Twenty minutes ago I was stumbling around in the snow, ice crystals coating my glasses, my fingers getting colder and colder inside my leather gloves.
The car battery was dead, and I was trying to convince our mini-van to move another four feet, so I could stretch the jumper cables through the hedge from the van idling in the neighbour's driveway.
By getting both vehicles as far into the snowbanks as possible, we finally were able to stretch the cables far enough to get the engine started.
I'm sitting inside, nice and warm now, but for a few minutes I was reminded what's it's like to be out in the bitter cold, fighting with a piece of equipment, or trying to coax a vehicle out of the snow. There's a point where you feel so damn cold and exhausted, you start to work out a survival strategy for getting to cover and staying there until someone can get you.
I was a long way from that point, plus I had a cell phone in my pocket and was 15 feet from the front door of the house. But as I was blindly shuffling in the snowbank trying to get my hands to grasp the jumper cables correctly, I had a flashback to times I've been off the beaten path in bitterly cold conditions.
You get this intense focus on the task at hand, to keep your mind from running scenarios of sliding the car into the ditch, or missing the footpath you need to take back to safety.
When I worked as a reporter in Whitehorse, CBC Radio's Peter Carr told me about the time he was headed across a small Yukon lake on showshoes. The ice started to open up behind him. His frantic, exaggerated movements helped keep him moving forward in the snow, ice and water enough to get to safety. But he was one misstep away from becoming an item in the news the next day.
Every winter a few people get stuck in the snow on the Canadian or American prairies and are found dead within a mile of their car. They cops tell us to stay with the vehicle, but something about the human mind convinces us the simpler solution is to just hike to the main road for help. If we were young and fit, and dressed in parkas, ski pants and snowshoes like Peter was, we probably could get to the road and flag down a passing car.
You see the solution not far away. You can't imagine how draining the cold and the wind and the snow drifts will be until you're too far away from the car to get back safely.
Last week, we couldn't believe the weather was above freezing. This week, I'm glad I'm not on the road. Hell, I'm glad I'm not in the driveway.
Oh, and thanks, Joan, for helping with the boost. I owe you a nice bottle of wine.