The other day, our heater was on the fritz for about 48 hours. Under normal circumstances, this would not be that big of a deal. You could just throw on an extra sweater or drink some warm tea. You could snuggle up on the couch with your cocker spaniel or a random stranger. Whatever you’re into, I don’t judge.
Or, perhaps— more likely— you’d say to me, “Get a grip, girl. You live in California. The gallon of milk in your refrigerator lives in a colder climate than you do.”
When you have a disability like SMA, though, this isn’t so simple. Because many of us are in wheelchairs, our circulation isn’t the best. So, our bodies are often super sensitive to fluctuations in temperature. Putting on more layers of clothing can also become physically cumbersome. Meaning, if I wear that giant Christmas sweater on top of the thick fleece hoodie I bought at GAP, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to move my arms to do pretty much anything. Like grab the phone to call for help. Or, eat a bowl of warm soup. Or, even effectively pick my nose. I would be like the crying little brother in The Christmas Story that flails around in an immovable snowsuit. It wouldn’t be pretty.
So, when my heater went out, I quickly thought, “FUCK, this isn’t going to go well for me.” I immediately messaged the HVAC repair man and he said he’d try to make it out in the next couple of days. Then, I quickly consulted my weather app while I still had enough warmth left in my fingers to operate my iPhone. It said that we were in for a stretch of below-normal temperatures— lows around 34°. I felt my weak little muscles shrivel at the numbers— just as an insecure man’s penis shrivels up in the presence of a confident and capable woman. (I could easily make a reference to Donald Trump at this point. But, I won’t.)
Anyway, I can hear non-California residents guffawing at this forecast. And, before you claim that even hairless kittens can survive that kind of cold, I’m going to tell you that I really don’t care. IT’S STILL COLD!
At that moment, it became a race against the clock— to see how much I could get done before the temperature inside my house dipped too far down. To the Point-At-Which-Elizabette-Can’t-Move-Her-Arms-Anymore. Also known as its scientific acronym, PAWECMHAA. If you are curious, this measure is roughly around 56° Fahrenheit. So, in a whizzing flurry, I dashed around my house doing all the things that I had been procrastinating from doing for a while. I balanced my checkbook, updated my Christmas card list, wrote some emails, and then plucked a few stray hairs from my chin. I was more productive in those few hours than I had been in days.
But, eventually… as the day progressed, the PAWECMHAA was reached.
I pulled out my rechargeable hand warmer and held it in my palms like a fragile premature infant. It was wonderful. I praised it. Cooed at it adoringly. It was a cozy bubble of warm bliss.
However, I quickly discovered that it only worked for about 1.5 hours on one charge.
As the heat faded from my palms, I cursed the cradled device, “This baby is a piece of shit. Argh!”
So, I had to come up with a new plan. Drinking tea helps me think, so I had some. And while my hands were cupping the warm mug, I had a thought.
I would get the largest coffee mug in the cabinet and fill it with water. Then, it could be microwaved for two minutes until the water grew super hot. Due to the magical properties of water to retain heat (yay, science!), I could use it like my rechargeable hand warmer. But, it would only take two minutes to rewarm the water— a major plus when dealing with extended PAWECMHAA temperatures.
I started by holding the outside of the cup… then, as the water slightly cooled, I began dipping my fingers inside the water. The plan worked brilliantly.
The next day, as the temperatures continued to dip, my morale grew low. And as I sat in my kitchen dipping my fingers into my giant pumpkin mug of hot water, I had a dramatic realization. I would never survive in a cold climate. Never. In fact, if I had been a member of the Donner Party that attempted to cross the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1846, I would have been the first one dead. Without question.
And then they would have eaten me.
To be frank, they wouldn’t have even had to wait until I was dead, because once PAWECMHAA was reached, I couldn’t put up much of a fight, anyway.
So, it was in this state that the HVAC repair man, Ricky, soon found me: bundled in a knitted blanket, dipping my fingers in a mug of hot water and muttering about nineteenth-century cannibalism.
It was a good thing he came when he did.
Within an hour, or so, Ricky had located the issue, and got the heater running again. As I heard the whoosh of hot air burst from the vents, I felt a tear of joy on my cold and numb cheek.
And, after a short while, the thermostat climbed beyond the PAWECMHAA. I said a prayer of thanks.
I would not be on the menu tonight.
8 thoughts on “Beyond the #PAWECMHAA”
As someone who grew up in Pennsylvania, I can relate very well to your story. Now you know the main reason I fled PA in 1980. I couldn’t stand the climate anymore. Coming in every day from class at Edinboro State College and spending over an hour in the bathroom, picking a pound of icicles out of my beard (and nose hairs) got to be a real drag.
I also go through the same thing about not being able to move in cold temperatures as you do, so I can really relate to this article. Unfortunately, I have some bad news for you. It only gets worse as you get older. I know this very well because I’m old enough to be your grandfather (ouch! That admission hurts!).
By the way, if you ever find a rechargeable hand warmer that gets more than 1.5 hours per charge, please share the information, because the longest I have ever found they last are one hour. Keep on truckin’, sister!
LikeLiked by 2 people
Glad you’re now in warmer climes! 🙂
Oh Elizabette! Another great one! I’m going to think twice before I complain about the cold, that’s for sure! Hope you are doing well! 😘
LikeLiked by 1 person
My dear girl, you give me many stories to laugh aloud at. thank you, thank you. So glad your heater guy repaired the heater, thank God. So funny the bit about the kid on CHristmas Story, one of my fav. movies. Love you so x0x0x0x0x
LikeLiked by 1 person
I can reach the point at which I have trouble driving my wheelchair just going to the grocery store. It is so fricking cold in there! In Walmart I have been known to go and sit next to the heated rotisserie chicken display they keep up front next to the checkout area!
Yes— I do love the wafting heat from the rotisserie chicken station. It’s a warm cloud of comfort. P.S. I’m partial to herb garlic.