It’s been the ninth day of the first heat wave in Poland this summer. Weather forecasters avow the mass of Saharian air is about give way to cooler Atlantic air and the period of temperatures above +30C is drawing to a close. Nine days is still fewer than seventeen, which is the length of cold snap that gripped Poland between 27 January and 12 February this year.
Being fed up with the big freeze, I pledged not to gripe about the big heat when it comes. So now, not a word of complaint, only a comparison of those two types of extreme weather. Unlike most people, I prefer sea climate, with mild winters and summers and lots of precipitation.
Temperatures in the range of -15C and +30C are what I call bearable. If they drop below, or rise above it, withstanding the weather begins to be a nuisance. If you are fond of them anyway, enjoy the paragraphs below.
Extreme temperatures hit your wallet. When it’s cold, your central heating has to run at full blast to keep your dwelling warm. Sooner or later the heating bill has to be settled. This is the direct and palpable expense incurred by the cold weather. The cost of heat is dispersed in many other expenses – of electricity, if you have air-conditioning system, but this is still uncommon at homes in Poland, water – you need to take baths and change clothes even a few times a day, if you need to water the garden and it doesn’t rain, the water bill skyrockets.
Garments. Putting on several layers of clothes to keep you warm when it’s –20C outside is not pleasant, nor convenient, but if you are outside and wrapped up, it’s still alright. Troubles set in when you find yourself in a warm interior and you begin to swelter, since it’s not always possible to take off all the unnecessary layers. When it’s hot outside, you naturally wear is little as possible. In principle, this is the upside of the heat wave, when you look at young attractive women, but in fact, if you’re not on holiday, in many situations you just can’t dress casually, or as casually as you’d like to. Wearing a suit in extreme weather is not a pleasure and I don’t dare to judge whether it’s worse to have to don it when it’s –22C or when it’s +32C. In the former case a solid overcoat and long johns are a must, in the latter you’re very likely to break sweat within second (unless you have a big tolerance of heat).
Staying at home. Here the frost has the edge. In Poland you can easily take shelter from cold at home (don’t mind the heating bill), while when air-conditioning is seldom installed in private houses (although prevalent in office and public buildings), therefore dwellings heat up and after a few of excessive warmth outside and the heat is inescapable.
There are people who prefer to stay at home when temperatures go into extremes. This is visible if you take a stroll on a lazy Sunday afternoon when temperature hits the day-time high. No matter if the high is –15C or +35C, there will be almost surely no pedestrians and sparse cars in sight. When in need to move around you have four basic choices: on foot, by bike, by public transport and by car. If you walk, depending on the weather you have to either dress a lot, or almost not at all and be exposed to extreme temperature. In winter cycling is rather impossible, in the summer it can be nice, as long as the temperature is nice (for me up to +25C). If you take a longer trip by bike, don’t forget the headwear and litres of water to prevent your body from dehydration (my scribble begins to resemble agony aunt’s handbook). Public transport vehicles which run overground have a tendency to fail when it’s very cold. Rails sometimes crack, so your tram or train may not come in time and some badly-maintained buses might not start after a night in the depot. Other potential inconveniences include broken down heating and doors jamming when opened and letting chilly wind inside. On hot summer days breakdowns are rather rare, though engines can overheat, or rails can distend, but the real plague in Warsaw these days are defective air-con systems. Passengers report temperatures inside vehicles of +44C. No wonder a tram driver passed out a few days ago in such heat. Going by car looks then like a pleasure… If you have a garage… In winter the facility saves you scrapping hard rime of the windows (even if these are only side windows, the exercise may bring you close to a frostbite), cold-starting the car (not a problem, if the vehicle is properly maintained) and heating it up before you pull out, or grappling with gear lever before the oil runs thin. In the summer the temperature inside your car sitting in the sun may rise even to +70C, so it is best to park it under the roof, or on the eastern side of the building, so that in the afternoon it is in the shadow. The salvation comes with the air-conditioning, these days common even in low-end cars. Unfortunately if you use it often, you risk exposure to temperature shocks and resultant illness and you’ll be bound to visit the petrol station much sooner, as the device guzzles petrol without scruples… The advantage of the summer is that you can leave your car sitting for several days and it’ll start without problems. In the winter not using a car for a longer period of times means running a risk of having problems starting it.
In terms of people’s moods, below minus twenty a typical frame of mind is a well-balanced blend of weariness and joy. On one hard, withstanding the frost is pain in the arse, but on other we don’t give up to it. It’s chilly outside, but we have money to pay for the heating, warm clothes to wear, our reliable cars don’t let us down and we persevere. In the summer most people are overwhelmed with fatigue and aggression. Hot, so hot-tempered. A small spark is sufficient to break out a huge quarrel, people are inattentive, impatient, sleepy and simply worn-out.
The above can be a not-the-worst example of a “pros-and-cons” essay. May copycats draw inspiration from it.
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