six degrees

There’s a route I drive twice a day, pretty much every weekday. I drove it regularly many years ago, then I switched jobs and didn’t have to drive it for like ten years. Then my husband switched jobs and we had to drive it occasionally but usually went a different route. THEN we bought a house south of the towns he and I work in and we started driving the route literally every day. Then the pandemic hit and I started working from home but my husband is still learning to drive so he doesn’t take the car by himself, so I am still driving (or riding, if he’s driving) this route twice a day, pretty much every weekday.

It just occurred to me right now as I type that this information would probably be stalking GOLD if someone were motivated to hunt me down. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not going to become an issue. If I somehow end up getting famous and stalk-worthy at some point, I’m going to need one of the six of you that actually read my posts to remind me to come take this one down, ok? Ok.

So, on this route that I drive twice a day, pretty much every weekday, there’s several traffic lights. One stops at a highway off/on ramp, one stops at the entrance to a local high school, one stops near a bunch of sprawling manufacturing type buildings, and one stops at a cross-street that comes down from between the high school and a big medical clinic. That street passes in between two financial institutions on its way to the intersection. Those two financial institutions are where our story takes place. Sort of. Mostly it takes place in my head, but…you know.

One of the financial institutions is a credit union. The other is a small branch of a big regional bank. Both these places have big light-up signs with digital read-outs that flash back and forth between the time and the temperature. As an aside, why is this a service that banks specifically feel is important to provide? You never see a gas station or a McDonalds or a chiropractor’s sign flashing up the time and temperature in 2-foot-tall digital characters. Why have financial institutions taken up that mantle? Was it some sort of package deal that came along with the mini calendars banks give out every winter? Was the sales pitch to early bankers something like “here’s the thing: you give them a calendar to take home so they know what day it is, but if they wanna know the time or what the temperature is, they’re gonna have to come to…you guessed it! YOUR BANK!” These are fully rhetorical questions, by the way. I very much do not want you to email me the history of American banking. I know that of the six of you reading, at least three are unrelenting pedants, so I just want to make sure I’m very clear on that.

Get to the fucking point, Shelby. Jesus.

So these banks are right across from each other, separated by just a narrow two-lane side street. They both have the digital signs. The clocks on both digital signs are always the same.

But the temperature is not.

And it’s not just a degree or two of difference. You know, something you could attribute to maybe a passing breeze or a rogue shadow. No. The temperatures are a full SIX DEGREES different. And it’s not just an occasional thing. The one on the south side of the street is always six degrees colder than the one on the north side. I have driven by these banks, on average, 500 times a year (twice a day X 5 days a week X 50 weeks per year to account for vacations and whatever), for at least the last two years. That’s at least 1000 trips past these signs just in the last two years. Do I notice them every single time we drive through there? No. But every time I DO notice them, which is at least several times a week, they are ALWAYS six degrees apart.

And it bothers me. Clearly.

Now, rationally I know that it’s probably just due to difference in the sensitivity and/or location of the sensors. I have a rough grasp of science and I can accept that. What I have a harder time accepting is that likely the people who work in both of those buildings simply don’t care about this difference. They have probably noticed and just accepted the fact that one thermometer, less than 50 yards away from another, is reading a FULL SIX DEGREES different. I bet it doesn’t make their teeth itchy. They may, in fact…not even notice! I am mystified by this.

Instead of letting it gnaw at me that the temperatures are six degrees different for no good reason other than human ambivalence and/or possible electronic malfunction, I’ve made a decision: I am choosing to believe that the six degree difference is due in fact to a small furry rodent that has found its way into the space that holds the temperature sensor, and made itself a lovely cozy home there. Maybe it’s a clever red squirrel with bright eyes and a nice big cache of acorns. Maybe it’s a whole big family of tiny voles who each raise the temperature near the sensor just part of one single degree because they’re so wee. Maybe a possum squeezed its trash-smelling, tick-eating, screaming-at-their-own-ass heart of gold in next to the sensor for a long winter’s nap. Who knows.

All I’m saying is, this is how I’m coping with it. Things feel a little easier to handle if you can come up with a reason for them. Which is how we ended up with religion, of course, and look how THAT turned out. Hey, maybe my calling in life is to start a possum cult. Our central rituals could be going around to local banks to calibrate the thermometers on their digital signs, and screaming at our own asses because we exist.

2 thoughts on “six degrees

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s