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January 7, 2019: Son of Brrrrr—The Story Continues

Another day of very cold temperatures. Now, instead of asking “how did you fare during the earthquake?” people are asking one another “how cold is it at your place?” The latter is a less interesting question because it doesn’t involve building-related defects, getting caught in traffic jams, or costly items landing on the floor and breaking. Rather, this question is simply a matter of quantification.

The reason we are asking these questions is because we’re hoping for good stories. And we’re hoping for good stories because they connect us to others. This is really important here in Alaska where there is a greater geographical distance between people than elsewhere. We also are distanced from one another by the cold –

 Frosty Tyra
Frosty Tyra

empathizing is our way of reducing the vast space that lies between us.

Empathy can be quantified. 20°F gets a head nod. 10°F gets an eyebrow raise. 0°F gets a shake of the head and an aww, -10°F gets undivided attention, as if you tell me more I will listen to you very carefully. -20 F and beyond, I don’t know yet and I hope that I don’t find out.

I got to thinking of this as I did the temperature value exchange today, when I was met the receptionist at the dentist’s office. My appointment was late in the afternoon, undoubtedly she had already talked with at least a dozen patients and compared notes with them. Her story was that she was at her in-laws place over by Shrock Road, and the temperature, near the Little Su River, was -19°F last night. Hearing this, I gave her my undivided attention. The phone then rang, so I didn’t get any more information. She also didn’t get to hear that at our place the temperature was only -10°F; even so, I have been concerned about the horses who still aren’t drinking enough water.

Our exchange was brief and interrupted; nevertheless, this did enable us to connect in a way that would not have occurred otherwise. Now, the next time I’m in the waiting area of Meridian Dental, I’ll say hello and Beverly will say hello and one or the other of us will ask a question that will re-establish our bond; for example, she might say to me or I might say to her “Did you get much ash at your place the other day?” this in reference to what might be next on the list in the way of environmentally-related happenstances. Yep, it’s quite likely that we will, in the very near future, experience a volcanic eruption.

Down in America people exchange anecdotal accounts, some of the subjects being family member disagreements, commuter-related traffic jams, dog park incidents, crowded check-out lanes, and high gas prices, all to which I say, ho hum and then move on. These people are already close, so it’s acceptable to have mundane anecdotes. But those of us who aren’t close, this is unacceptable. Fire and brimstone next? Bring it on.

Next: 8. 1/8/13: A Conversation with Raudi: Just an Idea

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