I never got the memo that announced cold weather systems are now getting named. Still, I should have seen this coming, when a couple of summers ago, some enterprising meteorologist plucked the term “La Derecha” for a windstorm...out of thin air. Maybe these weasels use a dartboard in the studio with funny words for these random weather titles…and now names too. So when "Flood Noah," is bearing down on us, I'm not sure if we should see the humor in it or seek higher ground, (where is Mt. Ararat anyway?)
|IN THE BACK ROOM OF THE TV STATION, PICTURE A WHEEL-OF-FORTUNE WITH ARBITRARY NAMES LIKE POLAR-VORTEX OR AN "ALAN HALE STORM," ON IT.|
Back in 1994, my memory of that record-setting cold snap here, is quite clear. But first, I also remember a more severe, prolonged one in, New York City, (1975). The reason this golden moment (silver might actually be more appropriate), is so vivid is, it coincided with my sister and I chipping and sending my parents to Hawaii, for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
The area where I “earned” my equal status in this arrangement was, I volunteered (during my winter break from Brooklyn College), to keep dad’s store open.
My parents couldn’t have picked a better time to jet-off to paradise. On the day after they left, an incredible cold snap frosted the metropolitan area. Snow and ice blanketed the city and for three weeks, (even after they got back) we were gripped with temperatures that never exceeded the mid-teens.
My folks were confident that while they were away, I could handle the day-to-day business. What they also knew was…I’d be clueless if the X-Factor arose, (anything beyond the scope of the normal routine).
During my reign as shopkeeper, it was so cold that a thick layer of ice formed on the street and sidewalks. It remained bitter cold for so long that it would take an eternity for it to melt. Few people ventured out but I risked life and limb and opened the store like a champ…every day.
The building that housed the store (founded in 1919) was older than dirt, (probably from the 1800’s).
Aside from duties directly related to running the store, the challenge of regulating the thermostat was where my abilties topped-off. That fact became apparent one afternoon, when from the bowels of the basement, a sledge hammer-like sound startled me. This intense metallic booming would repeat itself at irregular intervals. It was so eerie that the thought of the store being haunted definitely crossed my mind.
I withstood this torture for about an hour. But when these heavy-duty clangs produced plaster showers…I set my powers of positive thinking (that it would end on its own) as well as my machismo aside and called my Uncle Gil. He had a store down the street.
|UNCLE GIL, MY MOM AND ALL THEIR BROTHERS AND SISTERS GREW UP IN ONE OF THE APARTMENTS ABOVE THE STORE. I WAS LUCKY TO HAVE A WILLING EXPERT SO NEAR BECAUSE WITHIN SECONDS, MY HERO SOLVED THE PROBLEM, BY "BLEEDING" THE BOILER.|
Tex Antoine never mentioned a fancy name for that God awful cold snap. Eventually, it eased-up but for several more weeks the solid packed, icy street didn’t break up until March. To illustrate how bad and for how long this new ice-age lasted, the Board of Health sent out fliers, to all residents and business owners requiring them to clean their streets. After the thaw, six weeks of filth was left behind, (refuse from over-turned garbage cans, tons of fossilized dog crap and a multitude of other appalling disgustingness).
In the game of, "Can You Top This?" two decades later, (January 1994), we had a day that had 6º as the high. I remember it well because it was in the middle of a similar cold snap that left the streets here (Galloway NJ) icy.
My wife Sue was in her eighth month of pregnancy, (with Andrew) and we were attending Thursday night Lamaze classes.
|IN THE 1940's, FRENCH OBSTETRICIAN FERNAND LAMAZE DEVELOPED A TECHNIQUE OF FOCUS, BREATHING, MOVEMENT AND MASSAGE THAT WAS DESIGNED TO INCREASE A MOTHER'S CONFIDENCE TO GIVE BIRTH WHILE INABLING HER TO COPE WITH THE PAIN.|
Due to the hazardous conditions, a couple of those Lamaze classes were canceled rather than risk injury to a mom or an unborn child, (I’m not certain if this precautionary red flag extended to the welfare of dads).
