Sunday, January 8, 2012

Winter in the Subtropics

Houston is officially classified, climatologically speaking, as humid subtropical. It's just as hot as the tropics, only muggier and uglier. We don't have an autumn, we have more of a "not summer," during which Christmas falls, and then winter lasts anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks, if we're lucky. (Spring is beautiful, I should note.)

It's not unusual to wear shorts and play outside on Christmas Day. It does kind of kind of dampen the festive spirit. This year we were lucky - temps in the 50s. It was muggy and muddy, but at least cool. By New Years Eve, it was muggy and warm. I almost wore a sun dress and sandals to my brother-in-law's party.

Texas is experiencing its worst drought in 60 years. This summer was the hottest on record; the average temp in September was 95. Even for Houston, that's freaky. So I shouldn't be surprised at how unseasonably warm it is in January, but still -- this really sucks. Downtown is full of women like me, wearing boots with short sleeved shirts and skirts, because we wait all year to wear cute boots, damn it, and we're gonna wear them even if it's 76 degrees.

Five years ago we took a trip to Colorado. Naturally, I have no snow clothes so I went out and bought a nice thick coat, some sweaters, pants, that kind of thing. And a pair of Coach boots--they look like something a Cossack would wear. They're thickly padded, with a wide band of black fur at the top. I fell in love with them at Macy's and spent $300, which I knew, at the time, was sinfully irresponsible and just stupid. But you know what? I've worn those things a lot since then. February is cold and slushy and I can't stand cold, wet feet. So one month out of the year, at least, I can wear my Cossack boots.

But we can't wear the cute sweaters, or suede skirts, or sweater dresses, or scarves. Oh, the scarves! I love long winter scarves, with cute hats. But not when the thermometer is flirting with 80 degrees. I cuss at Old Navy ads on TV.

The clothing thing isn't terribly inconvenient, since no one down here actually puts summer clothes away. You just move them to the far side of your closet, because you know you might need them in January. No, there are other things about warm winters that suck much worse.

Like, for instance, roaches. If you live on the Gulf Coast, roaches are a fact of life. It matters not how clean you keep your house; in the summer, you will get at least a roach now and then. We live in an old house, with lots of trees, and that makes it worse. We have a wonderful exterminator who comes out every two months, and when we do see a live roach, it's usually already sick and slow, so they're easy to kill (Hub's job, BTW. Mama don't kill roaches lessen' there ain't no menfolk around). But at least they're warm weather critters, so you don't have to worry about them in winter. Unless, of course, the damned filthy monsters don't know it's winter, which is why I nearly stepped on one this morning in the garage.

Another pain in the ass about warm winters--and this is related to the clothing issue--you can't dress to hide the holiday fat you put on. In colder climes, everyone's bundled up for months on end so you can't really tell who got fat. But we're wearing cotton and sleeveless shirts so everyone knows who's been eating too many pies and not hitting the gym.

It feels unnatural to be turning on the air conditioner--both car and house--in January. You have to water your grass. You have to maintain your pedicure, because you're wearing open-toed shoes.

Bitching about the weather is a favorite pasttime in Houston. You should hear us when summer comes around (and if you visit this blog regularly, you will. Just wait till one of my August posts.)

I don't really enjoy complaining (no, seriously, I don't. Pay no attention to what my child says--I have good reasons for complaining to her, and she knows what they are.) So I try to remember the advantages of living in warm winter weather.

Driving is not a hazard . (When we get ice, or God forbid now, it's both funny and terrifying to see us try to drive in it). If we get locked out of our houses, or our car breaks down late at night on a lonely road, we won't freeze to death. It's no big deal if the heater stops, as opposed to the AC. (True story--in winter 2010, which was colder than this one, our heater broke. Hub is a mechanic and all around fix-it genius but it took a couple days to get the right part for it, so for a couple days the temp inside the house was in the low to mid 40s. We kept sweaters on, and all three of us slept together at night. My mother was very distressed and wanted to keep Diva until the heater was fixed, because she felt it was dangerous for her to be in those temperatures for several days.)

We aren't housebound in winter months--Diva is in a winter swim league, and our local YMCA's pool is outdoors. They haven't had to heat it very often. We can bike, jog, play tennis, whatever.

Water pipes don't burst, lawns stay green, power lines don't snap. No driveway shoveling or car warming, no waiting for crews to de-ice the roads. No failure of the electricity grid due to customer demand (that happens in summer, instead).

Still, I hope we get some genuinely cold weather this winter, at least for a few days. I lost all my good outdoor plants in the 2010 freeze (we even had snow!) and, what with the drought, I decided to wait a while before buying a bunch of new stuff. So if we have a hard freeze I don't have to worry about covering plants because they're dead already.

And I really, really want to wear my Coach Cossack boots.


PG Forte said...

Be sure to bring your boots to RT. You'll probably need them then. Sigh.

Meg Benjamin said...

Ah where to begin--with the fact that I had to run both the heater and the air conditioner when I was in SA in Nov.? With the fact that I wore a wonderful bulky sweater last night that effectively concealed my chocolate bulge? My sympathies, sweetie!

Kinsey Holley said...

Well, slap my butt and call me a spoiled bitch: Alaskan town buried after EIGHTEEN FEET of snow collapses buildings, triggers avalanches and traps dozens in their homes

In other news, Diva got to see what it looks like when Braes Bayou overflows its banks. She's always heard the stories of TS Allison, which caused massive flooding and 20something deaths when I was pregnant with her. She said it was creepy and I said hell yeah it is.