Saturday, October 02, 2010

Hot and/or Cold

It's tough being in the middle. Doesn't mater what it is: middle seat, middle child, middle age. In each case, you have to watch as others ahead of you get the best pickings while those behind have the benefit of being the baby and being catered to. You spend your time there muddling through and watching and waiting, hoping that sooner rather than later circumstances will change, and you can move to one of the ends where the view is better and you have some room to stretch and finally let out the clutch.

That's kind of where we are on the calendar. It's hardly cold, but short sleeves and white pants seem past their "use by" date. On the other hand it seems a little early for coats and boots, and a sweater winds up being carried as much as worn. Dress for cool and you wind up sweating; dress for warm, and you're wrapping your arms around yourself trying to conserve heat. And there's the pure mental surrender that comes with switching to winter weight anything. I can't make that turn just yet; I just can't.

My confusion extends to my choice of beverage in the morning. Back somewhere around Memorial Day I made the switch in the morning to iced coffee. Not the sweet Frappa-Coffino-Latte-esque thingie with whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel on top that packs about 1000 calories a sip. Rather, we're talking the regular brewed American stuff cooled and poured over ice. In addition to having almost no calories save the type of milk or cream you put in, it has the added value of delivering my caffeine in a form that quenches my thirst and cools my core. Like the old Doublemint commercial, for my money that's two, two, two mints in one.

However, usually within a week or two of Labor Day, the night air turns a bit cooler. And so just as I put my shorts in the back of the closet and bring my sweatshirts to the front, I try and make a clean break. I put away the big sippy cup my wife bought me that can handle two cups of joe and a lot of ice, and reach for the deep blue mug I like that isn't so massive that by the time I get to the bottom the brew has cooled to lukewarm at best.

But this year, just as I got my arms around the change, it snapped back the other way. The other day I went for an early run, then made a pot of the hot stuff. I poured a steaming cup, and took a sip. One more taste, and I knew I had made the wrong choice: I was dripping sweat like I had malaria. So I rummaged through the cabinet and found my "cold" cup, filled it with ice and dumped my mug into it. After swirling it around to reduce the temperature, I eagerly gulped it down in a single swig, lowering my body temp even as I stretched my bladder.

Of course, the next day the pendulum swung the other way. Based on my experience the day before (and with the very definition of insanity being to do the same thing and expect different results), I started out with a glass of cubes and filled it to the brim. But a sip later and I was shivering. So I fished out the ice, filled a mug and slipped it into the microwave for a couple of minutes. It emerged watered down, but hot enough to take away the chill.

So for now at least I'm trapped in a nether world, not knowing which way to turn. It forced me to recall the wisdom of Cliff Clavin, the mailman on that seminal TV show "Cheers." When asked about this very problem, he pointed out that, "When the British ruled the Punjab, they drank steaming hot pots of tea on the hottest days of the year to balance out their inside and outside temperatures. So conversely, drinking an ice cold drink on a cold day actually results in a more comfortable body temperature." But then Diane the waitress asks, "Then why do you drink ice cold beer on a hot day?" Cliff's response: "What else are you going to do with it?"

Cliff, thanks for the guidance. I guess for now I'll just have to stay flexible.


Marc Wollin of Bedford likes his coffee both hot and cold, but his tea only cold. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

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