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....