In Sue's final trimester, PCSHMEE lent me a phone pager. So if there was an emergency while I was at work, I could alert my employer and go home to assist Sue. To be consistent with that possibility, I parked my car illegally, every night at the casino next door. That way, I'd eliminate the middle-man, bypass the delay of waiting for our employee shuttle, to take me (to our lot) farther out of my way.
One night in late January, it was especially windy and bitter cold as I drove into work, (the 8:PM-4:AM shift). It was difficult navigating along my ice encrusted street and not much better on bigger roadways, until I got to a major artery.
On Route-30, I had clear sailing as I neared the drawbridge (the unofficial border of Atlantic City). Suddenly, smoke billowed our from my car’s hood. Seconds later, I lost power. Somehow, I had enough momentum to coast into a rival casino’s employee parking lot. I abandoned my Chevy, hung my head low (as not to be recognized as a non-employee) and boarded the alien shuttle. At the rival casino, I got on the jitney (mini-buses that serve Atlantic City as mass transit) and went to work.
During the night, I mentioned my plight to STAGE39, (he was totally sympathetic because his wife was due a week after Sue). He agreed to drive me home that night. But he also went above and beyond, by stopping at my car, in case it was an easy fix. He said it sounded like a cracked hose...which in some cases could be temporarily rigged well enough, to get me home.
STAGE was my knight in shining armor. At 4:30AM, (he had an hour drive home), he looked at my car and diagnosed the problem as a simple hose crack. He snipped-off the bad portion of my hose, reconnected it and added some anti-freeze. He even insisted on following me home. About halfway home, we reached the point where I turn off. I was confident that I’d be okay and signaled him to go home.
We hadn’t split up more than five streets when the hose burst again. These were the pre-cell phone days. So in windy, single-digit temperature, as icicles blew out of trees and hit me in my uncovered head, I was forced to trudge in my Oxfords through the desolate ice-covered streets (¾ of a mile) to Wawa, (a 24-Hour convenience store).
Along the way, all I could think about was being found dead in a snow bank, (thanks Jack London). When I finally arrived, I took one look at the public phone on the exterior wall and internally groaned; No f---ing way.
|AUTHOR JACK LONDON (1876-1916) WAS FAMOUS FOR WRITING ABOUT THE ALASKAN, KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH DAYS. I HAD READ HIS, "THE CALL OF THE WILD" AND "WHITE FANG," SO I WAS A LITTLE FAMILIAR WITH THE CONCEPTS OF FROSTBITE AND HYPERTHERMIA.|
Inside, when the astonished clerk saw Nanook of the Frozen North (me), she also groaned, “No f---ing way.” She probably hadn’t seen many customers that night. I guess her first reaction to some schmuck coming in on a night like that without a car signaled a robbery. At first glimpse, from the look on her face, I could tell she was scared. I made the situation worse because I was frozen stiff. At first, I stammered before I could speak. I must have seemed like the illegitimate love child of the Yeti and Abominable Snowman before I managed to say, “M-m-my car broke-down. M-m-may I use your phone?”
On the eighty-sixth ring, Sue answered the phone. I knew no jury would convict her for killing me…even if she wasn’t going to give birth in a couple weeks. But like the champ that she was and still is, with complete understanding of the circumstances, she dragged herself out of her nice warm bed, waddled into her colder than hell car and rescued her little eskimo.
So don’t be one of those people who don’t watch the TV news or are too good to stick your head out the window to check the weather. Because those are the geniuses who are shocked that it gets cold in winter. All you really need is a great support team like my wife Sue, Uncle Gil and STAGE39. Come to think of it, it's nice to have good people behind you but these days you don't even have to bother them. So just remember, all you really need is a cell phone to access the world.
Hopefully, it'll be twenty years before we have another record-setting Polar-Vortex, or "Tsunami Maurice" or "Typhoon Raoul." Personally, I can wait, how about you?