I did it. I finally turned the heat on. I had to – you know, the kids. The Puritanical/woodsman/hermit germs inside my DNA protested most of the way, but in the end, logic prevailed (as did icy bones) and I bowed out of the great invisible race to be the most frugal, unflappable, and hardy New Englander we all hope to be.
You know what I’m talking about – that strange, paradoxical pride that has haunted Gloucester and New England since our ancestors first regretted crossing the land bridge millennia ago: the specter of our collective hubris resulting in a sort-of seasonal affective pride disorder – that is, the stoic, unflinching, prideful miserly attitude we wear when it comes to “turning on the heat” at the joyous applause of our blue-faced spouses and children.
Winter, damn it. We’re from Gloucester, so bring it on. We’ll out-freeze any hermit from Maine (or wherever else they have snow) before we do anything weak or luxurious as starting to burn oil, gas, or wood. Come late November, most of us will be essentially paying a second rent to the heating companies until March or, for the hardier stoics among us, from early December until late late February.
So what constitutes “turning the heat on” to these cold warriors? Any one of these qualifiers will knock you out of the competition (while you’re crying on the inside about how much keeping the house at 56 degrees will cost you over the next year of monthly installments):
1. Just so there’s no confusion about turning on the heat, YOU TURNED ON THE HEAT if you:
– turned on the heat
-turned on a space heater (or two or three)
– made a fire in the stove (or kept the oven on for an extra hour after using it for cooking)
– made a fire in the pellet stove
– turned on the heat just above the temperature outside
– turned on the heat
These all count, so no cheating. If you’re in it to win it, put on a second hat or a third pair of thermal longies.
2. You are not a morally superior person if you wait to turn the heat on. However, here is the spectrum:
– Late October Freshmen Townies: if you even think about having a conversation with your roommate or spouse about turning the heat on, or even complain about the cold before November first, there is a palpable shame felt throughout Fishtown. However, if your bones are brittle, you have young ones at home, or you’re simply a weak individual, then we understand. Sweatshirts, hats, insulation, and heavy socks are just not good enough for you. Grow a pair. (Of thermal socks).
– First (through third) frosty fishtownies: this is most of us even though we won’t admit it, putting the heat on somewhere between November first and that night when you just need to put the heat on (if it’s November, the heat will be on). It will be too cold for these people to spend any more time outside cleaning up the beach toys and chairs (these can all be bought again next year); they will have just enough energy to clear off the radiators of clothes and books before huddling down on the couch for the winter.
– Fourth or fifth-frost frugalistas: you’ve made it to the point where most sane people put the heat on, at least one cold night when it dips down below freezing. But most of us are still wearing windbreakers in 40 degree weather. You know that, right?
– Still Frozen around the time of the Town Tree Lighting: you still have the AC in and the windows are cracked just a little; by the time the sun goes down at 4:30 during these days, the air taunts your blood to stop moving so fast (and the walk from the Fisherman statue into town after the annual parade and Tree lighting is physically painful, although you’re already wearing a peacoat and scarf). However, this Chilly Willy isn’t about to break.
– Only Cold By Christmas-Level-Stoic: This hardy Gloucesterite turns on the heat on Christmas Eve, just in time for Santa to forego the chimney and leave the presents outside by the woodpile. Somehow this person will outlive us all or be found, frozen
– Those waiting for the “Insulated Igloo” Effect : an urban myth, this person goes from first frost to Valentine’s Day without heat – not even a little for those pipes to not freeze and burst. This must be a legend passed down through the years about a landlord who just got in from Florida to turn on the heat in the summer rental/winter home, or a Batman villain come to life here on Cape Ann. But once we get those thirty-eight inches of snow, your house will be insulated somewhat by the snow itself. It’s science.
3. So we’re all competing in this yearly unspoken competition. Here’s the correct formula to figure out when you should feel shame for doing the unspeakable and turning over your clams to the whale blubber and oil industrial complex:
– If this were an actual competition (and it is in the minds of millions), everyone has to hold out until at least November 1 unless you’re from a warmer climate that biologically makes it unbearable for you – or you’re from a colder climate that gives you a biological advantage. If you’re not from Gloucester, then you must be from New England or a comparable climate. Adjust for variables one week. We’re on the honor system here.
– Apartment vs. house: knowing how heat travels, if you live in an apartment above people, then subtract a week for every floor above the first floor you’re on. If you live above a pizzeria or restaurant kitchen, subtract three weeks and give the Clam writers a sweet deal on treats. If you live in a house, then good luck heating that thing (no subtractions for you).
– Big people vs. little people: all things being fair, bigger people are warmer, so for every grown person in the house over one person, subtract three days. For every child, add three days, and for every newborn-through-toddler, add ten days. Old people are always cold, so no extra days for them. If you’re co-sleeping with your entire family in a Medieval hut while gathered around a camp fire, you win.
4. Solutions for a warmer home:
– Live underground, but like close to the Earth’s core, or wherever it’s warmest.
– Build a house around your house, and insulate the area between houses.
– Move out of Gloucester. Anywhere south of New Jersey is warmer and more obnoxious most of the time.
– Start a pizzeria and live upstairs right above the ovens.
– Stay away from your home from breakfast until bedtime, and then when you arrive home from work, run inside straight to bed, wearing enough clothes or blankets to keep you warm. Shower at the Y or work. Winter is only a few months long.
– Co-sleep with your children. They are little heaters given to you by nature.
5. Finally, the “winners” are…
– Anyone who rents a second floor apartment whose heat is included in the rent
– Anyone who lives above a year-round pizzeria (they have those in Gloucester right?)
– Anyone who lies about when they turned the heat on
– The oil and energy companies
May the heat index always be in your favor.
Written for The Clam, Gloucester’s premiere blog for brilliant local satire and thoughtful, snark-free social commentary.