The snowstorms in Northwestern Illinois are legendary. There are tons of corn fields and very few large buildings, so the snow just blows everywhere and drifts accumulate.
Needless to say, I did not know this when I chose Northern Illinois University in DeKalb for my collegiate studies.
My first year, the snowstorm reputation proved less legend and more reality. They started in the first week of November. Inches of snow fell and drifts abound to various heights, accompanied by shivering cold temperatures. Not happy, I trudged on to classes every day. Luckily the school had great bus transportation.
That all changed in December, two days before winter break. Overnight an epic record snowstorm hit the area. Asleep, I was unaware and woke early to get to my 8am final exam. It was a Saturday, so the bus system did not run, but I had a car, so I could drive the mile to campus.
I went to the exit of my apartment building, but the door would not move. I pushed and pushed with all my might, but it wouldn’t budge. Puzzled, I walked to the other side of the building to try another exit. It wouldn’t budge either. Using my college educated analytical mind, I could not conceive that both doors could merely be stuck. However, before giving up, I employed the patented cartoon method of running into the door at full speed. The door still did not budge.
I went back to my third-floor apartment to call a friend for help. When I got to my phone, I saw the parking lot out of my window. The cars were completely covered in snow. They all looked like little snow mounds, as you could not see they were cars. I looked down to see the snow drifts at 6-8 feet high below my window. I wondered if a snow drift had blocked the doors.
I called a few friends, to no avail. They were all snowed in too. But I had a final exam I had to get to. I tried to call my professor, but no answer.
I went back to the door and found a couple neighbors having the same trouble. Working together, we were able to prop open the door and successfully exit.
Now I had to deal with my snow-buried car. It was a light fluffy snow, so I used my arms, gloves and scarf until I got into the trunk and retrieved my snow brush. Working quickly, I was able to uncover my car. Tired, but satisfied I would make the test, I got in the car and turned the key. Nothing. No sound. No turnover. Panicking I tried again and again a few times. No use, it was dead. And now, all my neighbors were gone too.
As a Freshman, I didn’t know the penalty for not taking an exam. So, I thought of no other alternative. Late or not, I had to show up before the exam was over. So, I decided to walk the 1 mile to campus.
I was not exactly dressed for a hike in the frozen tundra, but I was dressed for winter. The first part of the journey was a field. It was cold. I kept thinking of Jack London’s Call of the Wild and how he crossed the frozen tundra. That occupied my mind for a while. But soon my outerwear began to crisp from the cold and provide little protection from the howling frigid wind. I was freezing, but knew I needed to persevere.
I remembered a lecture in my psychology class regarding the power of the brain….mind over matter. I desperately decided to try this method. I wondered if I could trick my mind into thinking I was not cold. The warmest place I could think of was the beach. And what made me think of the beach? The Beach Boys. So, I romped along in my crispy winter wear singing Beach Boys songs, imagining myself at the beach under the warm sun.
I am not going to say it worked, but it did help. It occupied my mind for the hour it took to walk to campus and to my exam. I was very pleased with myself. I came, I saw and I conquered the snow and cold all by myself.
Unfortunately, I was the only one. When I got to the classroom, there was a note on the door that the exam was rescheduled due to the weather. Independence only goes so far. I may have beaten the cold once, but I didn’t want to try again. Luckily, I found someone with a car to take me home. I will live to learn another day. I was tested enough today.