graphic by Andrea Moschietto
If I’m cold, then we need to raise the thermostat; if you’re cold, you must be delusional because it feels fine in here to me.
By Richard Pachter
This is anecdotal, not scientific, but I swear that men and women perceive temperature differently.
Judi Smith, humorist Dave Barry's assistant, tells me it's not just a matter of perception.
"These goose bumps are real, " she declared, and I knew that she was not making it up.
But I see plenty of mostly young women wearing sandals, flip-flops or other minimal footwear, short skirts, sleeveless tops and bare midriffs, shivering and protesting about the frigid interior temperatures in their offices.
I'm certainly not complaining, but I would suggest that rather than bowing to style or the desire to be provocative, they put on some clothes — or something — to cover their extremities.
START WITH SOCKS
Shoes and socks might be a good start, although those shocking pink-painted toenails will be obscured. Long pants would help too, as would a top with sleeves. As proud as one may be of a belly-button ring, sacrificing coolness for warmth may be wise.
But that's just me, and I'm not usually cold, especially indoors in South Florida. After all, I went to college in and around Buffalo, so I know what cold is. (It's bad. Very bad.)
I also know what to wear. I'm not Mr. Fashion, but I usually toil in my cubicle (and wander the halls) in a short-sleeved cotton golf-type shirt, cotton pants, and the ever-popular leather-shoes-and-cotton-socks combination.
No danger of my being profiled in Esquire, but I don't complain about the thermostat either — unless it's too high and a torpid malaise sets in, especially after a big lunch.
But plenty of women in my workplace — including Judi Smith — dress warmly and still suffer from the chill. One even keeps a blanket stashed under her desk, which she occasionally pulls out and drapes over her lap, as if she were at the Army-Navy football game. (Hope her team wins.) I've also heard rumors of stashed space heaters, but that sounds a bit far-fetched.
After digging around a bit, I learned that according to a study ("Comparison of Thermoregulatory Responses Between Men and Women Immersed in Cold Water," Tikuisis et al, Journal of Applied Physiology, October 2000), the difference in the way men and women respond to the same temperature is a function of their size and percentage of body fat and not some hard-wired physiological variation.
MY WIFE IS PERFECT
Makes sense, but I refuse to get involved in anything involving the assessment of body fat. I've been married too long to fall into that trap (to a woman of perfect weight and proportions, of course).
And I'll concede there are some offices that even I find chilly. There is one meeting room where I expect one day to discover ice-cube trays placed on its oaken credenza in testament to its near-frigid Fahrenheit mark. Another conference room could easily have meat hooks with sides of beef hanging from its ceiling.
In this age of sky-high energy costs, one would think that building management would aim to conserve, or at least equalize, room temperatures to eliminate frigid zones.
But it may be futile. WFOR/WBFS Communications Director Lee Zimmerman reports that in an attempt to offset the hot lights, the television news studio is usually kept at 67 degrees, though visitors and staff often feel chilly. "I can't tell you how many times I've heard 'Why didn't you warn me? I would have worn a sweater,' from guests," he says.
Dr. James Kraut, a psychologist in Coral Springs, reports that his office's thermostat is subject to centralized control by the building's custodial staff. "It's usually a bit cooler than we prefer. We tried closing vents, but it's just no use. I keep a sweater on hand, which I often have to offer to my patients," says Kraut.
Hopefully, none are traumatized by the experience.
The solution may require a bit of group collaboration, but ultimately, your "cold" may be my "hot." In that case, it feels just fine in here, so keep your hands off that thermostat, willya!
originally published October 10, 2005 in The Miami Herald