The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 41.0°F | A Few Clouds and Breezy

To the Beat of a Different Thermostat: The Long Story of My Indefatigable Obsession with Shorts

Dan Dunn

People stare at me all the time. It isn't that people recognize me from the sterling picture you see here. It isn't because I have a large growth, or a limp, or a computer hanging from my neck. It is because I wear shorts.

I sometimes hear people talking about me as I go past. "Look, there is that guy. Is he nuts?" I'm not sure how much I like being "that guy."

Other people are so shocked to see me in shorts that they stop me to ask questions like, "Aren't you cold like that?"

My answer to this one varies widely. If I am in a good mood, I just tell them that I like it that way. If I'm in a bad mood, I stare at them oddly. "Aren't you hot under all those clothes?" Or sometimes I give the long explanation, which is as follows:

I don't know why I am different from other people, but I just have a very different internal thermometer from everyone else. People around me are looking for a sweater, and I am looking for a window to open.

I would never wear shorts if I was going to be outside for a long time. But here at school, I am only running from building to building. It is way too hot inside, and shorts make it comfortable.

And even outside just isn't that bad. I am never outside for longer than twenty minutes or so. I find the air outside to be brisk and invigorating, not something to worry about.

There is a side effect to all this. I am a big fan of snow. It is tough to explain why. I snowboard, but that just isn't the reason. I love the feel of snow, the look of it falling and the look of it on the ground.

This winter, of course, is the winter of El Nio. It has meant a warm winter without much snow. Only 22 inches, according to the National Weather Service. I like hitting the record, myself - somewhere over 120 inches.

When you get right down to it, I wear shorts because I sweat so much. People like me dread the summer. If you wear t-shirts and shorts when the weather is in the thirties, what do you do when it gets in the eighties? Nakedness is not an option. I am just miserable.

But why is my internal thermometer so out of whack? I don't really know. I have been like this as long as I can remember. Some people think that it is because I am from New Hampshire, but it is not. They think I am crazy up there too.

Last winter, I was visiting home and I got snowed in by a storm. I had to leave before we got plowed out, so I shoveled myself out. The neighbors were all staring, and my mother took picture. For some reason, they though it was strange to see me up to my knees in snow, shoveling my car - wearing shorts.

Part of my reason is the way I was raised, to be sure. My father would avoid turning on the heat for as long as he could. Halloween was almost guaranteed to still be sweaters and blankets. My mother generally cracked him by Thanksgiving, though.

Even when heat was on, it wasn't on high. It was never put above 65 degrees during the daytime. It was set at 40 degrees at night. If the heat was ever too high, or the door was open too long, you heard a speech about "dollar bills flying out the door."

In high school, I was the first one up every morning, and I turned on the heat. Our bathroom is in an addition at the very end of the house, farthest from the thermostat, and not very well-insulated. I vividly remember a January cold-snap where I had to break the ice on the toilet. I shudder to think about the days before indoor plumbing.

The only exception to the no-heat rule was when we used the wood stove. My father didn't feel the dollar bills being burned when it was wood that we had chopped the spring before, and the wood stove would run wide open.

There is a good story about one of the coldest winter weekends I can remember. It didn't go above zero for a few days, with a good brisk wind to really freeze the snot in your nose. My father decided that this would be the perfect day to repaint the front door. He took it off its hinges, so all that stood between us and the cold was a 1/4-inch think plastic storm door.

We got the wood stove going early, and fed it wood without pause for hours. By the end of the day, we were all in t-shirts, opening the storm door to cool the house off. I guess my family sounds pretty strange.

Maybe you are beginning to understand why I wear the clothes that I do. When warm feels hot, and cold feels nice, there is no reason to bundle up all the time.

So next time you are in class falling asleep, think about the classroom. I bet that you are going to decide that it is just too hot. Wouldn't you be more comfortable wearing shorts?