When I left my home it was -1 degrees.
There’s nothing I own that is appropriate for negative temperatures. If I dug deep into my closet I could find a pair of long underwear. But then what? Put them on under my suit pants? I’d get to work where the temperature is a 72. Then I’d be hot for the day.
Plus, I’m only outside for between five and twenty minutes depending on how fast the train and bus arrive. Yes, I ride both the train and the bus. I own a car but I’m too cheap to put the miles on it. I live close to the train and my work is near the station.
When I climb the train platform I have to wait only three minutes before one arrives. The train is never full and I stand against an interior window. The backpack which houses my dog is removed and placed between my legs. I pull out my phone and start thinking of things to tweet.
Today the train took five minutes to appear. Then it zoomed past. This is bad for three reasons. One, the obvious temperature discomfort. I’m exposed outside on an elevated platform with no heater. Two, the train not stopping means that something is wrong. It’s skipping stops to fix whatever goof-up happened earlier. Third, when the next train does stop it’s going to be jam-packed.
While waiting for the train I stared directly into the sun to feel a bit of warmth on my face. I’m sure I looked like a weirdo. Next time you’re in that kind of weather, try it. It works.
The next train stopped. Jam-packed. Normally this doesn’t bother me. I can be squished and I don’t freak out. But I have a backpack with a dog inside. This means I have to hold the backpack down near my legs for about thirty minutes. I’m not exactly crushing the weights these days – this is no easy task. Also, I have to be constantly thinking of the dog’s safety to make sure some jerk doesn’t knee her in the skull.
The train ride was uncomfortable but without incident.
After emerging from the station I looked for a bus parked outside. Once in a blue moon there’s no bus and it might take five or ten minutes before one arrives. Today, blue moon. When I looked down the street there was no bus in sight. I’d have to walk.
Distance to work from bus stop – one mile.
The sidewalks were barely plowed and there was slush everywhere. I couldn’t move as fast as I wanted and kept slipping. Every time I passed another bus stop I looked back – no bus.
I was halfway to work and crossing a bridge when I remembered I was carrying a dog. Meepers never makes a sound and I had forgotten she was back there. I felt terror. The backpack has a mesh covering around most of it. This allows the dog to breath. Also, it allows cold air to come in. I had dressed her in three layers of clothes, but I was nervous. What if she had frozen to death? I was too afraid to take off the backpack and look so I tried to walk faster. I didn’t know how long a seven pound Chihuahua could survive in that weather. I whispered a foxhole prayer and started to cry.
A few minutes later I arrived at the office doorstep and turned the key. Stepping inside I felt heat. I ran to my office, tore off the backpack and opened the zipper. The dog jumped out as usual and went to her bed under my desk.
After the euphoria of her being alive wore down I was saddled with a tough reality. I had placed my dog in danger.
Guilt and shame flooded my core. I tried to start the morning but couldn’t shake the weight of those feelings. A coworker snapped me to reality with a meeting we had scheduled. I buried the feelings.
I’m not sure I’ve yet forgiven myself for this mistake. I will, but I need to sit with it a for a while longer.