To say my life is an adventure is an understatement. This morning, on one of the coldest of the year here, I got locked out of the apartment about 7:30am while walking the dog. The lock literally broke or froze up in the weather. I had my key but it ceased to work. No phone, no car keys, just me and the dog and I was not dressed for long-term outside.
In just thin work slacks, ballet flats with trouser socks, small sweater and my quilted coat, I was not prepared to linger outside longer than a quick visit to the yard with the dog. Luckily, I did grab a hat and had gloves in my pocket. It was 19 degrees with a 10 degree wind chill at the time. I was literally freezing. The dog was visibly shivering.
It was also super lucky that my neighbor was home and kind enough to drive me over to manager’s office and back again. (It is a long walk to the front of the huge complex.) Neither of us had the number in our head for the main office. My neighbor let me call Nana on his cell and Nana called in reinforcements. It was before the office opened, but maintenance hopped to it, trying first their master key. Then they called the big boss off his vacation to come and fix the lock, because as I said, the lock was broken.
I was outside total of about an hour. I did get to sit with a worker’s wife in her car, then Nana, then at the club house. I was seriously worried about frost bite on my toes for a bit. I knew as long as they were hurting, it was still a good sign. Dog and I had tried to keep moving and stay in the sun light, but it only helped a little. Maintenance suggested I go to the club house, but Nana wouldn’t know where I was when she got there. And for liability purposes, I am not allowed to ride in their golf carts. I would have had to walk up there and then walk back if they fixed it before Nana arrived. It was less time pacing and waiting for Nana. And they were going to fix it soon, right?
I have been cold before, but never that cold. It has been a few hours and my hands and feet are still cool. I am trying to warm them slowly, but I am still chilled to the bone, literally. I also have never felt so desperate. I did very well to not panic. I prayed. I found pennies and even a dime in the parking lot to distract me. If I had to walk to a gas station or office, I had no ID or wallet, no cash to make a call. I was literally stranded, at the kindness of strangers and just feet from everything in the world that I needed. In the future, if you see me walking my dog with a purse or back pack, do not question that at that moment I chose to “…not leave home without it,” like the commercial says.
I am reminded of one of my favorite Christmas stories from my child hood, “Claude the Dog, A Christmas Story,” by Dick Gackenbach. If you haven’t read this to your child, I recommend it highly. In the story, Claude has a friend who is outside and cold. Claude gives his friend his bed, his blanket, and I think a scarf, because while the friend had nothing, Claude has a house and boy inside to keep him warm. The story always reminded me to share what I have with those less fortunate and that the people in our lives are truly more valuable than just things. At the moments I was outside with my shivering dog, I was wishing for one of those many who were warm inside to look outside and share their dog blankets. Ultimately though, you have to communicate that you are in need before anyone just looks out and says, “hey, that’s weird. That lady has been out there a long time and she is not dressed very warm.”
This short time outside also made me consider retirement to warmer locations, the truly homeless and feeling grateful to the ones who responded when I called for help. Life is not made to live alone. Not truly alone. I am glad I have greeted and talked with my neighbors and felt comfortable to knock on their door. I am glad memorized Nana’s number and she could come to help. I am happy that when Nana called a friend for me, they came over also for moral support, in case Nana wasn’t there yet. And thankful the first maintenance man had not made me wait until 9 am, when they opened, to start helping me and get his wife to help me too. Chalk this one up to another crazy Christmas-week story for the books. I am certainly laughing. My dear friend tells me, I need supervision. I am starting to believe I need more than supervison. But I am leaving all that in the hands of the Lord to provide. For now, I am still laughing and very grateful to be warm.