Very Cold Car

This post was migrated from my Lifeblog.

If my father has one big thing about health, it’s to always keep warm. (My grandmother was the same way — I guess it’s a Chinese thing.) So imagine his dismay when our car heater broke. Spencer and I discovered this driving to Missouri (from Los Alamos, NM) to visit them, in the middle of November no less. We figured we would get it fixed before we came back, but through a comedy of errors, it didn’t get done.

Fast forward two weeks. We’re on our way home, driving west on I-40, and at about 9:00 pm passing Amarillo, Spencer exclaims, “Hey, if we just keep going, we can make it home about 3 in the morning.” It’s maybe 65 degrees in the car, I’m wapped up a fleece throw, Spencer has an extra jacket over his knees, and we’re both feeling great. “Sure,” I say. “I’m game.”

A couple hours later, we’re in west Texas, and I notice that the temperature is dropping in the car. I begin to have my doubts about the drive-all-night plan. Spencer looks uncertain too, but the thought of waking up in our own bed the next morning is still awfully compelling. So we whiz by Tucumcari and keep going.

Another hour later, we’re going through Santa Rosa and we’re both pretty miserable. I’m having trouble keeping my arms warm and Spencer can’t feel his toes. Now, if we had been smart, we would have stopped there, but we were both pretty cranky, and what was three more hours anyway? So on we go.

About midnight, Spencer starts wrapping his scarf creatively around his head. First he looks a bit like a sushi. Then he rewraps it to look like a middle eastern headscarf. I can’t stop laughing.

“You know,” I shiver, “if my parents ever find out about this, they’ll have your head on a stick!”

“I know,” he says ruefully. “Don’t tell them.”

By the time we’re on Highway 285 to Santa Fe, it feels like it’s close to freezing in our car. (Outside, it must have been 20 degrees.) Spencer is bouncing up and down trying to stay warm, and the windshield is frosted over except for about three inches at the bottom. Every time I reach for the defrost, Spencer shouts “No!!! It’s COLD!” We manage to make it home only running the defrost for maybe two minutes.

At some point during the night, the following exchange was made: “Could be worse.” “HOW?” “Could be raining!” (Young Frankenstein.) Spencer reassures me that soldiers in the Navy routinely swim through 50 degree water and survive. Meanwhile, I console myself by thinking about how many calories I’m probably burning. I wonder whether we’ll both catch terrible fevers and die. Spencer’s just grateful that we changed the oil and got new tires, seeing as the road we’re on is completely dark for fifty miles.

After the longest three hours of my life, we pull into our parking lot at 2:38 AM. Upstairs, our apartment feels only marginally warmer than it is outside. I’m straight into the shower while my dear husband sets up our electric blankets and cranks them up on high. The next morning, to my great surprise, we’re not too much worse for wear — apart from a few chills, we’re both fine.

Ah, the stories we’ll have to tell our kids someday!