I write these words with a gas heater stuck to my leg, not complying with any of the recommendations on the manufacturer’s safety sticker, which tells me to place the heating device in New York and sit down to bask in it no closer than in Paris, and needless to say, in defiance of government legislation. As I type, I slip my toes between the bars, with only the protection of a sock, keeping the emergency services in suspense, waiting for the moment when the fatal deflagration occurs at my desk and a columnist has to be rescued, scorched, electrocuted, or both. Good. Who said the journalistic profession was risk-free? But it’s so extraordinarily cold that instead of sparrows, frozen chicken nuggets, box and all, are fluttering in through the windows. That, and snow for Christmas, is good news.
Although I admit that writing is incompatible with the frigid environment, today I want to pay a well-deserved tribute to the cold temperatures. Cold brings ice, and ice brings whiskey on the rocks, and perhaps there is nothing more celebratory to write about it. But the truth is that the cold also goes hand in hand with good manners. In clothing, it acts as a natural regulator of bad taste every year. Thanks to the drop in thermometers, that gloomy display of exposed male fingers has disappeared from public areas, there is no trace of sleeveless shirts, and girls dressed in long dark coats, the undisputed summit of elegance, romanticism, and distinction, are everywhere. Men are dressed in trench coats, and children look so cute with those hats with pompoms that awaken the Santa Claus in all of us.
The cold empties the beaches and that makes me particularly happy. However, it renders the sandy beaches unusable, unless you want your corpse to follow in Walt Disney’s footsteps for posterity; the demystification of the doomsayers will not overthrow the epic legend of imagining the father of Mickey Mouse with the fixed and audacious gaze of a hake immortalized the second before his cryogenization.
Conciliatory icy wind. Ordinary, road-wielding twerps honk their horns in traffic jams as usual, but they no longer leave their cars to threaten other drivers, nor do they open their windows. So if you drive in a fashion that makes them uncomfortable, you’ll see them move their lips with an unfriendly expression, but their silent outbursts become as harmless as they are grotesque.
All in all, street fights, brawls at the doors of nightclubs, and long lines for anything disappear. People prefer to turn a blind eye rather than see their tears frosting over their eyeballs, which is particularly unpleasant for those of us who wear contact lenses, because when you finally manage to break the ice and close your eyelids, it sounds like when Scrat, the anxious little saber-toothed squirrel from Ice Age, finally manages to bite an acorn, a glass one.
The winter weather opens the doors to friendship, propitiating disproportionate hugs in the street. Future lovers approach each other for rather selfish climatological reasons, but they approach each other nonetheless. That icy wind also benefits public transport because everything seems to have better ventilation and because no matter how disgusting the environment is, one always ends up thanking the heavens for finding heated shelter.
It’s not all advantages, of course. The cold is slippery. Very slippery. Those of us who are prone to landing our butts on the sidewalk have to be more cautious these days, and it’s not unusual to see me crossing a park covered with frosty leaves waving my arms like some oriental gymnast on the balancing beam; aware however that when they fall, they receive a warmer ovation than I do, which is normally limited to restrained laughter from other passersby, to whom I tend to wish a Merry Christmas and a happy new fatal slip.
In short, this beautifully harsh winter weather has the elegance of an umbrella held aloft in the wind, the grace of a pretty scarf, the embers of the last living chestnut tree, the hands of a princess well-protected, Taylor Swift’s long boots, James Stewart’s black shoes, Oscar Wilde’s dandy hat, Donald Trump’s gallant coat, and … I don’t know, something, I guess, that Miley Cyrus might wear sometime.
Translated by Joel Dalmau.