It’s something of a running joke among my friends that when they visit me they bring coats and sweaters because they claim I keep my house too cold. When winter approaches, their sweaters become more bulky and mittens appear as they try to stave off frostbite during the bridge game.
My attitude is that as long as my three parrots and cockatoo are ok, my friends shouldn’t complain. After all, my birds come from warm tropical climes and surely would be the first to suffer the bad effects of excessive cold.
Since my birds have probably never actually experienced the tropics or anything resembling that level of heat while living with me in the Arctic, this argument holds no sway with my friends. They pile on the outer wear and smile wanly as they attempt to break the ice layer that formed on top of the peas from the steam created when they were cooked.
When they actually bring their children here and leave them in my downstairs to enjoy pizza and TV while the adults sit upstairs arguing over who should bid 3 No Trump, the children tend to whimper a lot and beg to not be left above the tree line. Don’t you just hate it when your friends’ kids, who are after all Alaskan born and bred, get all soft about seeing their breath on the air in the den?
Mothers trying to protect their young have been known to quietly pass by my thermostat when they think I’m not looking and push it up past 70. Some really desperate parents have been known to push it past 75 in the hope of creating enough immediate heat downstairs to avoid the freeze and thaw cycle they go through with their children when its time to leave.
I probably should have accepted that they had a point when I came downstairs and found the children huddled under throws and blankets they had pulled from every bed, closet and couch back on which they could be found. Maybe I should have questioned my belief that any thermostat set over 68 during the day and 65 at night was merely a sign of wimpdom and a waste of natural resources. Maybe I should have considered that just because they were Alaskans didn’t mean they loved being cold – especially those that are here because their spouses dragged them along.
And I probably should have really taken a hint when the kids started to ask if they could sit in the car to stay warm while their parents visited in winter even though the car wasn’t running. Actually, come to think of it, they ask to sit in the car to stay warm in summer too.
But the reality of how cold my house probably is didn’t really hit me until the evening I came downstairs to do some clean up work in the office. As I entered the room, I heard a swooshing sound that I’d never heard before. I wandered from room to room trying to locate it, nervously glancing at toilets, sinks and ceilings for signs of impending floods. It sounded for all the world like constantly running water.
I went up stairs and flushed my toilet to see if something had gotten stuck on open and was causing the water to run. No luck. I went downstairs and flushed the toilet with the same result. The sound continued.
I checked the dishwater. I unplugged the refrigerator. I wandered from room to room in a growing panic wondering just how late I could call a friend’s husband for help and have the friendship survive.
Then it stopped and there was blessed silence. I wandered again through the rooms wondering why they felt so different. And it finally struck me. What was different is that the rooms were warm. What I’d been hearing was the heat blasting away.
After living here for more than a year, and going through an entire winter using the downstairs office, this was the first time I’d heard the heat on.
I guess my friends might have a point about the heat in my house. And I guess their kids have a point about building a bonfire in the TV room and huddling over it for warmth.
So I’ll turn up the heat (a little) when friends come to visit and try to refrain from using the word wimp a lot around them. But I stick by my original premise – this is Alaska and we are Alaskans. And if we didn’t come here to be cold, pray tell why would we be here at all?