Weathering the weather when the going gets cold

Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor
Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor
Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

By Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

Welcome to the Continuing Misadventures of a Displaced Duquesne Student, a series in which Features Editor Seth Culp-Ressler grapples with his newfound life off campus. For the veterans of apartment life, feel free to laugh at his incompetence. For non-veterans, perhaps the mistakes he chronicles are valuable lessons.

Chapter Six: The Winter

Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted six more weeks of winter, but the past few days haven’t been too kind to that claim. I, for one, am completely fine with this development.

See, winter has never been my favorite season. It’s great in bursts, sure, but the long, windy, bitterly cold seasons I’ve come to expect from Pittsburgh are a bit much. Even more, when living on campus — where your walk to class lasted, at most, seven or eight minutes — those winters were overwhelming.

Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to the cold months now that I live an entire body of water away from the Bluff.

I started planning for the inevitable far before temperatures took a dive. I already had the winter clothing basics — decently heavy coat, hat, scarf — but I knew that would no longer cut it. So I made a list.

First up, I knew solid gloves were a must. Hands in pockets may have cut it on the trek between Des Places and College Hall, but don’t count on that for a longer walk. You don’t have to spend a fortune — my bank account only got $10 lighter — and these days pretty much every pair on sale are touchscreen sensitive. What a time to be alive.

While keeping my hands warm was a decidedly cheap affair, doing the same for my feet was a different story. Before last November my shoe collection was full of flat bottoms, thin materials and little to no grip. None of those are desirable attributes for when the going gets chilly and the sidewalks get icy.

The answer, of course, is to invest in a quality pair of boots. Since, at the time, I had no idea what weather was on the horizon, I decided not to skimp on my choice. That’s how I ended up with a $130 pair of boots that make it look like I’m about to go snowshoeing in the frozen tundra. I tried to buy a pair with some pretensions of style, but I can admit they still look a bit goofy at times.

All of my other preparation after that point was purely hypothetical. An Amazon list sat waiting, full of things like thick wool socks, long underwear and crazy insulated winter coats. I didn’t want to invest in the full regalia without knowing if I needed to, so those items had to wait.

As you might guess from this week’s temperatures, that list is still just as full.

That said, I absolutely have been thankful for the gloves, and definitely for the boots. While this winter hasn’t seen the over-the-top, Hoth-like intensity previous years have, we’ve still seen a decent amount of snow. And let me tell you, those boots earned their keep the first time I had to walk to campus after a storm.

There’s something wonderful about arriving to class with warm, dry feet and no broken bones. The South Side steps, as one might guess, become even more treacherous than usual when covered with snow and ice. Having boots that dig in and gloves to hold the metal railing in below-freezing temps is a godsend.

The difficulties of scaling the steps in the winter don’t end there, though. One of the other significant issues is body temperature management. No, really. Think about it: You’re all bundled up to brave the cold, which works wonders the entire way to the base of the steps. But then you have to climb them, and by the time you reach their peak you’re covered in sweat and pulling off layers left and right. It’s a constant struggle.

To my surprise, though, the steps aren’t the only tricky part of walking when snow hits. Due to residents not salting and shoveling their sidewalks back streets can be hairy as well. I haven’t fallen yet, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t gotten close more than a few times.

All in all, though, I don’t have much to complain about so far this winter. That is, unless that stupid groundhog turns out to be right after all.