We must show the world what it expects to see, avoiding at all costs being different. I followed the crowd aimlessly, seeking approval, unknowingly putting myself in a place of danger many years ago…
Central New York State winters are brutal. Residents endure several feet of snow accumulation, often drifting across roadways, towering snow banks, and sub zero temperatures. On a typical winter day, I went to high school dressed for approval, not for the weather conditions.
At the sound of the final bell, my mind focused on going home. I gathered things from my locker, put on my coat and waited for the school bus. It would be the first of two. I lived in another school district, and linked with a bus from the school I once attended.
The first bus ride only lasted about fifteen minutes, with the driver stopping at a closed restaurant, dropping me off. The wait would not be long. I found shelter near the building, feeling cold, hoping the next bus would arrive soon.
Where is that bus? It never takes this long. I am so cold; I hate the cold!
Even in the summer, I get cold hands and feet. Dad used to pick on me, saying my hands were as cold as Grandma’s.
What can I do?
The phone was inside the closed restaurant. Reality set in. I must have missed the bus; it was not coming. I would have to walk home.
I wore no hat or scarf because that would make me look like a creep! Boots were for old women; I looked sharp in flats. Gloves or mittens were for children and I sure did not bring those. The dress code in school meant just that, girls were allowed to dresses and skirts, no slacks. So, most of my body remained exposed to dangerous below zero temperatures. The walk home on a warm afternoon would have been a long stroll. On that day, it could have been a death march.
My hands and feet are numb.
I’d stop and ask to use some ones phone. Mom could not come to get me; she had no car and Dad was at work. I’d call a friend and ask if her mother could come to take me home.
I knock on a door…
“Hi, can I use your phone? I missed my bus.”
“Sure, it’s right over there.”
The feeling is gone in my hands; somehow, I manage to dial the number.
“Hello Carol… I missed the bus from Fayetteville. Can your mother pick me up and take me home?…. Good, thanks.”
I wanted to cry but could not let anyone know how cold and afraid I was. I hung up the phone.
“You hung up the phone on your hand.”
Oh, no! What must she be thinking?
My friend arrived. I thanked the neighbors for letting me use their phone…
Again, I had to pretend I just needed a ride; I could not let the mother of my friend who was driving me home know how cold I felt. She dropped me off at my door and I rushed in.
I no longer needed to put up a front; I could be honest. I began to cry.
Mom became concerned. “What’s wrong? What’s the matter?”
Sobbing, I answered.
“I missed the school bus and walked. I made it as far as I could and had to stop to use a neighbor’s phone. I called Carol asking her to get her mother to give me a ride. I hung up the phone on my hand! I couldn’t even feel it! ”
“Get over to the sink! Run cold water on your hands!”
“You’ve got frost bite! We’ll warm it up a little at a time!”
“It hurts! It hurts!”
“Keep your hands under the water!”
Gradually, normal feeling returned to my body. I put on warm clothing and rested in the security of my home.
Why do we seek approval of others at the risk of our own safety? Sadly, we do not only experience cold temperatures.
We live in a cold cruel world…