In most of the United States, over the past few days, you’ve had the chance to experience the sort of cold that takes my breath away and makes me feel alive.
I usually climb up into the mountains to seek out this thrill. My very first YouTube video was a photo montage of a hike up Mount Eisenhower in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range. For me, the worst it’s ever been up there was -25 of and 45 mph winds. It’s a cold which the National Weather Service rates as a 5 minute “Frostbite Time”. I assure you it’s faster than that.
If you’re not prepared it can hit you pretty hard.
I took a walk into Harvard Square this afternoon and began to notice just how hard it was hitting the unprepared. Thin clothing and alcohol had put one of us down in front of the Coop. The ambulance was there and he would soon be inside the warm metal womb. I hoped he was just passed out and could warm up again and then I went down into the subway to catch a 15 minute ride into Boston.
On the crowded train another one of us with thicker clothing and alcohol slumped in his seat and called out for help. Riders, mostly young, helped in a variety of ways. Cells called 911, red emergency intercom buttons were pushed, and I crouched to his worried face and told him help was on the way.
At first he sagged in an uncomfortable tilt, not quite sure if he wanted to lie on the seat, so I sat down next to him, grabbed him around the shoulder and propped him against my chest. He said he was not feeling right, having a bit of anxiety. I told him I was there and help was coming soon. He said he was a Marine and had been to Beirut and Afghanistan and his brogue said he was also from Ireland. And we talked about all of the Isle, both north (his family) and south (mine), and maybe too much drink brought him back to his Beirut and his brother was coming to visit him at the Pine Street Inn and it was so cold outside and he was scared and though he needed an ambulance. And I hugged him and patted his arm and told him I was there and help was on the way.
And then we were at the next stop and we helped him off and I sat with him a little longer, holding him with arm and words until the EMS came and I told him help was there, and so was my train. And I thought about how fortunate I was and of winter hiking with my friends and depending on each other in the mountain’s cold embrace.
PS If you’d like to virtually hike with me, watch these YouTube videos: