By Jo Lauricella
Today Southern California is having our version of a “cold snap.” Yes; I can already hear the groans and the “wimp” comments. But when one is used to temperatures above 40 at night and above 60 during the day, high 30s to low 60’s is COLD! Below zero is completely unreal. I grew up in the Midwest; I know you can survive it. (But I didn’t have to like it!) I have a friend from Iran (where 100 degrees is a comfortable day), she relishes these cool days. I wonder how she would feel about being in Wisconsin in December.
Do merchants celebrate the cold L.A. weather the way Midwestern merchants do? No not really. You see in the Midwest the worse the weather is, the more into the Christmas Spirit people get, and off to the Mall they go. It is just the opposite in Southern California, if it is rainy and cold, people stay home. Our recent damaging gale force wind storms did not improve our Christmas shopping spirit. Once the sun shines and we can leave our jackets at home, Angelinos will be out in droves! A rule of thumb for Christmas shoppers, if you are in the Midwest, wait for a bright (preferable unusually warm) day, the Mall will be empty. The opposite is true for Los Angeles.
There is one type of shopping this weather is good for—fireplaces. Fireplaces are an important item of interest. Children want to know if it will work for Santa. Parents want to hang Christmas stockings and have cozy fires. At chimney companies, we get the calls: “every time we light a fire, we get smoke in the house.” On the inside I am groaning. Why? They waited to call. It is already well into December. A romantic fire on Christmas Eve may have to happen (after a reliable repair) on Christmas Eve, 2012.
We ask, “When did you last use the fireplace? Did it smoke the last time?” These may seem innocuous but they open up a whole realm of possibilities. We hope that they forgot to pull open the damper. We ask if the grate that holds the logs is only an inch from the back wall of the fireplace, with our fingers crossed. We diplomatically ask does it smoke every time, or only when a certain person lights it.
It is Christmas, people want big roaring fires, but they only have small fireplaces that allow for a gentle glowing burn. Some insist that if they put the grate all the way back, no one will see the fire. Unfortunately too big a fire or a fire too close to the opening causes smoke to go where it is not welcome! This is not only unpleasant, it is unhealthy and unsafe.