This past weekend, a local story in a city about 40 minutes away struck a nerve. A woman left a bar on foot, somehow not having her coat or gloves or anything else to be outside, and ended up freezing to death. It's been a bitter cold winter.
The assumption, reading between the lines on some of the news stories, is that she and her friends had been drinking. She decided to try to walk home and for some reason, even though at least one friend knew about the plan, nobody raised a flag at all.
So why does this ring true?
Because it was nearly me.
About ten years ago, I was out with a group of friends on a really cold night. I didn't drive, and ordered a couple too many drinks at the bar. Time and the drinks at the time have made many of the details cloudy, but long story short, I found myself walking. Even though home was 10 miles or so away, I was on my way.
My friends actually didn't realize there was a problem, at least not right off the bat. See, we were a large group that required several drivers. It was pretty common for people to end up riding back in different cars than they came in. But that's where the first of a few lucky events took place
Lucky For Me #1
We had originally gathered at my condo. Two or three carloads of people left, and according to the people, they left at varying times. The first group likely assumed I was still around and would be riding back with a group leaving later. Those groups couldn't find me and probably figured I'd already left.
It was only until everybody got back and realized that I wasn't there that there was a problem. Had groups not gathered centrally at my condo, they might not have all gone back to the same place, but since I had the ‘bachelor pad' it was pretty common to go hang out for a bit longer after leaving the bars.
Lucky For Me #2
I had my cell phone. My friends, once they realized that I was not around, called me. I don't think I'd been out in the cold for very long and probably didn't realize just how cold I was, but at least they called and found out that I was outside.
The only problem was I had no idea where I was. I didn't see any street signs. I was basically walking through a neighborhood and using landmarks such as a water tower to try to describe where I was.
Lucky For Me #3
My friends were able to make sense of my descriptions. One second I'm on the phone trying to describe once again where I was and the next second I was being picked up and carried into the car by my friends.
Lucky For Me #4
My friends found me before the police did. I've always been very responsible when I drink, and this is my one glaring exception. While I wasn't driving, I know that if a cop had spotted me, I would have been taken to jail without question. I'm sure it would have been for a ‘Drunk and Disorderly' and while that would have been a misdemeanor (as opposed to a felony), it still would have stung. As it was, I was able to get home, warm up and come away relatively unscathed from it all, save for my ego.
Looking back, I'd always thought that the biggest bullet I dodged was the last one, not getting picked up by the police.
It never really crossed my mind until I read about the woman that died that it could have been much worse for me. I think sometimes your mind shields you from what you probably don't want to know. I'm sure somewhere back in the depths of my mind, I knew that the police was just one thing I dodged, but you never really think about it. At the time, just like the woman that died, I was young, in my 20's, had overdone it, and made some bad decisions.
Why did I get lucky and she didn't? I don't know.
But I'm sure glad I did. And I'm sure glad for my friends who made sure that I came home safe that night.