have to go outside and stand in the shade for a while to toughen up. If I am lucky the wind will pick up.
Photo at top (view of Stonington harbor in January) courtesy of usharbors.com