Smile Politely

The Cold: A Man’s Best Friend

Greetings Humble Reader. I remain, The Campus Wit.

Winter is here again. All over campus, I see people grumbling about the cold, cursing the snow, and wearing dour frowns on their faces. Everybody is surly and curt. In fact, about a fortnight ago, I saw a man down on his knees outside of the Krannert Center screaming curses to the cold while shaking clenched fists at the sky. The majority of students have given up on their morning toiletries and all attempts to tart themselves up. They walk around in 14 layers of rayon, stretch-fit, cold protective gear trying to remember the last time they showered. Body odor and acrimony pervade the air. By three past high noon, Lincoln Hall smells like an eastern European brothel. The long and short of it is: No one on this campus seems to like winter. I have come to this conclusion after much observation and hours of lab work, and it confounds me. I love winter.

Winter is, in my estimation, a splendid season. Before you start thinking that I am some sort of cold-blooded beast of a man, let me assure you that I find that the cold can, in fact, be mighty bothersome. The positive aspects of winter, however, so outweigh the mostly minor bother of the cold that I accept the mildly uncomfortable temperature wholeheartedly and relish the challenge of trying to outwit it.

As a matter of fact, the greatest positive aspect of winter (in my ledger at least) is a direct result of the cold. All year round, I find myself drawn into conversations with acquaintances that I hardly know and with whom I can find no topic of mutual interest suitable for parley. In these situations, I usually fruitlessly search for something to say and end up feigning injury in order to destroy the awkward silence. In glorious winter, however, I no longer have to rack my brain. I can talk about the cold. I can speak for hours upon hours about the cold. There is, after all, so much to it.

Sample topics include: the relative insulative properties of pants (i.e. the corduroy pant has greater insulative capabilities than the denim pant, which in turn trumps the khaki pant); the fluctuations of weather throughout the day and the nature of individual’s experiences in coping with these said fluctuations; future manifestations of the cold (always a highly speculatory topic) and even simply, prior experiences with the cold (always linked back to individual locations of rearing).

These are just a few of the fun and absorbing topics that can turn awkward silences into convivial banter. As long as winter continues to blow and bluster across the desolate plains of the Quad, talking about the cold is a surefire way to make a meaningless exchange of words with an almost complete stranger not seem like a Siberian torture session. Sure, you can talk about the weather all year-round but that’s not fooling anyone. If you are talking about the heat, all that you are really doing is repeating the words “meaningless small talk” over and over again. The cold is the only weather related topic that can trick the other person into thinking that you actually like them. And that’s why it’s the topic for me.

As riveting as the cold can be for conversation, the act of deploying it requires one thing: you must engage in trivial conversations with a vacuous acquaintance. Fortunately, the cold comes to the rescue again. The ripping winds and subzero temperatures of this campus allow for polite snubbing. All you have to do is keep a secretive eye on your surroundings, and as soon as you spot someone that you do not want to acknowledge, you can put your head down and walk right by the person. They know it’s fucking cold out and that the wind can rip your skin off, so they will just assume that you did not see them because you were protecting your precious visage from the howling gales. Brilliant! No more stop and chats, no more required acknowledgments. Thank you O’ Generous Cold for your kind gift of The Polite Snub. Long shall your name be remembered.

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