Walking to Work at Minus 37 Celsius


Sun is barely up.

Out the front door.  Ice forming on my beard within seconds.

Air is dead calm.   You can hear a pin drop.

Eyes watering.  Eyelashes freezing together.

Feet making loud scrunchy noises on the snow.

Breathing through my nose, and getting an ice-cream headache.

Ski jacket makes funny crinkly noises.  The materials’ gotten brittle.

Face burning…especially two spots on my cheek, where I once got frostbite years ago.

Approaching my office.   (Jesus this is cold!)

Still, I’d rather be here outside…

…than go inside to work!


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31 Comments on “Walking to Work at Minus 37 Celsius”

  1. Mike Goad Says:

    Jesus, that’s cold.

    and I was complaining earlier today about our 20 deg. F!

  2. Karen JL Says:

    Whoa. Flashbacks to when I lived in Montreal.

    And don’t forget when the wind blows back inside your throat and takes your breathe away. Literally.


  3. Michael Says:

    Canadians are tough, there is no getting around that. I am proud of you.

  4. davinahaisell Says:

    Hi Friar. Memories of my days in northern Ontario. How long was your walk? I think the coldest I remember in North Bay was -47 including the windchill. When you were outside you could feel your nostrils starting to stick together. Too cold.
    Um, my mom used to say, “It’s so cold out that you could freeze a fart for a walking stick.”

  5. Julie Says:

    Skin feels tight. Breathing only possible through a scarf. Skin itches like CRAZY when you go back inside. …yes, you’ve successfully brought back some memories! Like how utterly perfect what you describe is…especially at night, under a full moon, when the softer light makes all the little ice crystals on the crunchy snow sparkle like glitter and you can hear the soft rustlings of the night creatures. Hi, Friar. I’m new to your site. Thanks for the terrific “first” post!

  6. Friar Says:

    Yeah, we Canadians like to feel SMUG, about how much colder it is up here compared to down South! (I’ve met Alaskans with the same attitude) 😉

    Oooh…now you’ve given ME a flashback of standing outside waiting for the bus on cold winter mornings in Pointe Claire. (Once it was so cold…minus 40’s… they sent us home early!)

    See comment above (to Mike Goad). Yeah, we eat nails for breakfast! 😉

    PS. I like your blog. Always nice to meet a fellow cartoonist!

    Ahhhh…the nostrils sticking. (I KNEW I forgot something!)

    Lucky it was only a 7 minute walk to work. (But dont’ worry, I’ve winter camped in stuff just as cold…in Temagami, (just north of where you used to live).

    Hey, welcome to the Deep Friar!

    Yeah, the moon was almost full that night (you can see it still in the sky in the first morning photo).

    Though I didnt’ hear any woodland night critters (I think they were all hiding inside).

  7. Kelly Says:


    Ah, you make it sound highly unpleasant and zenlike and beautiful at the same time. Brilliant and poetic.

    -11 C here today (I had my car do the US/M conversion for me). Never since I lived here has it been this cold. And I have fully converted into a wimp, thinking this is a big deal. Where did my northerner’s hardiness go?




  8. Friar Says:


    I COULD have driven to work. But I wanted walk, to experience the cold. Just because I could.

    You want REAL cold? Check out the summit of Mt. Washington (N.H, not too far from your folk’s place).


    Lookit today. Windchil of minus 68F. That’s INSANE.

  9. Friar Says:


    PS. This morning was also cold (Minus 36C).

    So I tried a new Stupid Friar Trick

    Drank hot water. Sprayed it out of my mouth outside.

    It disappeared into a cloud of vapor, without ever hitting the ground.

    How cool is THAT? 😀

  10. XUP Says:

    My gauge for coldness is always how quickly the snot freezes in my nose. If it freezes the instant I step outside I know it’s well below minus 20. If it freezes in about 5 minutes it’s just below minus 20. If it takes 10 – 15 minutes it’s minus 20 and any more than that it’s warm. I had a similar zen-like experience yesterday. It was quite pleasant being outside in my little cocoon of winter gear — for the first 15 minutes and then suddenly I noticed parts of me were frozen and hurting. Fortunately I was almost where I was going by then. Overall weather is fun. So much variety.

  11. Friar Says:


    Yeah..my personal cut-off point is minus 25C. Anything warmer than that, I can deal with and it’s reasonable. Below -25C, it just starts to be obnoxious.

    How’s the transit strike doing in Ottawa, with these temps? (Are there still the die-hards who will bicycle in this weather?)

