I guess about a week ago, I was helping my friend Alex out with CS 111 (Operating Systems). This meant nice long hours teaching him how to navigate through bitmaps and so on. On this particular day, I got out at ~4am or so to head back home. He's only a few blocks away from where I live, so it's no trouble at all to head over.
I came out, hopped in my car, and started everything up. Then I noticed that I couldn't see through the windshield. My wiper blades have been itching for replacement for a bit now (they're barely servicable, but they still do the job, so I've been slacking on that front), so they weren't doing the number on my windshield. What they were doing was making that horrible blade on dry glass sound.
My windshield in California at roughly sea level was frozen over with ice.
Now, I read a lot and I know a lot of people back East, so it's not a completely out of the ordinary thing to me. I did the logical thing, took a napkin out of the car, and wiped off my windshield with it. The ice came off OK and I drove my merry way home.
While I was wiping everything off, I was sitting there, listening to only the hum of my motor and thinking about how out of the ordinary it was and I got that sort of twinge. The feeling like the end is near and you can't really do anything but wait for it. You know it's there. You know that the ship's going to run out of oxygen or that you've had a fatal dose of radiation, but you aren't dead yet, so you're trying to manage in the meantime.
A while ago, a friend of mine pointed me at some posts of a supposed time traveler on usenet. The guy talks about a civil war starting in the US in 2005 which goes on for about 10 years. In 2015, Russia launches a nuclear strike against Europe, China, and the United States. I read the whole thing as entertainment. There are inaccuracies and one could trivially go through and determine what hasn't happened.
I'm not interested in that. I'm more interested in wondering what's around the corner for us. In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson makes the point that the reason we figured things out about DDT was mostly because of people who noticed that there weren't as many birds singing. Little bits of my environment changing in ways I can see worry me a bit.
It's hard to describe feelings and I can tell that I'm really just throwing words at it. That feeling of standing outside my car wiping the windshield off in the bitter cold wasn't frightening in the sense of someone threatening your life, but almost meditative like the way I felt before getting hit by that trailer. It was cold (literally and figuratively) and almost a little lonely.
Anyway, it hasn't happened since then, but I do wonder a bit about recent reports of climate changes (along with places setting record cold temperatures for the time of year).