Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2011/ Winter Coat Experiment

Winter Coat Experiment

So, bragging. The story is pretty simple: although I own a warm winter coat, it is kind of ratty. I never made the time to sew it back together last year, so I considered going without.

There were lots of reasons to think this might be plausible. When I first moved to Waterloo I did not have a winter coat, and despite walking from downtown Kitchener to the University of Waterloo every weekday I did not get one until mid-December. Despite this, I remember staying warm -- I would feel chilly when first leaving my house, and then would quickly warm up while walking.

Secondly, I considered more recent experiences of walking around with my warm winter coat, and how sweaty I got walking around in that thing even when the temperature was several degrees below zero. Sometimes I would take the coat off, but then I would have to carry it around or drape it over my backpack. I found that my hands often got cold, as did my head, but my torso stayed warm.

Thirdly, I live in Southern Ontario, which doesn't get that cold. I dislike the grey skies and early darkness of winter, and the snow gets tiring after a while, but Kitchener is neither Winnipeg nor Nunavut.

Fourthly, I had some stupid idea that walking around without a coat would force my body to burn more calories, which would make me less obese. I am pretty convinced this is false; neither exercise nor cold burns enough energy to compensate for the enormous amount of food I was eating (and am eating again now that I have fallen off the diet wagon).

Well-founded or not, I used these rationalizations to try the experiment this year. I would attempt to get around without a coat, either walking in a plain shirt or a sweater. However, I realized that even balmy Kitchener is cold enough to freeze extremities, so I wore toques and a scarf and gloves and snow boots.

I would not say that the experiment was a success, but I made it through the season without putting on my coat. Keeping my hands warm was easier without the coat than with it, because I could more easily put my (gloved) hands in my pant pockets, where the body heat from my legs could help keep them warm.

I found that wind and wet were stronger adversaries than simple cold. When my feet got wet I felt miserable, but a coat would not have helped that. Being caught in bitterly-cold wind was tough as well, but even then I often warmed up after walking for a while. My scarf was really important, because without it the cold air would sneak down my shirt.

When I was outside I tended to be moving, which helped a lot. I don't think I could have made it through the winter if I had to sleep outside, or spend extended sedentary time outside.

Once in a while (maybe three times at most?) some stranger would think I was destitute and offer me a sweater or coat or coffee or something. Once somebody commented on my hands being in my pocket, and wondered why I did not have gloves. When I pulled my gloved hands out of my pockets he went away, though. I don't really like this attention but it only bothered me once, when a guy refused to believe that I was not that cold and really did not want his coat. But even then I could tell he was attempting to act out of compassion.

If the situation comes up, I do not know whether I will attempt to do without a winter coat this coming winter. Maybe I will stop being lazy long enough to sew my coat together, or I will throw money at the problem and get a new coat, or I will just wear my ratty coat the way it is. Or maybe I won't. It was good to know that even though I am old and complacent I can get by without a winter coat. I find it interesting to poke at the habits we take for granted; depending on the situation, sometimes the things we assume are basic necessities are not necessary at all.