Until this week, the folks inside the Para Dice espresso booth were plenty warm.
The small drive-through stand at Sprague and McDonald was heated nicely by the espresso machine inside. It was left on all night, so that even on winter mornings the place was toasty when employees arrived for work.
But that espresso machine was no match for the cold blast that hit Monday and hung around all week. The shop’s owners had to bring in a portable electric heater to keep hypothermia at bay.
“When I come in in the mornings, it’s reeeeeeally cold,” said Para Dice espresso-maker David Milliken. “This zero degree stuff is too much.”
Like it or not, it’s here. Since there’s no changing the weather, people in the Valley are just having to cope.
Some, like Mark Cesal, do better than others. The twentysomething Valley resident attracted attention during his morning commute to his job at Midway Cyclery at Sprague and Pines. That’s because Cesal was dressed head to toe in skin-tight cycling gear and doggedly pedaling his mountain bike along the frozen streets.
“I don’t mind. I’m close to work,” he said.
Overhearing the conversation, co-worker Ryan Martin stops and shakes his head. “He’s crazy.”
Cesal’s mountain bike was outfitted with special shocks and studded knobby tires.
“I went to ride without ‘em, but I’d crash and ruin my tights,” he said.
Others have no choice but to be out in the cold. “Oh yeah, I’m fine,” Postal Service mail carrier Tom Stehr said as he walked along his Argonne Road route. “We have just about anything we can think of to keep us warm.”
He wore snowpants, a turtleneck, a long blue coat and boots. The ensemble is topped off by a fuzzy winter cap like those worn by Russian troops in those escape-from-Siberia movies. The only part of Stehr that goes bare is his right index finger - he snipped that part of his glove away to better sort through letters.
Being out five hours a day has taught Stehr some tricks. “As long as you keep moving, you can work up enough body heat,” he said. Walk-in deliveries to businesses along his route are a nice bonus - and a cup of complementary coffee also goes a long way.
While most of us have to fight the cold, some find ways to make a cool dime from the weather. At the Army Surplus store near Pines and Sprague the aisles were full of people shopping for military-grade winter gear this week.
Manager Dave Arnold Jr. said last month was his best January in years.
On a typical sub-zero day, Arnold said, he can sell 60 pairs of socks and 30 pairs of gloves. “I could conquer the world with a building full of wool socks,” he said.
Norma Anderson came to Arnold’s store Wednesday on her own reconnaissance mission. “That’s what I came for,” she said, pointing to a display box overflowing with puffy wool socks. “People’s feet are falling off.”
Apparently, that goes for faces too. Chris Tessier at Dick’s Suzuki, 5701 E. Sprague, said he’s sold scads of Darth Vader-style thermal masks to construction workers.
A to Z Rental Center at 10903 E. Sprague has rented out about 50 industrial heaters, 30 of them to Kaiser Aluminum. “They would have rented them all if they could,” employee Lonny Glatt said as he dusted the snow off of the rows of tractors out front.
Some bus passengers who waited at the Valley transit center near University Road were wishing that STA had rented a few of those industrial-strength heaters.
Aimee DeVine, 18, and a few other folks shivered in one of the transit center’s little glass shelters Wednesday. They stood beneath the heating elements that glowed along the ceiling, waiting to catch a bus.
DeVine wasn’t happy. She peeled back her scarf to vent.
“Those don’t even help!” she said, pointing to the ceiling heaters. “This is a joke!”
Will the Valley freeze ever end? Of course. There are signs already.
Otis Orchards resident Earl Mithaug swears he saw a robin perched on a tree branch in his back yard Thursday.
And at the Para Dice espresso stand, David Milliken is serving a few true optimists.
“My first two drinks today were iced,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Photos (1 Color)