A retired Hamline professor just called for some help. He needed to access an article to reference during a speech he will be giving to 4,000 people next month.
I guess that makes it a big deal.
He’s been trying and trying and could not find the full text of the article.
I helped him and we found it in like three minutes.
Once he had downloaded the full article, he was giddy with joy.
He said to me, “oh, thankyou thankyou thankyou, you have no idea what you’ve done for me. I wish we were on Skype so you could see how big my smile is.”
I guess that’s technology speak for “I appreciate the help.”
Sometimes, people really make me laugh.
I am sitting at Hamline, in the library. Minding my own business. I happened to glance outside to see a girl standing on the quad, blindfolded. Another girl was leading her. As I watched, they walked toward the library. Seeing girl guided blindfolded girl inside the doors and would periodically stop and make her touch things.
I stared at them. Fascinated. Curious.
Who wouldn’t be?
As a person who has once guided a blindfolded person through a public place, I might have been more curious than most. Unfortunately, the girls took a hard right and headed down the stairs. My thought was, “that blindfolded girl is very trusting” because they were moving down the stairs at a rapid pace and I don’t think I could do that. Have you ever tried to walk down stairs in the dark or somehow being unable to see them? Even knowing you’re at the end, there is a certain fear that you will have missed a step and somehow stumble.
But, blindfolded girl just trotted along side seeing girl and then they disappeared from my view. I actually wondered if I should follow them, just to see what they were up to…?
Before I could decide what to do, the front door opened again and a female student came into the library, wearing a blindfold. She was accompanied by a male student. It was probably about this point where I started to wonder if Hamline had a cult problem?
This time, I caught the attention of the male, sighted, student. I said, “what are you doing?”
He laughed and said, “we’re in a theater class and are doing an exercise that requires us to practice trust and tactile sensing with a partner”.
He said, “there is nothing to worry about, it’s for school.”
I laughed at that and said, “I wasn’t worried, but I have been very curious.”
Then he lead his blindfolded girl through the library and stopped periodically to make her touch different things. Meanwhile, the first set, came back upstairs and started to head out. Someone carried an protected item through the security gate and it beeped, loudly.
The seeing girl jumped and got distracted and blindfolded girl crashed into the security gate because no one was guiding her.
It was odd, humorous, and the most excitement I’ve had on a Sunday in a good, long, while.
You know what? I stopped paying attention to the weather after Phil gave me the good news.
That was stupid.
Last week, it got so warm outside. I wasn’t wearing a coat. At all. Didn’t even bring one with when I left the house.
It was fabulous, until Friday.
When I awoke on Friday, the sun was streaming in the windows and it *looked* gorgeous outside. I got dressed in a thin, long-sleeved, t-shirt and jeans and went to work. In the mornings, my car is in the garage, so I never notice the weather at all.
I noticed, a few minutes into my drive, that I was chilly. I hadn’t had the heat on for several days. I glanced at the dash to see the outside temp and it said 21 degrees.
WHAT? The day before it was in the 40s.
Even though I know it can change that fast, it seemed odd to me. What I had yet to figure out is that it was blustery as well, and the wind chill made it feel like it was 5 degrees out.
five degrees and i wasn’t wearing a coat. minnesotans are hardy. ha.
Unfortunately for me, I had things to do all day and I ran around doing them with no coat because I didn’t have time to go home and get one. I got home at 7:30 pm. I think even my bones were cold by then. I bundled up like a maniac, adding layers and layers until I convinced myself I’d one day be warm again. Then I headed back out into the cold to pump gas on my way to Kelly and Mark’s for board games and beer.
Saturday, I stayed indoors all day and was lazy. I didn’t get dressed, nor did I step foot outside. I also never saw a thermometer or weather report.
Sunday morning, I woke up, knowing I had to go to work. My first thought was, I hope it is warm out today. I am so done with the snow. It needs to continue melting.
This is particularly ironic. I looked out the window and there was fresh snow on the ground.
I still shrugged it off, because it was just a dusting.
It gets better.
I left for work and it was still snowing. I remember thinking, “strangely this doesn’t bother me, it’s as though Mother Nature knew we were at our breaking points and gave us last week as a gift, knowing this last snowfall had to come through.”
I got on the Interstate and was surprised to find traffic was terrible. I couldn’t imagine why, it was just a little snow. Yeah, it was a bit messy, driving, but not terrible.
I got to work and I realized I didn’t have my pass to get in the employee door. I had to walk a block to the front door of Hamline’s library. That was noon.
Still it snowed.
Still, I just thought it was little snow.
At about 2 pm the first tractor came and scooped the plaza out front. That seemed odd to me.
