As far as personal predicaments go, I must admit that this one was what you might call a doozy: Lying flat on my back in my slowly freezing car, unable to sit up and with no one around. Not exactly my idea of chillin’ out, but that’s what it was.
Near dawn on a frigid, snowy morning, I was on my way to work when I pulled into my usual parking space, a 10-minute walk from the Poughkeepsie train station. As I stepped out of my car, I slipped on a patch of ice. Although I didn’t fall, I felt a searing bolt shoot from my caboose up the left side of my back. It was painfully familiar from the times I’d run afoul of shoveling my driveway. Despite the Klondike-esque winters we’ve been having here in the Valley, I remain snow blower-less, based on the unfortunate theory that manual labor is good exercise… until you wrench your back, crawl into the house on all fours, and have your daughter fork-feed you scrambled eggs while you groan piteously on the sofa.
Barely able to stand, I clung desperately to the roof of my car and managed to slowly, and awkwardly, collapse back inside. I was hurting way too much to sit upright, so I lowered the seat all the way back. Major mistake. After lying there until the pain subsided enough to remove the stars from my eyes, I tried to sit up but couldn’t. Every attempt made me wince.
Deciding it was probably wise to alert my boss to my plight, I rummaged in my backpack and grabbed my phone, only to have it slip through my cold, frostbitten fingers and fall to the floor, out of reach. My car keys followed, thanks to my next fumbling attempt, leaving me without any way to generate heat.
So there I was, stuck in a quiet neighborhood, out of sight of passersby. Not that there were any. And there likely wouldn’t be any for quite a while. The odd thought In the dead of winter, no one can hear you scream crossed my reeling mind.
Too embarrassed to honk the horn or set off the car alarm (I also wasn’t keen on being hauled to a local hospital at considerable expense), I figured I’d eventually be able to move. Worst-case scenario: My thawing carcass would be found in the spring.
After more than an hour of contemplating the clouds of my breath, the heavy workload at the office I would not be able to address, and my sad, sad fate, I summoned the strength (at great cost to my tooth enamel and with less than dignified sounds) to pull myself up by the seatbelt strap hanging next to my shoulder. Gasping, I managed to get the seat back up just enough that I was able to reach the keys. I could also see through the steering wheel and out the windshield. So I drove home on Route 9, reclined at a 45-degree angle. Had a law enforcement vehicle been in my vicinity, I surely would have become a person of interest. Reaching my driveway, I spied my wife’s car, but rather than summon her assistance I decided to play it stoic, somehow managing to lurch into our house like a zombie from The Walking Dead.
Now, I shudder as I watch the Valley’s temperature drop again, bringing snow and ice and the memory of that morning. Old Man Winter, it seems, always has my back.