Federal Politics


Even Californians can't escape winter's chilly, virus-filled grip

YOU'RE going to scoff, I know, but here goes. It's been really cold here in Los Angeles lately.

What's cold in LA you ask? This week, downtown LA had a minimum of 34F – the coldest temperature in 23 years. That's about 1 degree Celsius by the way. We've had day-time maximums in the mid-50s – which is about 12 degrees. I know for Canberra, that's your typical July day. But for us, here in balmy southern California, that's unusual, interesting, and freezing!

Most people think Los Angeles has only one temperature – around 25 degrees all year. I've said it before and I'll say it again, that's not true. We get four seasons, just not the ridiculous extremes the rest of America suffers through. But when it's colder than usual, this town freaks out.

You see people walking the streets in big puffy jackets, scarves, gloves, and other gear more suited for some form of avalanche. Social events are cancelled or moved due to weather, local parks are deserted – and everyone shivers. I'll admit – after living here for this long, a cold snap makes a fun change – along with a reminder of why I don't live somewhere that endures this kind of weather for months.

Before you start knitting socks and sending emergency blankets, I should tell you the weather has popped back into the mid-20s again now – so sanity, and T-shirts, have returned.

There has been a lot of joking within the US about our hysterical reaction to chilly temps, especially when the rest of the country has been battling both cold, snowy weather and a nasty flu outbreak. Flu season here is always taken very seriously; remember this was the unofficial birthplace of the 1918 flu pandemic that killed somewhere between 20 and 50 million people worldwide. Yes I said million.


This year's flu hasn't killed that many, but it has killed – which is why every drug store (think a chemist that also sells booze, cookies and clock radios) you go near offers a flu vaccination. Every year there's a new version, as every year there's a new strain of virus doing the rounds. No one's ever sure the vaccination will match the virus until we're already into the fight; imagine not being sure if you should take a knife or a gun to a battle, choosing a blade and then seeing everyone else show up with uzis. But this year apparently the people who know about this stuff have guessed well. I've never had a flu shot, nor do I ever get a flu that confines me to bed. I will, now, because I've written that sentence. But this year's epidemic does give me a moment of pause.

I grew up in a land where the flu was an inconvenience, not a threat – but I've since learned that sometimes it's the little things you can't see coming that can cause the most damage. Even in southern California, sometimes you can't escape winter's chilly, virus-filled grip ... dammit.

Tim is a writer, TV producer and proud former Canberra resident who has lived in Los Angeles since 1997.

Twitter: @timschildberger