Friday, January 9, 2009

city girl survival guide

In my quest to give you the best stories cold weather can provide, I forgot perhaps the most important one: the day I packed a shovel in my suitcase and headed north.

North to North Dakota that is. 

On Dec. 31 I stole my brother's oversized luggage. He'd needed it to haul his Christmas gifts and winter survival clothing back with him to college, but I was braving the arctic, so I needed it more. 

See, I'd parked my car in the Fargo airport for the 13 days I'd vacationed in Colorado and Iowa. During that time, 20 inches of snow fell and, well, we don't know what the temperatures were because all the mercury froze. 

(P.S.: Current temperature is 3 degrees, not to mention the two inches of snow from last night, this morning and the predicted half dozen more by Monday)

So, since my dad is a nice guy, he'd bought me a collapsable snow shovel that somehow just fit along with my coco-latte machine and six pairs of don't-you-dare-where-them-in-snow shoes. 

I tried to make a back-up plan on the plane. I wooed my neighbors in seats 12 B and 12 C, exaggerating tales of how, all by myself, I'd moved north living in a town 100 miles from the airport and more than 600 miles from any relation.

Oh geez, I sure hope my car starts, I flirted, batting my eyes and hoping they'd say, we've got jumper cables, we'll help you. But no such luck. I blame it on the peanut butter ball weight gain. 

By the plane's landing, I didn't have to be the last one off to know I'd probably be the last to leave the airport too.

As I waited for my luggage, I wondered if the suitcase-swigging rolly-round could spin fast enough to catapult me to Jamestown. I gave it a try, but the security guard (who'd eaten more peanut better balls over the break than me) grabbed my arm and catapulted me to the floor.

Thanks for nothin', I said, finding the customer service desk unattended. In my quest to find someone to help me out of the worst and coldest day of even a polar bear's life, I yielded an Avis Rent-a-Car rep asking if he knew who I could talk to or where I should go for assistance unearthing my car from its snowy tomb.

I have no idea, he said, I just do rentals.

How entirely unhelpful of you, I replied, praying the airline gods would NOT ship my suitcase to any other destination in the continental U.S. as it'd likely steal my swimsuit, run away and forever sip mai-thais in my mockery. 

Since the gods have been on my side and both the stars and my front-wheel tires have been aligned since the knight in shining snow boots rescued me from the evil snow drifts, once I found my suitcase, my only trouble was finding my car. (After 13 days and 30 inches of snow, even six-cylinder 4x4s looked like white European imports.)

So me, my pointy-toed-boots and 40-pound suitcase hiked the unplowed parking lot in search of a vehicle that likely wouldn't even start once we got there. Finally I spotted her, that gorgeous Vinny, a mere aisle and four-foot snow mountain away. 

Now, this luggage, by itself, stands at or near my belly button. Even though my arm muscles rival those of Chuck Norris himself, I still had to push, kick and ROLL my suitcase like a bulldozer tire to maneuver it over the hip-high snow towers. 

But I did it. By myself. 

Being as my biceps felt more like penne pasta than the AK-47s of their nature, I didn't bother to lift the case into the trunk before opening it and unburying my treasure: a $10 snow picker-upper.

So there I was, unpacking and repacking my brand-new and unopened Christmas socks, shoes and $15 hair barrettes in middle the North Pole... ahem... Fargo parking lot and sweating in the minus 11 degree weather.

Finally, I saw it, a brand new shovel without a crack, chip or broken-off handle. 

Before I bother to cinnamon-roll this suitcase UP and INTO Vinny's boot, I thought, I better see if the car will even start. I'd have laughed had my lungs not hurt from inhaling. 

Sucking it up and cracking the perspiration from my brow, I hunkered into my purse, aching for the keys that would determine my fate. Would the snow gods kill me, today, in this airport parking lot or force me to scrape and shovel my way through winter, only to kill me in spring? Bastards.

Finally, I saw a beam of light. And a voice said, come home Katie, come home. 

It wasn't Jesus. It was Jane. 

Can't talk now mom, I gots to git gettin' on, I said, retraining my tongue towards the dialect of the Upper Plains. 

And then, there they were. My keys. Vinny's keys. My heart swelled and broke all in the same instant. Like magic, key and car united. Sparks flew like my neighboring apartment garage on fire. 

Woo hooo I cried, as if I'd lived on a North Dakota pig farm my whole life. Out of the car I hopped, scooting and shoving each flake, ignoring the mountains I'd piled onto the neighboring Lexuses, Cadallacs and BMWs 10 years Vinny's junior.

Thirty minutes later, I could see concrete beneath my feet and off to Jamestown I was due. I seat-belted my shovel, plugged in my Garmin and realized this big, scary mess of a state was no match for me. 

Suddenly, a pick-up with a giant shovel on its front and jumper cords in its back pulled up beside me. 

You ok, mamn? the dude asked. 

Never better, I said, wondering what in the frozen hell was he thinking. Like I'd ever need the likes of him... :)


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