Monday, August 06, 2012

Hot and cold and a game I barely remember

There are very few things I remember with any specificity from my school days. One of those very few things: standing at the bus stop. It was the worst. It was the worst because I lived in a place where it was below freezing on about half the days I had to drag myself out there in a pre-7 a.m. stupor.

I hated it. I hated the physical discomfort that accompanied sub-20 degree temps (toe numbness was a regular feature) and the social discomfort of shivering in silence with a bunch of equally uncomfortable and awkward teenagers and that feeling when the bus I thought was my bus would turn a couple streets beforehand, meaning my bus was still somewhere in the distance and not close to salvaging my toes from gangrene.

The way I passed the time was kinda like the way Peter Gibbons wanted to pass the time in Office Space ...

... except I didn't pretend to be fishing so much as I imagined being somewhere/anywhere hot. My brain typically interpreted "hot" as "a beach with the sun beating down just enough to compensate for that amazing beach-y breeze" since that seemed preferable to being lost in a desert or whatever, but anything beach-like would have done the job.

And that kinda worked. It didn't work for very long -- any horrifyingly high-pitched sound reminiscent of a school bus' 60-year-old brake system or any contact with an air particle whose temperature had dropped to roughly 0 kelvin would bring me back to the awfulness of reality -- but it helped kill some of the soul-crushing time spent standing there waiting for a freakin' bus.
. . . . .

It was hot out yesterday. It was disgustingly hot out yesterday. It was the kind of hot that results in instant sweat immersion upon the opening of any orifice built into whatever dwelling or work establishment you happen to be inhabiting at any given time. In other words, it was the same as every other day in this desert since the end of May.

One of the things I've discovered in the (almost) decade I've lived in Arizona is that the thing I used to do when I was waiting at the bus stop works reasonably well in the inverse: Thinking about being borderline-uncomfortably cold helps mentally mitigate that feeling of turning into a rotisserie chicken that's inevitable if standing outside at any point between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

So I thought yesterday about being cold. And that wasn't hard seeing as how I've got a good 20 years (or at least the October-to-February portion of each of those 20 years) of experience of being cold to draw from.

. . . . .

My time as a student at Grand Valley State was relatively uneventful. I was hilariously unprepared (from a life-skills standpoint) to be a college student and really had no idea what to do with myself when I wasn't plowing through math/physics/engineering-related numbers. I went to a couple football games and a couple parties at which I was painfully uncomfortable; that was about it.

It wasn't until I was a sophomore that I knew enough people to actually, like, do anything other than hang out in my dorm and be pathetic. The timing was convenient since this was when Brian Kelly was coach and Curt Anes and David Kircus were putting up mind-blowing numbers and roughly 60 points a game. The entertainment value at football games went up significantly that year; my attendance did the same, especially late in the year when there playoff games (OMG ON-CAMPUS PLAYOFF GAMES) that promised something resembling competitiveness and meaningful results.

And so it was that three friends and I decided to tailgate before the national semifinals, which were at Grand Valley since GV was No. 1 and whoever else was not No. 1. The location: the back of my truck in a parking lot across the street from some academic buildings and kinda close to the stadium. There was a grill and there was plenty of meat to put on it: hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. Adult beverages were available but limited since we were in a very public place that wasn't as crowded as you're imagining. The only entertainment: a football that was used for about a two-hour-long game of catch to kill the time between talking about physics/football/whatever and kickoff.

And it was cold. It was December in west Michigan; of course it was cold. It was the kind of stupid cold that makes the snot in your nose start to come out but then freeze before it actually gets anywhere (you either know exactly what I'm talking about or have no idea what I'm talking about). It was cold and it was windy, which was a definite problem when trying to light the grill. I'm gonna guesstimate that it took us 20 minutes to figure out how to keep a match lit long enough to make use of it.

But here's the thing: The cold didn't matter when we were grilling and drinking and running imaginary routes in a parking lot and whatnot. The cold mattered a lot a couple hours later when I was sitting/standing in the endzone bleachers and that stupid wind was hitting me and hitting me and hitting me and hitting me. It was ... ummm ... something other than totally enjoyable.

I remember literally three things from that game: (a) Grand Valley won, (b) Curt Anes blew out his knee on a quarterback sneak at the end of the first half when Grand Valley was already winning by like three touchdowns, which resulted in a devastating title-game loss by a score of something like 19-16 and (c) AAAHHHH I CAN'T FEEL ANYTHING BECAUSE ACCORDING TO THE WEATHER THINGS ON OUR AMAZING NEW PHONES IT IS ZERO DEGREES FAHRENHEIT WITH A WINDCHILL OF MINUS-40. Yeah. That's right. Don't act like you're not impressed.

I don't even know what else to say about that. Minus-40 is ... I mean ... it's minus-40 (and don't give me any crap about windchill and temperature and yadda yadda; I know what I felt). I'm not sure when I lost feeling in my toes but know for sure that I couldn't move my jaw effectively by kickoff and couldn't feel my fingers by halftime. And none of those things were even unusual given the distances I had to walk to my classes across a campus designed specifically to produce a wind tunnel generating maximum velocity directly into your face at all times.

I don't remember getting home or thawing out or really anything after halftime, possibly because my brain function had ceased.

. . . . .

That was the last Grand Valley game I attended before moving to Arizona (Tempe, to be specific). That was also the coldest I've ever been in my life under any circumstances. It was minus-40; there are no other comparable circumstances since I don't live above the Arctic Circle and go entire months without seeing the sun.

Voluntarily spending five hours in it was undoubtedly stupid and probably unhealthy but does give me something to think about when I step outside and it's a hundred and whatever, with the "whatever" not even mattering since everything over 100 is similarly disgusting. I know: It doesn't make much sense to try to replace that stupidly hot feeling with a stupidly cold feeling that I just described as "something other than totally enjoyable" about four paragraphs ago; I can't really explain that except to say that I would pick a memory that involves less numbness if that memory weren't largely a good one. I mean, I know what numbness feels like but don't remember the numbness as much as I remember that I was there for the numbness and the tailgating and the football and the WOOOO and whatnot.

That probably makes either no sense or a lot of sense; hopefully it's the latter.


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