There are icicles on my porch roof that haven’t melted since Wednesday. The weather folks say it’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re getting snow with high winds tomorrow and are on our way to single-digit temperatures.
I love the cold. My teen years and early adulthood were spent high in the mountains. Chilly weather makes me feel young, energized. Cold in Texas is a treat, so when I went out to pick up a last-minute order from my local Walmart, it was with an eye to staying off slick roads, not out of the weather.
It was still light outside when I left the house just after 6 p.m. Walmart is barely 2 miles away, so I slid my feet into sandals and threw a lightweight poncho over my short-sleeved t-shirt and sweat pants. That’s all I would need to sit in my car while some bundled-up teenager put my purchases in the trunk. Besides – young and invigorated, remember?
I must have said that last part out loud, because somewhere, Murphy’s ears perked up.
When I got to Walmart, the app kept telling me I was 18 minutes away. Eventually it dawned on me: I’d placed the order on the other Walmart, 5 miles away in rush hour traffic. By the time I got to the right store, dusk had faded into dark and the temperature was dropping. A polite, cheerful young man loaded my purchases and I started back home.
Ooh, Boston Market! Chicken pot pie for supper sounded perfect. Unfortunately, by the time I managed to move over just one lane, Boston Market was 5 blocks behind me. I’d have to loop back. The added “adventure” seemed to justify a Boston Market brownie, too.
Eventually, I pulled into Boston Market’s parking lot. My sandals no longer seemed practical so I decided to stay in the car. After placing the order online, I pulled around to a curbside pick-up spot to wait my turn. Switching off the car, I sat and enjoyed a few moments of unbusy-ness.
A young woman opened the Boston Market door and made her way toward the car. I hit the window button, and nothing happened. Oh, right, the engine was off. I pushed the ignition. Lights flashed, something chittered in the console, but that was all. Nothing useful happened. She walked around to my side and handed me my supper through the door. I explained that my battery seemed to be dead and I’d have to wait there for Roadside Assistance.
Roadside Assistance notified me that my rescuer would arrive in…. 1 hour and 49 minutes? I decided to eat my pot pie. And brownie.
The cold was no longer invigorating. Bracing, maybe. I thought about how it's been a minute since those chilly nights in the mountains of my youth. I pulled my poncho closer around me, tucked my feet in a bit and prepared to wait. Time crawled by. I read Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and WhatsApp, emails and all 5 news sites on my phone in a steady rotation to pass the time. Unbusy-ness had lost its charm.
An hour and 45 minutes later, my toes were on strike and my arms were thinking of joining them, when a truck pulled up beside me and a man got out, wrapped up like a human burrito. I stepped out into the night in my frozen-toed sandals to say hello, and popped the hood on my car. Arctic wind whipped my poncho around. I climbed back behind the steering wheel, not sure if it was the cold or my arthritis that was slowing me down. My cheerful rescuer hooked up the cables. Frigid fingers pushed the ignition. Frozen toes pushed lightly down on the accelerator. The engine sprang to life and warmth, blessed warmth, began to fill the car.
Burrito man walked over as I let the engine run. “I never knew it could get so cold in Texas,” he said.
“Yeah, but it’s been a while,” I answered. “Back in the mid-80s we had several cold winters, if you’ll remember.”
“I wouldn’t know,” he said politely.
“Oh, you’re not from here? Where are you from?”
“No…” he hesitated, then went on, “I am from here, but back in the mid-80s… ma’am, I wasn’t even born then!”
Just like that, the years caught up with me. Thanking human burrito child, I drove away, amused and grateful for my greying hair and thawing toes and the heated bliss pouring from the vents. Maybe, I reminded myself, maybe sometimes I should embrace the wisdom of Not Young.
And somewhere, I swear, I heard Murphy laughing gently in the cold, invigorating night.