In January of 1998, Ontario and Quebec experienced the worst ice storm in Canadian history. I remember it because I worked for The National Post at the time, delivering newspapers in the wee hours of the morning. One night near the end of the storm, my car slid down an inclined road, hit the curb and wrecked my right front wheel. I quit that job the next day.
However, a few days before I quit, I had an experience that still haunts me.
The temperature dropped so low that no more frozen rain could fall. It was just too cold. So I was happy they'd built a new Tim Horton's near my route, because I needed a coffee. Instead of using the drive through, I went inside to warm up a bit.
I carried my coffee back to the car as fast as I could and jumped inside. My coffee cup ended up perched on the steering wheel because there was no where else to put it. The cup holders were blocked by all my papers. I got settled, reached for my coffee and it shot out of my hand, turned upside-down and emptied itself into my lap.
Fortunately the brief walk to my car had cooled the coffee off enough that it didn't scald me, but it was still unpleasant. I was so concerned about the coffee not dripping through my pants onto the car seat, that I did the dumbest thing.
I jumped out of the car.
At that moment, a terrible wind came up. It was the kind of wind I'm sure the Inuit have a name for that means "find shelter fast or your ookpik will freeze and fall off". It was so cold that the coffee in my underwear, my pants and on my skin flash-froze.
It was a most disturbing physical sensation. It didn't freeze solid, what it did was turn into a kind of coffee slush. Not thinking, I undid my pants and reached between my legs, pulling out a snowball-sized handful of what looked like brown Slurpee. I remember babbling hysterically and dancing while trying to scrape the icy goop off my skin before something really bad happened.
It finally occurred to me that it might hurt less if I got back in the car. To heck with getting the seat dirty. So I jumped in, grabbed a napkin and worked feverishly at the affected area. Suddenly I remembered that I was in a public parking lot. I nervously looked around to see if anyone had witnessed my crazy-pants dance.
No one to the right, no one in front of me. Thank goodness. I looked left.
Facing me was a big white car with flashing blue and red lights on top. A lone policeman, coffee poised at his lips, mouth hanging open, was looking right at me.
For a minute, neither of us broke eye contact. Finally I took a chance, started my car and drove away, hoping and praying the entire time. I went home and had a nice, hot shower.
I know that I will never forget scooping coffee slush out of my underwear during the ice storm of '98.
I bet that cop won't forget it either.
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