In the last few years, I’ve noted a small but noticeably growing trend of people wearing no winter clothing on the coldest of winter days – trousers and shirts, sure, but no coat of any kind. I usually see them in shopping centre car parks, but have noted them in other places as well.
Because they used to be rarer sights than they are now, my theory used to be that they were just running a quick errand and were in a hurry. Now I see them – almost always male and usually younger, I should point out – often enough that I think it may be reflective of a time where many simply never go outdoors for more than a run to the store for something, some of them perhaps thinking of frigid weather as a sort of annoying feature of the non-online game of life that never needs to be thought of in terms of anything but several minutes.
I’d be willing to bet that some of them don’t even own a coat – I mean, why would you not take five seconds to don one if you did own one, other than thinking, “How could there possibly be any consequences of dressing for balmy weather in the dead of winter?”
My puzzlement with this has only a little to do with the old admonition to “Bundle up or you’ll catch your death of pneumonia!” It’s more to do with the baffling optimism of someone who’s totally unprepared to spend more than a few minutes in an environment where the phrase “died of exposure” crops up with fair frequency in news reports. Will their car never break down or slide into a ditch? Will they never lock themselves out of their house? And will their mobile’s battery never hit 0%? To me, it’s akin to parents refusing to vaccinate their kids, rationalising “Oh, what are the chances they’ll ever get exposed to that. Anyway, we bleach every surface in our house and that will protect them just fine.” Such levels of optimism imbue the world with a gentleness and harmlessness that, on average, it simply doesn’t possess.