A New England Question

This morning, I filled up with gas at a station on a busy corner. Across the street were businesses and restaurants. I wore my warmest gloves, but of course holding onto a metal gas nozzle for a couple of minutes when it’s 7 degrees and windy makes your hands extra cold even with gloves on. When I was done, my fingers were burning and numb. It was markedly unpleasant.

In those minutes I saw probably a dozen or 15 people come and go. Most of them were tradesmen, all were pushing or past 50. Not one of them wore gloves, and a minority wore hats. All of us in New England take cold in stride, of course. Personally, after years of Southern sun blasts, I really like cold weather. I, too, often go from car to restaurant or business or whatever gloveless, though not so much when it’s 7.

But here’s the rub: two guys pulled into the station, got out and started pumping gas. Both were over 50. Neither of them wore gloves either. They grabbed right onto the metal nozzles and pumped away.

You could do it and escape frostbite, but pumping gas barehanded today would be very painful at best, and dangerous at worst. They had to be in misery.

So: what is going on here? Do New Englanders over 50 get a special dispensation? Sure, you get used to Arctic air, but do they just not notice that it really hurts? Why not, you know, use some gloves instead of enduring that? Is this a New England thing I just haven’t caught on to yet?

A mystery on up there with the earliest days of my move north, when I spent a couple of weeks wondering what on Earth a “grinder” could be, and why everybody was so busy selling tags.

Today I felt especially Texan again. But at least my fingers were warm. Relatively.

James Heflin

Author: James Heflin

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