  12. Kelly Says:


    Super-cool. Wish I’d been next to you with a good camera. I bet that would make some awesome photos.

    How do you think of such things? Must be that scientist’s brain.

    Until later,


  13. XUP Says:

    Yup, ther eare still cyclists out there. The union has just come back with what looks like a pretty damn fair offer which will get that back to work asap before anything’s signed even. We’re just waiting on the city to see if they accept. If they don’t there’s going to be a lynching.

  14. Friar Says:


    I wish there was someone there to take a photo of me!

    (Throwing the water directly into their air from the ALMOST froze everything, but a few drops of water still hit the snow)

    But making a finer mist (spewing out of my mouth). That increased the ratio of the water/air surface area, and sped up the heat transfer process! (Hence, it froze quicker).

    Oh, man, that was COOL!

    Oboy…I would hate to be a bus driver, on the first day back to work. Regardless of whos’ right or wrong at this point…there’s a very very angry public out there.

  15. XUP Says:

    Personally, I’m really chuffed that the union has sucked it up and come back with something. I’d be just so grateful to have a transit system again, I wouldn’t hold it against them. Okay, I might not be as friendly as I used to be to bus drivers, but still, them making the first move is a good stratgic thing. It will give them lots of brownie points with the riders. (PS: are you on Facebook?)

  16. veredd Says:

    This was beautifully written. I actually reached for my jacket while I was reading (and I’m in warm Northern California).

  17. Friar Says:

    Good luck with the busses! And no…I’m not on Facebook (Dear God, No…I already spend too much time on the computer as it is!) 🙂

    Well, the good news is you can re-read this blog post for the summer when you need cooling off! 😉

  18. Steph Says:

    I remember walking to work in the same weather a few years ago (same degrees). I was so cold, even in a long down coat and fleece Thinsulate long johns under my lined pants, and feeling sorry for myself that I started crying. My tears froze.

    I don’t love to be out in it, but I really am fascinated by weather. I have been since I was a kid. I love films, like Day After Tomorrow, that freak me out with extreme weather. I love reading the Weather Network’s reports when they issue warnings and watches. It’s a bit weird. But sometimes they are so well-written and exciting!

    Still, I can’t help think of all those without protection from it. Last night, I kept thinking about homeless people in TO who might die if they didn’t find a place to go.

  19. Steph Says:

    PS. I love your street! It looks so…cozy or something. Sleepy.

  20. Friar Says:

    I like weather extremes too…even though we get uncomfortable. I was actually disappointed that we didnt’ hit minus 40C (Where Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees are equal, and where mercury freezes!).

    I mean, a few extra degrees at this point wouldn’t make too much difference, we might as well go for the big four-oh.

    Just think, in 6 months, it can be PLUS 37.

    Ps. I would certainly hate to be homeless, especially this time of year. Though, don’t the cops go looking for them and bring them inside when it gets this cold? I think some cities do.

    I also wonder how the animals deal with it (the deer and moose). Are they used to it, or do they also get miserable?

  21. Brett Legree Says:


    You hit upon something that we often take as a given in the colder climates. We are lucky to have heat and shelter.

    And it is so fragile too. Look at the 250k people in Toronto who had no power this week (is it still off? I haven’t checked).

    When I first went off to university, I remember going down to Yonge in late January with a couple of friends to buy some CD’s at the big HMV, and we were walking around late at night.

    I remember the contrast – the homeless people huddled up against the towering bank buildings – just on the other side of the multi-paned glazed glass, 20 C and lights – even late at night on a Saturday.

    I remember thinking, “this is just wrong”.

    And I remember thinking, “what happens if our power goes out and doesn’t come back on?”

    Makes you think.

    (Call me crazy, but that’s one reason why I want to move to a country without such ridiculously low temperatures. If your low temperatures in winter never go below about 5 C, at least you’re not going to freeze to death.)

  22. Friar Says:

    Yeah..cozy…sleepy….BORING! 😀

    Yeah, being homeless sucks…but even more so up here. (I mean, you’ll never freeze to death in L.A. or even Vancouver).

    Even from an energy point of view. why do all those buildings have to have blazing lights 24/7, with no-one in them?

    If our power went out and didn’t come back on, we’d be screwed. If this happened 100 years ago, it woudln’t be a big deal And at least there’d be enough wood stoves and firewood to go around. And we’d have oil lanterns.

    But nowadays? Who has an oil lamp? Can you even buy enough kerosene to light and heat your house? What use would our cell phones and lap-tops be?

    We’d be screwed.

