The bitter cold moved in throughout the evening Monday.
Even with the house thermostat set to 71 degrees, and the furnace working harder than a crack dealer in East Cleveland, I still felt the arctic air infiltrating my living room.
The house shivered and shook. The wood and metal whining as they contracted, making noises I had never heard a structure make.
Upon waking this morning, I turned on my bedroom television and replayed the final few minutes of college football’s national championship game from last night. I had fallen asleep and missed Florida State’s incredible comeback.
I sprang from bed, well-rested, oddly eager to experience the coldest day of my life.
Someone said these are the coldest recorded temperatures for this area in 100 years. It’s probably true.
I emptied my bladder as I often do before jumping in the shower first thing in the morning. I punched the handle.
I tried again.
Great. That should be lovely just sitting in there all day. (Urine only. I swear. But still.)
I tried the bathroom faucet.
I made a beeline for my basement, fearing the worst.
No flooding. Whew. Thank you!
My very bad cat who I keep quarantined in one half of my basement had plenty of water.
My electricity was still humming along just fine. In fact, after living in my house for eight years, I have never once experienced power loss.
I grabbed my phone and texted my ex-wife: “Hey. You have running water?”
“Just checked and seem to,” she said.
I haven’t checked with the city yet, but there is either a broken water main, or somewhere on my property a water pipe has frozen solid, restricting flow.
It dawned on me that I hadn’t shaved in a while. That showering for work was not going to be possible.
I looked in the mirror.
I had forgotten that my ex was staying home with our son today, so I apologized for waking her. She was very nice about all of it. She even invited me to come over and shower if I wanted to. (Not with her.)
And I know she means it. In a pinch, I could go over there if I really needed to, just a five-minute drive from home. That’s a nice thing.
You know, I’m so lucky that I get to have a life where, despite access to sanitary running water 99 percent of the time, I can afford to keep bottled water at home, too.
I grabbed a couple bottles. I microwaved them in large coffee mugs and dumped them into a large mixing bowl.
And, ta-da. I had warm water.
Then like something out of the Old West I cleaned myself as best I could using this large bowl of temporarily warm water. Shaving would have been possible, but I have an unsightly blemish on my jaw line and I thought the unkempt facial hair did a better job masking it than the tinted Oxy cream which does a lousy job hiding these things.
I forgot about brushing my teeth. I couldn’t use the I-just-cleaned-myself water.
Mouthwash, first. Then another bottle of water and my toothbrush at the kitchen sink solved that problem.
I punched the remote garage door opener I keep by my back door. The door on my detached garage opened without incident.
My 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the nicest, newest thing I’ve ever had before. I went out and touched the push-button to start it. It insta-started.
I left 10 minutes later after responding to some really nice blog comments. I always appreciate those. I don’t just say that. I hope you know how much you matter.
Inside the Jeep was a perfect 72 degrees. Outside, the temperature was -1, the digital readout said.
A few minutes later, it read -5.
As I entered the nearby town in which I work, the temperature was -11. But I was warm.
I pulled into McDonald’s. (Don’t judge me. Where else can you get crappy food and subpar coffee for $5 without getting out of your vehicle?)
Normally, the place is slamming with retirees congregating for subpar coffee and crappy food for $5.
But the place was a ghost town. That’s when I really knew how cold it was. When all the old men collectively said: “McGriddles and silver-dollar hotcakes? Not today, Ethel! I’m staying with you. Nothing but blow jobs and Good Morning, America for us! You’re welcome.”
I seriously only saw one customer. One old guy. Sitting alone and watching The Weather Channel. I’ll bet anything that tough sonofabitch once killed about 80 people in a war.
This nice young lady was standing at the drive-thru window getting murdered by the cold. But still she smiled. Said nice things. For $9 an hour.
I drove the remaining few minutes to my office.
I got a good parking spot.
The temperature: -13 degrees.
The wind didn’t blow as I walked into the building.
People seemed happy to see me after missing work yesterday.
And now, I am warm at my desk.
I am employed.
The sun is shining.
I am healthy.
Things are good. I started writing my first fiction story. I signed up for a health-and-fitness thing at work this morning that will require me to alter my diet and exercise habits toward the positive over the next eight weeks. (Get excited, ladies. *eyeroll*) My son is safe and warm.
If I get home and my water is running, I’m going to feel on top of the world.
And if it’s not?
I promise I’m going to find all of the things I’m grateful for anyway.
It’s the only way to live.
Even if you do look and smell just a little bit worse than usual.