The Psychology of Temperature

Earlier this afternoon I was enthralled by the sight of the number 99 on my thermometer. It’s hot. A few minutes later the readout changed to 100. Damn, now it’s REALLY hot!

While it is true that 100 is only one degree hotter than 99, it feels much hotter. There’s that zero phenomenon again. Like with age. You might start to feel old when you wake up on your fiftieth birthday, yet you are only one day older than you were the day before.


A car that gets 30 miles per gallon seems so much more fuel efficient than one that gets 29 mpg. A fifty-dollar bill feels like more money than nine five and five ones.

Double zeros are worse, aren’t they?

“Man, I was cruisin’ at 99 miles an hour yesterday.” “That’s nuthin’! I was going 100.”

Your normal body temp is 98.6. When it reaches 100, you consider calling your doctor or calling in sick.

On your 99th birthday, a few nursing home staffers give you a cake your doctor says you shouldn’t eat and sing Happy Birthday loud enough for you to actually hear them. On your 100th birthday, your town throws you a parade and Willard Scott shows your picture on the Today show so a few million people can celebrate your milestone.

The last time I visited Phoenix, the temperature was 111 at the airport when I picked up my rental car, but I was more comfortable outside that day than I am today in Maryland at 100 degrees. Is it that age-old heat/humidity thing or is it the psychological impact of zeros?