A cold, hard lesson

There have been some rather frigid days and nights around the area lately. They aren't out of the ordinary though. We're used to harsh winter weather around here, aren't we?

Some of those days got me to thinking recently about the coldest night I can recall, and a lesson learned along with it.

There is likely a colder night I'm just not remembering for one reason or another, but I think the reason I remember it so well is based on a few factors.

It was the night of the 2014 BCS National Championship Game played on Jan. 6.

The game was a back and forth slugfest between the Florida State Seminoles and the Auburn Tigers that wasn't decided until the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. There is no doubt it still stands as one of the best football games I have ever watched.

It took place in Pasadena California, a city hardly known for its cold climate. I remember seeing all the fans on the TV screen wearing their t-shirts and cutoffs.

In addition, I recall schools across Western Pennsylvania had started cancelling classes for the next morning, and I found out Union High School had done so around halftime of the game.

I believe we students would have just been coming out of Christmas break around that time of year. Getting a sort of extra day off because of harsh weather was a God-sent bonus in my mind. The cold was a double-edged sword, no doubt about it.

"This wind chill isn't half bad," I told my dad who was watching the game with me. "I'm going to check it out later."

"Oh yeah? We'll see about that," he replied. He was right to be skeptical of my downplaying of the cold but more on that in a bit.

I couldn't find recorded temperatures from that night in Rimersburg after a few Google searches, but I did find Pittsburgh's archived weather history.

According to timeanddate.com/weather, Pittsburgh experienced a low of around negative 9 degrees between 6 p.m. and midnight.

For the sake of exaggeration and because this is my column, I'm going to round that figure down to negative ten degrees. Besides, it's not crazy to think southern Clarion County was around two degrees cooler than the steel city to the south.

Attach what was reportedly an averaged 18 mph wind chill during that time span, which I will round up to 20 mph, and you get a negative 34-degree wind chill.

Yep, that's how cold it was. I'm not embellishing the story at all.

Anyway, the game eventually ended in spectacular fashion and I was pretty excited with the combination of not having school the next morning.

"I'm heading out," I told Dad. "It's not so bad."

"Like I said, we'll see," Dad replied with a smirk. "We'll see."

To borrow a quote from the movie Pretty Woman -- "Big mistake, huge."

You know how when you chew minty gum or use mouthwash and then take a drink of cold water and your throat feels like a mini frozen tundra? By breathing in the cold air, my lungs almost immediately experienced the same sensation. My insides actually started to hurt.

It felt like I was living out one of those Peppermint Patty commercials where the guy opens the wrapper, bites into the chocolate and is all of a sudden transported to the top of an arctic mountain.

I realized I should have probably grabbed a pair of gloves beforehand, because my hands started to ache as if I'd given the door a couple of punches on the way out.

My teeth chattered the entire time. The wind howled and blew snow all over me. Much of the snow and slush left over from a recent storm had frozen solidly to the driveway.

The other end of the double-edged sword was starting to pierce me.

Ironically, and in the spirit of continuing bad decisions, I went into the garage to grab a few things out of the freezer. I am certain I could have thrown all of the food onto the lawn and it would have been as frozen then as it was inside.

I started to make my way out of the garage with a couple toaster pastries in hand when I bumped into a wheelbarrow. The bumping spooked a cat who unbeknownst to me had decided to use the garage as shelter for the night.

The cat tried jumping through a glass window to get away, but banged into the door below instead and startled me all the same.

I don't mind saying I tried high stepping out of the garage in an effort that would've made Jesse Owens proud.

"Tried" being the key word here, because I didn't make it far in my foray as scaredy cat number two.

As I quickly discovered, it was too icy to sprint. In a split second, Old Man Winter lifted my feet up from under me before I got to the porch and I found myself staring at the brisk night sky with pain in my ankle and back.

I finally limped my way into the house, heaving and coughing with every step. Of course, the floor creaked and groaned along with me, seemingly mocking my plight.

"How'd it go," Dad asked. I knew he had heard my groans as I hobbled to the living room.

"Fine, it went fine," I mumbled as I looked for a heating pad to lie on.

Lesson learned: the only thing colder than insanely brisk weather is karma's attack on your ego when trying to prove your toughness to your dad.

The author is a CLARION NEWS staff writer.