Monday, April 24, 2006

The Cold Hard Facts

Spring in North Carolina brings the blooming dogwoods, the frenzied flight of birds and bees, and of course, the rising mercury. The warmer temperatures also signal the end of my season-long science experiment in which I was both subject and scientist. Through most of the winter, I tested my own ability to bear the cold conditions in my apartment without turning on the heat. My findings, despite their basis on a sole participant, have implications for all black people everywhere. In order to withstand the review of my colleagues in the scientific community, I present my observations and findings below in the standard (if elementary) scientific method format. Let me school ya.

Preliminary Research
: 1) Black people do not like cold weather. We don't like the winter. We don't like snow or any other form of cold weather precipitation. We don't like skiing or any other cold weather outdoor activities. We don't like seeing our breath when we breathe. We don't like shivering. We do not like frostbite. We think white people are crazy for liking all those things. 2) Black people do not like paying utility bills. This includes the gas bill, the light bill, the water bill, the phone bill and the cable bill. We make every effort to keep each bill as low as possible. Water must not drip. Lights must be turned off the instant they are no longer in use. We do not accept collect calls. We prefer to watch HBO, Cinemax and Pay Per View via an illegal converter box. 3) When efforts to avoid to the cold (Preliminary Research, Part 1) conflict with efforts to keep the bills low (Preliminary Research, part 2), black people face an agonizing conflict of conscience.

Question: How much is an African American male willing to freeze to save a little money on the bills each month?

Hypothesis: I believe a black man will endure sub-freezing temperatures before paying an exorbitant amount of money for mere creature comforts.


Month One: The first month of winter served as the control for the experiment. I needed one warm pay period to establish the financial costs of warmth. Also, I was working with the assumption that black people don't tend to plan in advance for financial hardship. It usually catches us off guard (in this case, in the form of a ridiculously high gas bill). I set the thermostat to 72 degrees.

Month Two: The first bill arrived and I cried for two days and nights. Then I began the experiment in earnest, turning the heat completely off. After a couple of consecutive nights of sub-freezing temperatures, the conditions in the apartment were literally bone-chilling. Somehow it was colder inside than outside. My second toes, which are longer than my big toes and protrude farther from the warmth of my body, turned purple. My balls drew up into my torso. I became worried that I would freeze to death and no one would find me until the spring, so I turned the thermostat up to 58 degrees.

Months Three and Four: The second bill arrived. It was 75 percent less than the first! But since I'd already realized that I couldn't enjoy my savings from the grave, I left the thermostat at 58. The apartment was still far too cold for a black man's comfort, but with two pairs of sweatpants, four long-sleeve T-shirts, a hoodie, three pairs of socks (one thermal), and five blankets, I was able to keep my innards warm. Like that I persevered through the rest of the season with only a slight increase in the bill.

Analysis and Conclusion: The facts did not support my hypothesis. As the results show, black people cannot endure sub-freezing temperatures even when it means saving an extra hundred dollars a month. We are not white, after all. We can, however, endure moderately cold temperatures. And one fact is clear: we will push to the very limits of our survival when money is on the line.