Bahamian beach bum gets cold suprise
Let’s face it: If this is spring we’re having, it’s sure a crappy one. But it could be worse.
How? you ask.
Simple. Spring could’ve gotten off to a beautiful start followed by a really crappy finish.
You want an example? Take April 25, 1975 please.
It was a Friday, and a glorious one at that. When I turned off the alarm at 0600 the sun was streaming through the windows, the birds were chirping their little heads off, and I, who loathe any morning that begins before 0830, leaped out of bed with a grin on my face and a song in my heart.
And that Friday wasn’t an anomaly. Nope. It came at the end of a long line of gorgeous warm days, stretching back to almost mid-March. And since they’d followed one of those old-time, cryogenizing Adirondack winters, the contrast was heavenly.
The trees were budding, the grass was greening, girls were wearing sundresses, boys were playing Frisbee, and I was grooving on Saranac Lake as a tropical paradise. That Friday I dressed the part, tricked out in lightweight pants, sneakers, a short sleeve shirt, and – contrary to my lifelong habit – no hat at all. Yeah, baby, I wasn’t just gonna enjoy the weather -?I was gonna work on my tan as well.
From the peaks to the pits
When I got to school, I wasn’t the only one in good spirits. The whole campus was chock-full of smiling students, bopping about as if listening to celestial rock-n-roll played on a keyboard by God Almighty, Hisself.
Things went fine, both spiritually and meteorologically, till late morning when the clouds started to change from big, fat and roly-poly to dark, ominous, and mean-spirited. Along with that, the temperature dropped. While it’d been almost 70 at 9, now it was in the high 50s and headed down fast.
By noon, the sky looked like the one in “The Wizard of Oz” before Dorothy got clonked on the noggin, and the mercury was in the 30s. I did the only thing I could – stare, dumbfounded, hoping my senses were deceiving me. They weren’t.
A half-hour or so later, it all hit the fan.
The heavens opened up and it started to snow. And when I say snow, I mean snow!
These weren’t those nice white, light, fluffy snow cone flakes. Uh-uh, they were huge, wet mongers as big and heavy as pizzas pans, and rather than float to earth, they slammed. And piled up: Within a couple of hours, the ground was covered with at least a foot of the stuff, with more on the way, and no end in sight.
At 4 o’clock, when my last class was over, I was in a hypothermic pickle. With snow falling heavily, I was dressed like a Bahamian beach bum and had to schlep to my car through knee-high snow while a wind direct from Frobisher Bay cut through me like a dozen ice-cold bayonets.
Once I got to the car, my trial was only beginning.
My car was a 15-year-old VW Beetle that was a good little ride, but a primitive one. Its headlights were better than candles though not much. Not only were the windshield wipers anemic, but they had a screw loose?-?literally. If they strained too much (which they did against wet snow), the screw that held them in place loosened up. So rather than sweep back and forth across the windshield, they just flopped up and down a bit, resembling less an automotive part than a dying animal. When that happened, I had to stop, get out and tighten up the screw, which then held for maybe 5 miles under ideal conditions. After that I had to repeat the process, hoping it’d hold longer, which it never did.
I had no problem with the defroster and the heater, only because neither of them worked.
A perfect end to a horrific day
I got to the car and started to free it from its icy cloak. Since my only tool was a scraper and the snow had the weight and consistency of wet cement, by the time I cleared it off, my sneakers were soaked, my hands were numb, and my ears were on fire.
Shaking, my teeth chattering like a speed-freak flamenco dancer’s castanets, I started the car and headed out.
The ride home was as bad as I was afraid it’d be. The road was greasy and lined with ruts, visibility wasn’t much beyond the front bumper, and I don’t think I got out of second gear the whole time.
Somehow, however, I made it home. And as soon as I did, I jumped in the shower, cranked H up as far as it’d go and stayed under the nozzle until I thawed out (which was at least an hour). After I dried off and made sure no body parts had fallen off, I headed to Dew Drop’s to treat myself to antipasto and pizza -?a reward I’d surely earned.
I lived on Charles Street then, and when I walked down Garden Street, I beheld something no one could ever expect on April 25: Headed out of town, smack dab in the middle of Broadway, was a horse-drawn sleigh on runners.
I stood there, gobsmacked.
The sleigh skimmed over the icy street, bells jingling, driver and passengers laughing gaily. They looked like a Currier and Ives painting come to life, a sight whose incongruity was outdone only by its beauty.
I stared at them till they disappeared over the hill, into the night, and felt a smile spread over my face.
It’d been a long, cold, miserable day, followed by a nerve-wracking, nightmarish ride home.
Spring was as far in my past as my bar mitzvah, and its return as far in the future as the return of the messiah.
But if the night could’ve ended in a more other-worldly and wondrous fashion than that sleigh, I can’t tell you what it could’ve been.