I realize that this wasn't exactly Hamlet's rhetorical question,
but it definitely is the subject I have been pondering for several weeks now.
When I first spied these posts positioned all over the UAF campus in 2003,
I thought they were some kind of parking meter.
I have since grown much wiser and know that they are outlets provided so drivers
can plug in their cars in the cold weather. They are conveniently placed in parking lots at the hospital where I work, the apt. complex where I live, and at Josh and Kathleen's house.
Almost every car here has a plug like this one hanging out of its front end. This plug is connected to 3 other ones inside the engine that, when connected to a power source, heat the engine block, battery and oil pan. This way, no matter how bitter the subzero temps get, the car won't freeze up while not in use.
The other alternative is to keep a car running and lots of folks do exactly this while shopping or at appointments. There are two big drawbacks to this method: 1. The fumes freeze into ice smog that is an air pollutant and 2. You go through a tank of gas a lot often (and it costs $3.56/gallon here).
My dilemma is whether to spend $500 to get my old Impala a new plug or take my chances on her starting when I need her to. Kathleen and Josh say the coldest weather arrives in January and I'll be gone south by then. I am not about to let my car run the 11 hours I am at work each day. So, for now I guess I'll race out to the parking lot 15 minutes before leaving to warm up the old engine. The old girl got me all the way up here last June and I think I can count on her to keep me going these next 2 months... the key word here is think.