At 4 pm, the tractor came again. What was going on? (I just want to clarify that this is not a joke, I really had no earthly idea that there was a blizzard going on. I missed the warning in days leading up and just…missed it.)
Then the phone rang and it was my boss. She wanted to know if I was planning to leave early. I didn’t know what to say, because I had no clue as to what was happening so I quickly zapped a little weather.com while we talked.
Eventually I told her that I would stick it out until 8.
Here’s where it gets fun.
I am, again, dressed inappropriately. I had a coat and cheap stretchy wal-mart gloves. knit.
Tennis shoes. No hat. No scarf. No boots.
I went out to find poor Gus covered. I actually had to brush snow off to make sure it was him and not someone else’s car. Between drifting snow, actual snow, and snow plows, the snow was piled up to his windows. Seriously. I had no shovel.
I used my brush to get the snow off of him, but within seconds I was covered in snow and soaked through. It was in my shoes. I scraped and brushed and even dropped down to my knees to dig with my pathetically covered, cold hands.
Eventually, Gus was clear. I tried to drive him out and it wasn’t happening. The snow was too deep.
I went back inside and recruited. Three students came and pushed me out.
I waved as I drove off.
The snow on the side streets was so deep (off-campus) that it was higher than the tires. Actually plowing through snow while the bottom of the car was IN snow. I could feel it bumping my feet through the floorboards. I knew if I stopped, I’d never get going again. I blew every stop sign and stop light I could. At the light on Hamline/University, it is a busy intersection. It was red. I slowed enough to check and then barreled right through. I was scared because others wouldn’t be able to stop either, but I didn’t want to get stuck.
The freeway was fine. I was actually going about 40-45 once I got on it. But the edges were littered with stranded cars at exits. People couldn’t get UP any exits. Lucky me, my exit home goes downhill.
I got off at McKnight and here’s where the fun started. That road was awful. Just like in the city. And it is so hilly, that doesn’t help.
For the first time, I was grateful for the 4,000 pounds of American Steel I was driving around in. My Saturn, God rest her, would not have made it home. I needed every inch of Gus’s weight, including the full tank of gas that I, thankfully, had. I was grateful for the vacuum in the trunk, knowing that every little bit was helping.
And even at that, I ran the engine so hard the “Service Engine Soon” light came on and hasn’t gone off. My boy might need a car doctor soon.
Okay, so I am slip-sliding my way down McKnight, when I approached the Upper Afton intersection. A car was stuck. In the middle of the intersection. Going my direction, you would have had to drive in the oncoming lanes to get around him. Which is exactly what people were doing.
What? How can you just ignore him?
I figured it might be bad, but I thought I had a good chance at getting going again, so I stopped my car and put my flashers on. I then got out and approached. The driver was seriously stuck and spoke little English. I started pushing. Pushing and pushing. Not working. Cars were passing us everywhere.
Finally, a car stopped and a guy got out and he said, “Let’s do this”. He and I pushed. We barely got the car moved.
Then, the driver got out and pointed at me and said, “you drive”. HE then started pushing with the other guy. They kept wanting me to go in reverse, but I couldn’t see, which is nervewracking. I was backing up in someone else’s car, across a busy intersection, into oncoming traffic, and I can’t see out the rearview mirror or rear windshield at all. It was terrible. Eventually, a third guy joined and said, “let’s get her out of here”. I said, “actually, I’m just driving, it’s HIS car, I’m not stuck, just nice enough to stop and help.”
Maybe not the right time to defend myself, but he said it so condescending, like this only happened because I was female.
So we got the car out of the intersection, but it was still stuck.
As soon as it wasn’t blocking traffic, guy1 took off without a word. He, apparently, only stopped because we were in his way. Whatever. I guess that makes him less rude than most people but still rude. Definitely less rude than the 4×4 pickup truck with the plow attached that steered around us to continue on his merry way. Come ON!
I finally got out and looked at the scene and asked the driver where he was going. He told me and I suggested a better route that had less UP hills. So we pushed and shoved some more, with him in the driver’s seat, because if it started, I couldn’t be in it.
After 20 solid minutes (total) he was free and gone. Guy 3 waved at me and said bye. I put my sodden self in the car and got Gus moving again. A block and one hill later, I spied a stuck girl. She was 16 at the most. I pulled over and asked if she needed help. She said she did. She had called her dad and he was coming to get her, but seriously?
I checked out her car and it didn’t look that stuck. But it was rear-wheel drive, she said. Well, lucky for her, I used to drive rear-wheel cars and still remember how different they are in the snow. I said, “mind if I try?” She let me hop in and I rocked it back and forth for about a minute and then popped it in reverse, HARD, while already accelerating. It popped out of the drift like nothing. I got it in the middle of the road, where the ground was clear and told her to call her dad FIRST so she wasn’t on her phone and driving. Then she hopped in her car and left.
