I was never an early riser, so when the phone rings at 5 AM it sets me off a bit. This particular time it was the morning announcer at the radio station I was employed by, telling me that his car wouldn’t start and asking, since I lived as close as I did to the building, if I’d sub for him and put us on the air at dawn. I was doubly unhappy about this request in that not only had he woke me up from what was a recently separated, fairly severely depressed and therefore abbreviated sleep, but even in my pre-dawn stupor I remembered talk of this scheduled to be the coldest day of the year, perhaps of the decade; in fact, likely of our collective lifetimes.
I said yes of course without hesitation, as I knew if I gave the question even a millisecond of consideration I’d say no and that two letters would certainly not help my budding career one bit. But once he’d thanked me and hung up, leaving me to the howl of the outside wind nearly eradicating the hum of the dial tone, I began to curse myself, my luck, my choices, my birth and my mother and father for ever having coupled; in spite of the fact that they were for the most part really nice folks and not at all to blame for my troubles.
After gently kicking him, as I liked to do when I felt the need, I hunkered into my cold weather coat, presenting as thin a profile as I could, pulled my face mask tight around that lovely space between one’s shoulders and face which seems to enjoy freedom from coverage, and stepped out into the street; or at least what I assumed was the street but only because I could recall the distance between my house and the road and this seemed about the right distance.
By the time I figured maybe I should go back, it was far too late; “back” had disappeared in a blinding swirl of gray sky and grayer snow. I started moving slower and slower, my face would freeze, I would put my hands to my face and blow, my hands would freeze, I’d pocket them again, leaving rime ice on my eyelashes and moustache. It couldn’t be much further; it really couldn’t, though there was no way to tell as it was nothing but cloud in all directions.
Obviously I made it to the building, unless I’m writing this as a ghost which is entirely possible and a damn good reason for my feeling crazy 10 days of every dozen. (Wouldn’t it have been funny if I’d forgotten my door key and had to go back for it? That would lend to that feeling crazy thing.) I let myself in with a huge exhale as I’d pretty much been holding my breath for a half mile in hopes I could keep the damp in my lungs a liquid rather than having it become a solid. But wouldn’t you know it; the nice, toasty wafting heat I was expecting didn’t materialize. It was colder than your standard witch’s appendage in there, and I was not amused. It was though above 40 F, and therefore as I soon discovered, 80 degrees warmer than the air I’d just left. It was near time to power up so I didn’t have a lot of time to play detective. The thermostat was set at 70 so that was not the issue. I moved to the furnace room and discovered the device was not lit, but still pumping air with its pet rat exercise wheel. Sure I tried to light it; no dice. I shut the fan off as the circulation would only make things worse quicker.
I powered up the transmitter, partly to start the radio day and partly because I knew the box would provide a little heat, and then I moved about the station searching for other heat generators. Sadly, all I found were two coffee pots, one of which I would use to actually make coffee as at least I could pour it on myself if I became desperate. I moved the other into the control room and plugged and turned it on, hoping the little carafe warmer would at least melt the frost from my fingers should I need them while broadcasting.