As I do occasionally, I have given my two “high school” daughters several rides to school in the last week. They seem to like the White Bus (my pick-up truck) over the Yellow Bus. And so any excuse gets them the preferred ride to school. “I need to be in early to take a test.” Or “My hair is taking too long. I’ll miss the bus. So can you give as ride today?” The requested ride to school is always followed by some sugary phrase. “I love you daddy!” is most commonly used. They somehow think that I’ll drop everything and run to do their bidding anytime they start acting sweetsie with me. They are right. So I make a lot detours to the school on my way to work.
Well, last week as we headed out for an early school drop off, nothing I could do or say would persuade Amelia to put on a coat. I knew she would be at school and then work from 7:00am until after 10:00pm.
“Aren’t you going to wear a coat today? It’s 10 below zero out there.”
“I am wearing a coat.”
She showed me her thin fashionable sweater that she had on over her short sleeved shirt.
“That’s not a coat. You’re going to freeze today.”
“I don’t have a coat.”
Not true. Her mom told me that she just won’t wear it because she wants to look cute, and wearing a coat isn’t. So off we go in the dark predawn artic air, to the high school where her early morning make-up test is waiting. She IS willing to huddle in MY coat while we drive the 7 miles to the school. As I’m driving along, I wonder if I should have forced her to take a coat anyway. But I know that if I did, she would ditch it in her locker or worse in some hall, never to come back home again, and she would never wear it anyway. So I wait to make sure that the empty looking school is unlocked and she can in fact get inside, so she doesn’t freeze to death, before I leave to go to work. As I drive away, I’m wondering, “Why are they so stupid when it comes to dressing warm in winter weather. I know that my Beautiful Wife is a perfect example of burrowing into warmth before venturing out in the cold. So where do they get it from?”
Then my memory takes me back to when I was first going to college. I lived at home and went to the local college which was only 5 miles from our farm. At the time, I worked for the school’s electronic services. The job included everything from setting up sound systems for large classes on campus to running the lights and sound for the big performances and concerts that came to our college.
On this particular morning, I had to go in early to do class room setups before my own classes. I drove an old drafty delivery van, which barely put out enough heat to keep the windshield defrosted. As I left the house at 5:00 am that morning, I remember thinking, “It feels a little cold out today. Maybe I should go back and get a jacket.” I looked at our yard thermometer, which read -25. Then I thought, “But I will be inside warm buildings all day, and I don’t want to have to carry around a jacket. Besides, I’m sure it will warm up to around zero when the sun comes up.” So I continued on with shirt sleeves only.
That afternoon, after my classes were finished, but before I could get back home, I was asked to stay and help run the lights for a show that night. It was the largest stage set up I had ever seen come to our college. Along with the bus load of performers, they brought two semi tractor trailers loaded with their own equipment. The set up before the show began took about four hours. This was back when the eight foot long super-trooper spot lights the college had, ran on carbon rods similar to welding rods. I loved running those big lights while following the instructions from some unseen show director as he told us what to do through the intercom system.
The show ended about 11:00pm. And I still hadn’t been home yet. But now, they needed help putting all that equipment back into their two semi-tractor trailers. It wasn’t until about 1:00am when I started to realize how foolish I had been in going to school that morning without a coat or even a jacket. Instead of warming up some during the day like I thought it would, it had turned colder. I worked outside loading that equipment until about 2:30am. The campus thermometer now registered -40. I couldn’t stop my shivers. Hard work wasn’t enough to generate body heat anymore. One of the fellows from the show had pity on me and gave me a pair of gloves to wear. Nothing had ever felt so good to me. I wondered if I would ever be warm again. Finally the job was done and I could go home. Once at home, I stirred the hot coals in our fireplace and then piled on the wood. While waiting for the flame to generate real heat, I found blankets and made myself a bed in front of where the fan blasted out the heat of the fire. Then for the next three hours, I lay there and shivered uncontrollably. By the time my shivers subsided, it was time to get up and go back to school for another day. This time I took a coat.
I came back from my memory as I pulled into my parking space at work. I have to suppress a smile as I think, “I don’t have to wonder where my children get their stupidly from when it comes to under dressing for the cold. I hope they will somehow survive like I did though.”