Saturday, February 04, 2006

I remember getting frostbite...

Junior High was a bad time for me; I tend to not drag up memories from those years too often, but I just saw my old gym teacher walking down my back alley, and this memory popped up unbidden.

I'm not quite sure of the year, either 1977 or '78. It was one of those days where the mercury had dipped down to -38 C or something ridiculous like that, one or two degrees too warm to warrant closing school for the day. We were taking skating lessons for Phys Ed at the time, and were expected to walk from the school to the arena, a good eight or nine long blocks. I had forgotten my mittens on the bus. I knew this was a bad thing, I wasn't trying to be tough or anything....but nobody liked me in those years, and there was no way I would be able to borrow gloves or mittens from one of my fellow classmates, so I began the walk with bare hands. I kept clenching and unclenching my hands, stuffing them in my pockets, moving my fingers, trying to snap them....they hurt so badly after only a few minutes! If I kept my hands in my pockets too long, my skates would start to fall and I'd have to steady them, exposing my fingers to the frigid air.

I only got half way. I went into the drugstore to warm up. My fingers were white, and I couldn't move them. As they started to thaw ever so slightly in the store, I was overcome with the worst pain I had ever experienced...it felt like someone was trying to saw off my skin with a rusty hack-saw. I began screaming in pain, I couldn't help myself! Some of the girls from my class had also come in to warm up, girls who generally hated me and tormented me as much as possible. I could see the confusion in their face as they felt compelled to help me, yet repulsed and embarrassed by me and the scene I was making.

Somebody had the presence of mind to call the doctor, who had an office just down the street. He came running over, put his arm around my shoulder and began walking me to the clinic. As we walked, he grabbed some snow in his mitten and covered my white fingers with snow. "You don't want them to thaw too quickly or it will hurt!" Gee, really? I figured that one out in the drugstore.

My parents were called, and I got to go home for the rest of the day with the last three fingers of my right hand bandaged up to protect them. Over the next few weeks as they healed, the top layer of skin on each finger came loose and eventually shed off, like a snake shedding its skin...I remember grossing out my gym teacher by pulling the skin on my right pinkie finger up and down like a little jacket. I figured it was the least he deserved for making us walk that day.

Seems to me that from that day on, whenever a class had to go to the arena, the school provided a bus. Me freezing my fingers sort of made me the sacrificial lamb, taking one for the whole school. You'd think the students would have been more grateful....

13 comments:

JC Coates said...

Great story. It really chilled me to the bone. It's cold here today, but not that cold.

papa herman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
papa herman said...

Paula,
Your post was like a commentary on the difference between schools then and schools now-- For example: In this era of "liability" I don't think a school would have kids walk 8 or 9 blocks today without some sort of supervision.

And, your post was educational too-- I did not know about making sure that the fingers thaw slowly when frostbitten... interesting.

annacond said...

ugh, i was shuddering at the mental picture of you shedding the skin off your finger! blech! did you permanently lose any sensation in your fingers?

but good on ya for grossing out the teacher! ? that was cool!

Spoke said...

Funny, along the lines of Papa's comment, I was on my way to work one morning and saw kids walking towards the school. Our town is small, perhaps 16 blocks by 8 or so, but I still found myself thinking how odd it was that kids were walking on their own during dim pre-dawn hours, times have indeed changed.
I also recall riding my motorbike during torential rain in BC across Patulla bridge. All I could sense was my icy cold fingers and wanting to drop off my bike during traffic to sleep. I got home and had help putting my fingers in basins of ice and water. The water felt painfully hot I remember. Your experience must have been far worse seeing how your fingers froze while mine were merly bloody cold.
And you can still play flute, piano and guitars.....

Paula said...

I believe I was very fortunate to not lose sensation in my fingers! They do get cold very quickly, though. It doesn't seem to matter how thick my mittens are, my fingers ache in the sub-zero weather.

Kim said...

Hah....never had that bad of frostbite, though walking 35 minutes home from high school in -30 weather caused me to have to beat the ice crystals out of my legs from time to time (I remember feeling them break up....) Wow! That's really gross, glad the teacher was taught a lesson! (Jr High always seems to suck for everyone, kids should be locked up away from each other from the time their 12 to when their grown up)

Commenter said...

I agree with Kim... Jr High is a waste of time. Grade 6-9 should just be skipped completely. High school is great though, for the most part. The soap opera's don't happen quite as regularly... I will never miss Jr. High for as long as I live, and I know my Jr. High experience wasn't anywhere near as bad as some, I didn't go for 2 years of it.
Shari

canadiangirl said...

ew! like, then skin actually peeled off?!?! *hurk* but that teacher deserved it! i woulda hurled if it'd been me!

Vic Nelson said...

Sweet buttery crescent rolls! 38C below?? I don't think I've ever experience anything below 10F. What be the winter norm down there up North?

Paula said...

Hee hee!! There is no such thing as "normal weather" in Alberta. It can go from one extreme to the other in the space of a few hours, keeps us all on our toes...

...but if a cold snap settles in, it can be -40 for weeks on end. Brrr. We have to plug in our cars so the block heater can keep the engine from freezing solid. Factor in the wind chill, and you can freeze flesh in seconds.

Not this winter, though! It's been practically balmy, with day-time temps ranging from 34 - 50 F almost all season!!! That's practically T-shirt weather!

Vic Nelson said...

Haha! T-shirt weather?? Noooo ma'am!

Corn Child said...

I just realized that I posted about junior high nightmares only days after this story was posted. Seems we are on the same wavelength!

Kids can be so awfully cruel. Your story breaks my heart.