Starting to Go Numb

by Pam Jacobs
Omaha, Nebraska, USA

It was a blustery cold January day in 1978 and college basketball season was in full swing. My manager at work had acquired four tickets to the evening’s game, planning to take his wife, a friend visiting from out of town, and me. Since the game didn’t start until late in the evening, I accepted a friend’s invitation to take in the 5:15 showing of “Star Wars”. After the movie she drove me to the sports complex, where I met my manager and the others.

Starting to Go NumbWe enjoyed the game despite the home team’s loss and were busily chatting away as we walked down the ramps to exit the building. It wasn’t until after we parted that I realized my car was not at the sports complex, and I had neglected to ask them for a ride. “No matter,” I thought, since my car was still parked at the office, just across campus, less than a mile away. A ten-minute walk.

As I left the building, I realized that since I had walked down the ramps with my friends, I had ended up going out a different door than I came in. I wasn’t sure of my directions, but I was confident that by walking around the building, I would find the north side. So I began walking.

When I turned the first corner, I was nearly knocked over by an icy gale that went right through my coat. Although I knew better, I had left the house that morning wearing a spring coat because it looked better with my outfit than my heavy winter garb. I had no hat, no scarf, no mittens or gloves, no pockets to warm my hands, and the wind chill was lethal that night. I turned up the collar on my coat, drew my hands up into my sleeves as best as I could, and trudged on.

I don’t remember much more except that my fingers, toes, and ears were starting to go numb, and the rest of me was beyond shivering. I couldn’t get back inside the building. I walked by a lot of cars that night, and at a desperate point I heard, “You look awfully cold. Do you need a ride somewhere?” I turned and looked at the stranger who had rolled his window down to address me. The car contained two young men, and although I was apprehensive about getting into the car with them, I didn’t know what else I could do.

They drove me to my car and waited to see that it started for me. By then my extremities were tingling and burning as they were warming. I made it home with no permanent damage. Those two young gentlemen most assuredly saved me from serious frostbite, and quite possibly saved my life. For the most part, I suppose that giving someone a ride doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But for me that night, it was everything.

Originally published as HeroicStories #242 on Oct 8, 2001

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