I then stopped at the gas station for milk and took a different route home because I wasn’t even sure that Gus, in all his 2-ton glory, would make it up McKnight Hill. And I was pretty sure no one would stop.
I got home about 95 minutes after leaving St. Paul. A 15 minute drive. And I, a girl, stopped twice to help out strangers. When did that stop being something that people do? I get everyone has cell phones, but in this weather? A tow or a cop or a dad is going to take forever to get there. Just help, I mean, really.
So I get home and my street/driveway isn’t plowed. I have to get Gus into the garage, because if I don’t, they won’t plow and I am NOT shoveling this mess.
We geared up and tried to make a run of it. It was too much. Even for Gus. The weight of the snow stopped us cold. I backed up as far as I could and started rolling tracks. Back and forth. 8 times each way, until I finally got inside the garage. Literally used the front end of Gus as a snow plow. I was amazed. No doubt in my mind that this was the worst weather I’ve ever driven in, in my nearly 32 years. And I consider myself an excellent snow driver.
When I got in my garage I looked and the corner of the garage had undisturbed snow where it rested against the door. I had nothing to measure with, so I used this:
How tall is a soccer ball?
Evidently it varies, but roughly about 8.5″. You’ll notice we got more snow than that. This was about 9:40 pm. And it didn’t quit snowing until about 6:00 pm the next day. Final total was 13.4″, marking the second snowfall of the winter that dropped over ONE FOOT in a single snowfall.
This was the path that Gus plowed. You can see how high the banks are, but it is hard to measure….
Welcome to my Winter Wonderland.
You can see it is about at my knees.
By the way, I hit a patch of ice, walking back in and went down. Hard. On my left knee.
It’s still a little swollen today. Luckily, it was the left knee, which is my bad knee, and also the knee supporting my formerly broken and recently strained left foot. I’m a mess.
Then, today, the reason why I shouldn’t have helped people reared its ugly head. I could hardly get out of bed this morning. My arms hurt so much that typing hurts (I’m powering through). My shoulders are killing me. My lower back muscles ache. And then there is my left knee/foot.
A big mess.
But, in surprisingly good spirits. I feel good about helping two strangers. I think I’m in for a healthy dose of good karma. And it’s a short week at work.
This is it, right?
Once I finally parked my car, I gathered up my stuff quickly and hopped out. I headed toward the library, head down, scowling as a stomped my way toward warmth.
I heard someone say “excuse me” when I was about a block into my walk. I ignored it.
Then I heard the sound of shoes slapping against cold pavement. Someone was running. In the back of my mind, I assumed someone was late and was running and had to get past another someone on the sidewalk. This is how my brain made sense of the sounds. My brain was wrong.
Seconds later, I felt a hand on my arm.
I jerked toward the person to see a young boy (18? 19?) who said, “excuse me, miss?”
I have to say, the “miss” went a long way toward soothing my sensibilities and I managed not to snarl when I said “what”.
We drifted to a stop and I half-turned to face him.
“Is that your dark Cadillac back there?” He nodded in the direction.
I said yes without turning my head. Not too many Cadillacs in this neighborhood.
He said, “oh, I walked past and noticed your lights were still on. I hurried to catch you because you’re the only other person walking out here and I figured it must be yours.”
I told him that my car has automatic headlights and they’ll go off by themselves in a minute. (Three minutes actually).
He said, “okay, good, then. I just figured I better let you know. I’ve left my headlights on before and then my car won’t start. This would be a very cold night to be stranded.”
And that’s when it happened.
All of the annoyances, all of the anger, it just went away. I felt better because this boy took time from his night, he RAN down a freezing sidewalk to catch a perfect stranger. Just because he didn’t want said stranger to end up stranded on the side of the road. Aren’t teenagers supposed to be selfish and rude?
I smiled at this boy and said that I really appreciated him tracking me down. It would have been a terrible night to be stranded and I was grateful he took the time to think of someone else.
“Well, I’ve been there, it’s not fun.” was his response.
Then he grinned at me and said, “you have a good night” and he set off toward, I’m guessing, his class.
I walked the rest of the way with a smile on my face, knowing that this kid will never know that I had a crappy day, but because he was thoughtful and considerate, he turned it right around.
And the rest of my night went smooth as silk. It was very, very busy (first papers of the new semester are due this week) and I didn’t mind at all. I was so completely turned around that when I look back on it today, I don’t think of yesterday as a bad day at all.
Sometimes it’s wondrous to consider how we touch others’ lives without even realizing.