Jan 13, 2023

Getting In Touch with One’s Inner Imbecile

A report from Common-Cold Mountain

By Ed Goldman

Most of us have an inner child—a part of us that simply refuses to grow up. A possible exception to this would be Peter Pan, who managed to remain an eternally irritating adolescent.

I’m not sure I have an inner child. 

Edgy Cartoon

Snow Country for Old Men

I do, on the other hand, have an inner imbecile—an alter ego who insists it’s still not time to switch from wearing running shorts to thermal sweat pants, no matter now frigid the temperature gets.

I’ve gone through this ritual every year since moving to Sacramento in August of 1976. The day I arrived it was about 103 degrees. And for some reason, I had a hard time adjusting not to the heat, which was formidable, but to its mid-Autumn farewell. November, December and January would roll by—with temps sometimes dropping into the low 50s and high 40s, and the occasional overnight freezes—and I still insisted on wearing running shorts: not only while working in my home office but also when I ventured outside.

This wasn’t as ill-advised as it may sound (or, in retrospect, as it might actually have been). After all, when I left my cozy home I usually crawled right into my car, which had a working heater, and drove to grocery stores, the post office or an indoor shopping mall, all of which were also warm. In fact, so many of them were heated to near-tropical temps that on the rare days I’d wear appropriately warm apparel, I’d find myself perspiring profusely—which, when I followed that up with stepping into a 45-degree day, was as likely to cause a cold or flu as being under-dressed from the get-go.  

I’ll allow as how my cold-weather ensemble (bulky sweatshirt over running shorts, heavy sweat socks and running shoes I sometimes ran through the clothes dryer for a few moments before leaving my home) could prove problematic when I stopped to put gas in my car. Gas stations, as you know, are usually open-air affairs, to minimize customer deaths (and more accurately, survivors lawsuits) from carbon monoxide inhalation.

But since I did and do most of my work at home, I don’t “gas up” all that often. In fact, anytime I’ve taken my 2002 car in for servicing, the mechanic seems to suspect I’ve turned back my mileage gauge: after all, how could someone with a car that was 10, then 15 and now 21 years old have logged fewer than 100,000 miles since driving it off the sales lot (in the process, immediately decreasing its resale value by several thousand dollars)? I think my insurance agent also wonders about it; but since I’ve been buying long-term insurance from him long enough to still turn a profit for his company if I live to be 112 , I think he gives me a pass.

By late January, alas, the chickens come home to roost. Meaning, I finally admit to feeling the effects of under-dressing all those months and may suffer from chilblains, arthritis pain, sneezing fits or neuralgia. Also, considerable embarrassment, when I run into friends who I like to believe regarded me as hearty during my months of wearing running shorts in the face of inclemency but probably thought of me as being—oh, what’s the word?—an imbecile. An inner and outer one. Pass the Nyquil.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).