    Oh, and blogging would cease to exist. (heh heh). It would be called “writing letters to your friends”.

  23. Friar Says:


    You CAN live somewhere in Canada where the weather isn’t’ extreme. Green grass in February. Never gets too hot in the summer.

    It’s called “Lotus Land” (i.e. Vancouver).

    The problem is, everyone else thinks like you do and wants to live there. So housing costs a bajillion dollars. 😦

  24. Brett Legree Says:


    That’s right – most of us would be screwed. Mass exodus to the USA, which would be stopped at the border of course.

    The trick to finding affordable housing in a place like BC is to think outside the box, but inside the box perhaps. I’ve found some land out there that is pretty affordable, if you don’t mind a bit of a drive (and the climate is still good).

    That’s why I’m into container housing (one of my little hobbies). Buy a piece of land somewhere, and put a prefab container house on it.

    If you don’t mind finishing the inside yourself, I found a company that will deliver a 2000 square foot container house to you for about $80k. Pre-wired and plumbed, you just put it together inside. Really, once you put in your bathroom and kitchen, the rest can be done as you go.

    Of course, your house looks like a box, but it’s made of solid steel so I’m willing to accept living in a box for a house that’s built like a bunker.

    Houses are expensive in many areas only if you buy one that already exists, or get a contractor to build you one. Homeowners and contractors alike love to gouge people, as you know.

  25. Friar Says:


    Well, there’s a big exodus to move to BC..and housing is getting really expensive, all the way up the Fraser River Valley, to Kamloops and Kelowna and Vernon.

    Kelowna is known for it’s great orchards and farms, which are in the process of being cut down to make room for waterfront condos for the Yuppies and retirees who want to move there.

    Soon, if you want something affordable in BY, you’ll be up north where it’s cold (which is what you wanted to avoid in the first place).

    An old guy in my painting class was discussing this with me. He said pretty much all of the nice places to live have been populated.

    So, if you want nice weather and a warm place to live, you have to fight the crowds.

    If you want privacy and cheap housing lots of land, then you fight the climate.

    Either or…it’s your choice.

    Kinda made sense…actually.

  26. Brett Legree Says:


    That’s true – so the trick is to stay away from those areas, the areas where the rich boomers want to live.

    Let’s say I was self-employed. I found a 4 bedroom house on 5 acres in Bella Coola Valley for about $150k, and that is one of the nicest parts of BC that no one knows about. The weather is pretty good there too because of the lay of the land.

    All of the nice parts that are close to the city or to the ski hills are populated, yes. I have no use for ski hills, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that.

    I guess it depends what you want. I don’t really mind a bit of a drive to and from work as long as where I live is nice.

    Kind of like here with the guys we know who live out near those nice lakes off 41. Yeah, it’s a bit of a hike but it’s pretty nice out there.

    Like I said, you just have to think outside the box. When we lived and worked in the Hamilton area, I was very close to buying a house in Dunnville. The difference in driving time from there to where I worked vs. living in Burlington (say) was about 10 minutes.

    But the houses were half the price, and you were on the Grand River.

    I agree with you, BC is very expensive in some places. I guess it depends on what you’re willing to do.

  27. t.sterling Says:

    Ever since I was a wee child and saw a man stand on his roof and throw a bowl of hot water into that air that froze immediately, I wanted to try it. However, I’m not too crazy about the cold and I’m quite happy to be working from home–especially since my car lacks the ability to blow heat into the car. At least it’s running again and the cold didn’t stop me from driving around town a little.

    Anyway, there are people here who complain about this cold snap we are in and I shake my head knowingly that it doesn’t compare to what’s going down up north. Then I shrug and curl back up into my electric Snuggie.

  28. Friar Says:


    If you pick a town where a pulp mill recently shut down, you can get a house for a song (like Red Rock, Ontario…there’s a three bedroom listed for $50K).

    Driving is really obnoxious in the cold…I had ice INSIDE my winshield that took forever to defrost. Not to mention the steering wheel is so cold, it burns your hands (Assuming the engine will start in the first place).

    I’m glad to report it’s become much more balmier since Friday. It’s going up to minus 12C today.

  29. ooh, the pictures… really cool… no frigid.. but in a rally cool way. 😉

  30. Really cool way. Hope you are warm and toasty now.

  31. Friar Says:

    You should see earlier in the year, before the River’s frozen…you get some pretty spectacular ice fog.

    But it’s warmed out now. I was skiing outside with just a couple of light layers. It’s actually downright PLEASANT outside now.

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