A very special thanks to Solebury Township police officer Stewart who practically carried me to the back of his squad car after I was out in the cold for two hours.
Frankly, I never thought survival would be an issue only two miles from home. But a car that suddenly broke down on a busy highway, coupled with being under-dressed and having an undercharged cell phone on a very cold night suckered me into a rather dire situation. It was almost a comedic chain of a bad setup followed by bad choices. The AAA tow truck took almost three hours but was promised much earlier. I was afraid to wait in my car since I was sure it would be hit by speeding traffic as it sat partially in the road on the narrow shoulder of an unlit curved highway. So I waited outside. And waited. It was so cold that I started walking to New Hope, but my numb feet began to fail me, so I walked back to the car, knowing the tow truck would be there soon. When I couldn't feel my feet anymore, I sat on the damp ground, removed my mesh sneakers and tried to warm my feet with my hands. I put my gloves on my feet over my thin socks, And tried (but failed) to sit on my sneakers so that my butt wouldn't be in the cold mud. I tried to keep my hands warm in my pockets.
So why didn't I call 911 - or anyone else for that matter? Because that damned tow truck should be by any minute. So I kept waiting. Minute after cold-soaking minute. By the time the insidious situation trickled it's way to critical mass, I finally called 911. It was my fear for my feet that drove me to call - but in the back of my mind I was still doubting how serious it was. I could barely peck out the numbers, but when I connected, I fumbled the phone in my fingers trying to get it to my ear and the call soon disconnected. But they called me right back - and that time I was able to get the phone to my ear. When they asked, "Is this an emergency?" I sounded like a complete fool.
"I don't think so, but..." which brought a slew of questions that challenged why I dialed 911 in the first place. I quickly regretted ever calling. I was so cold that I couldn't even string words together to answer the operator's questions. If they ever release a tape of that conversation, it would be worthy of a good laugh. I disconnected doubting I'd get help. But ten minutes later, Officer Stewart arrived. I tried to stand but couldn't, so he helped me hobble to the patrol car in my gloved feet. Once inside, he blasted the heat. It was heaven, but my feet remained cold and numb - like touching a cold stone. My feet couldn't sense the touch of my own hands. It's rather sobering to not feel your own body parts. It took a long time before pain started to set in with my toes - a good sign, because frankly I really was thinking I might have lost them.
Two things. One, I'm building a survival kit, including (among other items of course): blankets, flares, and thick warm socks. Second, I'm donating something to the homeless. Again. Something useful. Something warm. There's Fisherman's Mark across the river in Lambertville, NJ is probably a good start. And if I cross paths with someone who I know is homeless, I'm buying them coffee. Or hot chocolate. Maybe a meal at a diner where they can sit inside from the cold. Yesterday, I was in a small line of traffic and a person was standing there with a German Shepard in a light drizzling rain. He was holding a sign saying that "the dog always eats first!" I stopped to the dismay of the car behind me, rolled down my window, and gave what I could. I doubt any of the merchants appreciated dollar for dollar what I gave them as much as that person. And maybe that makes me more of a fool. I didn't do it for karma. Or to feel good. In fact, I felt sort of bad. I drove away saying to myself, "Lee - you sucker..." But at least he had the courage to ask. I was on the side of the road for two hours and only one person stopped for me. Only one. red color prom dress
Special thanks to my friend Frank J Amari who I finally called once the tow truck arrived. The car is in Manayunk now, with the wonderful Mini experts at Helix Motorsports. And Frank took me in the other direction. Home. Home. Where I took the longest and most wonderful hot shower of my life.