It does not matter how we feel, as long as we look good on the outside. We must show the world what it expects to see, avoiding at all costs being different. I followed the crowd aimlessly, seeking approval, unknowingly putting myself in a place of danger many years ago…
Central New York State winters are brutal. Residents endure several feet of snow accumulation, often drifting across roadways, towering snow banks, and sub zero temperatures. On a typical winter day I went to high school dressed for approval, not for the weather conditions.
At the end of the school day my mind focused on the final bell and going home. I gathered things from my locker, put on my coat and waited for the school bus. It would be the first of two. I lived in another school district, and linked with a bus from the school I once attended.
The first bus ride only lasted about fifteen minutes. The driver stopped at a closed restaurant, dropping me off. The wait would not be long. I found shelter near the building, feeling cold, hoping the next bus would arrive soon.
Where is that bus? It never takes this long. I am so cold; I hate the cold! Even in the summer I get cold hands and feet. Dad picks on me, saying my hands are as cold as Grandma’s. What can I do? The phone is inside; and the restaurant is closed. I must have missed the bus; it’s not coming; and I am left here alone. I have to walk home.
I wore no hat or scarf. That would make me look like a creep! Boots were for old women; I looked real sharp in flats. Gloves or mittens were for children; and I sure did not bring those. The dress code in school meant just that, girls wore only dresses. So, most of my body remained exposed to dangerous below zero temperatures. The walk home on a warm afternoon would have been a long stroll. On that day it could have been a death march.
I’m freezing; my hands and feet feel numb. I’ll have to stop and ask to use some ones phone. Mom can not come get me; she has no car; and Dad is at work. I’ll call Carol and ask if her mother can take me home. I have to get home!
There is the Rivette’s house. Alright, knock on the door…
“Hi, can I use your phone? I missed my bus.”
“Sure, it’s right over there.”
Dial the number; I can not pick up the phone. The feeling is gone in my hands! You can do it, call Carol. Dial the number; it’s ringing…
“Hello Carol… I missed the school bus from Fayetteville. Can your mother pick me up and take me home? Good, thanks.”
I wanted to cry; but I could not let any one know how cold and afraid I was. I hung up the phone.
“You hung up the phone on your hand.”
Oh no! What must she be thinking?
The car with my friend arrived. I thanked the neighbors for letting me use their phone... Again I had to pretend I just needed a ride, not let on how cold I felt. They dropped me off in front of my door and I rushed in.
I no longer needed to pretend; at home I could be honest. I began to cry.
“What’s wrong? What’s the matter?”
“I missed the school bus and walked. I made it as far as Rivettes’ and used their phone to call Carol. Mrs. Ennis brought me home. I hung up the phone on my hand! I could not even feel it! ”
“Get over to the sink! Run cold water on your hands!”
“ You have frost bite! We’ll warm it up a little at a time!”
“It hurts! It hurts!”
“Keep your hands under the water!”
Gradually normal feeling returned to my hands and feet. I put on warm clothing and rested in the security of my home. Why do we seek approval of others at the risk of our own safety? Sadly, we do not only experience cold temperatures, we live in a cold cruel world…
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