To Be Thankful

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

mb-201402lights400My 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.

18 thoughts on “To Be Thankful”

  1. That is so sad to hear about the women. It must be very cold where you are.

    You are very fortunate that things played out the way they did. I have never tried to walk home from a bar in the cold, but I can imagine that being a pretty scary situation.

    • Yes, we’ve had lows around or below zero quite often this winter. Out of the last 27 days, we’ve had one day where the high temp was above the average high temp (and it was by a whopping 1 degree).

  2. That’s unfortunate about the lady. Never want things like that to happen to anyone.

    As for your situation from the past, yes it was fortunate that you escaped unscathed. 10 miles would have been a long walk after a night out with friends, much less any time for a lot of people.

  3. That’s just awful. I’m sure her friends feel horrible about the situation. As for you, you were very lucky that you had friends that had enough sense to take into account your whereabouts. And I’m sure at the time you thought the worst would have been the police picking you up, but for that woman, it probably would have been her saving grace. Lesson to take from this: don’t overdo the drinking on a winter night!

  4. In situations like this , itis important for everyone to look after each other. Walking home is similar to driving, equally dangerous to the individual and society.

  5. So sad to hear about the young woman. It’s always hard to see how the change in a few small decisions could’ve turned out to a much different outcome. So thankful that wasn’t you and points out how things can change in an instant for anyone.

  6. Lesson of the story: don’t drink 😛 Personally, I don’t drink any alcohol. I just don’t like the idea of having a foreign substance take control my body/mind. Likewise, I never found the taste of alcohol appealing. For me, it’s all about the good ole’ rugged individualism ethos.

  7. It’s amazing how doing something foolish, or taking a wrong turn, can cost someone their life. Very sad. I’m glad you had luck on your side, and a good group of friends who came and found you.

  8. We’ve been experiencing one of the coldest winters on record where I live as well. My wife works for the public school district, and she sees kids everyday walking to and from school without hats and gloves and the windchill is -20 or -30. Lots of reports of frostbite. I’m glad your friends were able to find you and get you warm…I wish those kids had more responsible parents to make sure they had and were wearing the proper clothes for the conditions.

  9. Good lord! What incredible luck — and wisdom to have carried a cell phone with you. Probably if an officer had picked you up, he or she would have taken you home, since emergency workers do know how dangerous it is for people to be stumbling around in that kind of cold. But even jail would have been a long sight better than a 10-mile walk through a snowstorm.

    Hereabouts we have people die of heat exhaustion every summer. But that kind of cold is just as bad for your health, or worse…when I was in college, a boyfriend who had joined the Air Force to avoid the draft (it was during the Vietnam years) was sent to Minot, N.D. Having grown up in clement Tucson, he was utterly horrified when the local paper reported some guy had walked out to pick up his morning newspaper, slipped on the ice and bonked his head, and froze to death before he came to. He truly hated Minot.

  10. That does suck about the lady. And I am glad that your friends tracked you down 10 years ago. We all have dumb-a$$ moments that we are happy to have gotten through…

  11. It’s crazy how one person’s tragedy can be so helpful to another, but it’s true. Tragedy (in my life or in others) always makes me feel thankful for all the good things in my life. Sometimes we are so quick to focus on the negative that we forget about the good. Now I try to look at the negatives as ways to improve my life – kind of like a personal challenge instead of a defeat. Three years ago I was in a horrible car accident near Kingston during a snowstorm and I thought I wasn’t going to make it. The OPP couldn’t find me because I didn’t know where I was and they weren’t sending out a lot of officers because of the bad weather. Thankfully I made it out and to this day I am ever grateful.

  12. Better judgment flies out the window with more than a few drinks, doesn’t it? Many of us have a couple of stories, some with close shaves like yours, and some with unhappy endings like that lady.

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