Here’s the story of how a stranger brought me some much-needed Christmas Cheer on a cold, stormy December night of 2007. For those who don’t know me, I am a practicing Hindu (Ahem! Ok, Ok, “practicing-only-on-festivals” kind of Hindu) and so I do not celebrate Christmas per se, but being almost non-religious in my outlook towards life (not to be confused with my “having faith”), it really doesn’t matter. Festivals are fun and it doesn’t particularly matter which religion is “responsible” for my share of fun, gifts and yummy food! Anyway to continue on with my Christmas Story…….
It was a stormy freezing December day (I believe it was a couple of weeks ahead of Christmas, but it could have been any other day in December-January period of 2007. My memory is not that great anymore!). At that time, I was in Illinois working as an IT Contractor for a large US Retail and Pharmaceutical Giant in their Corporate headquarters. For some crazy environmental reasons, Chicago was experiencing one of its worst winters that year. And my colleagues used to joke that my love for all things wintry and snowy was the root cause of their daily suffering!
|“Illinois weather in winter 2007-2008 was unique; different from any other winter weather in the prior 110 years…..A large number of warm-season type storms were intermixed with a very large number of winter storms. Indeed, the 2007-2008 Winter had an odd mix of all types of severe weather, including thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, heavy rains, and damaging winds. More thunderstorms occurred in Central and Northern Illinois than in any previous winter.…..Illinois also experienced numerous snowstorms, four major ice storms, frequent sleet, and five storms with blizzard conditions. In December, Illinois had seven severe winter storms, two more than the prior record of five set in December 1977. The winter of 2007-2008 had 18 winter storms, well above the average of seven storms, and equal to the record set in 1977-1978…..Chicago had 60 inches of snow during the 2007-2008 winter….20 inches above average and the seventh largest amount on record since 1890. On days between winter storms and warm season type convective storms, there were periods of other extreme weather conditions, including days with temperatures at or below 0°F, and other days with temperatures of 40° to 60°F. In warm periods with moist air and melting snow cover, numerous floods occurred and heavy fogs developed. Numerous storms and harmful between-storm conditions caused property damages, many deaths, and hundreds of injuries……” [Read the complete weather analysis report here.]|
Anyway, to continue…. It was a stormy freezing December day, and just like any other weekday, I was working non-stop. I had reached office at 7:00 am that morning and was still working when the office was declared closed due to “inclement weather” around 3:00 pm in the evening. (Oh, how I miss those “inclement weather” announcements….Unexpected holidays are always so much better than planned ones!) .
That particular day and that particular moment, I was a little too engrossed in my work to leave immediately. Moreover, I wanted to avoid the parking lot “traffic jam”, especially since it was such a snowy day and every vehicle was bound to move at snail-pace. So by the time I put a logical end to my work and looked away from my computer screen, it was few minutes past 4:00 pm and the office was almost vacant. I hurriedly shut everything down and sprinted towards the parking lot.
There were only a handful cars left in the parking lot that particular evening and I found my Nissan covered in a huge mound of snow. (This is the only part of winter that I hated so much!) I sighed and then grudgingly went to work, scrapping snow and sticky ice off my windshield and front windows. I was finally done at a quarter past 4, and within a few seconds more, I was inside the warmth of my car. But when I pressed down on the accelerator, the car wouldn’t budge. I pressed the accelerator down harder…still no movement! Exasperated, I got down from my car and tried to figure out why.
It had been snowing on and off since morning and since I was such an early bird that day, all my car tires were lodged in solid ice by evening. I dug through the ice and removed it bit by bit from the front of my car tires and tried driving my car out again. Still nothing!
Being eternally pessimistic and cynical, my mind started running scenario after scenario of what could go wrong. Having very recently watched the Movie P2, you could very well imagine the level of paranoia I was experiencing. But then, being practical as well, I started thinking of solutions to the problem at hand:
- I could call up my office friends to help me. This could take hours considering that every one of my friends had left work by then, plus what’s the point of them suffering the snow and traffic again to get me?
- I could call a taxi. Again, I was not very sure someone would actually want to work at that time! Plus I did not want to leave my car there in the parking lot, how will I move around if the office remained closed for 4-5 days due to the weather?
- I could go inside the office again and ask random people to help. But who would that be? The office was almost vacant.
- (This one’s irrational, but by fourth point what else did you expect?) I could go back to office and keep working and living there till the snow melted a few days later!
I saw a couple of people go past me to one of the few cars left in the parking lot. But they looked so bored with my plight and tried so hard to ignore me that I just could not find enough courage to ask them for help and saw them whiz past me shortly, in utter desperation. By this time, I was almost in tears.
I still kept on trying to dig my car’s tires out of the snow and ice. I must have been quite a sorry sight by then, because the next time I looked around with teary eyes, there was this gentleman in his late 40s (I guess), standing next to me, asking if I needed any help. My face lit up. He asked me to get inside the car and try to accelerate, while he pushed the car from behind. He had to put his entire body weight to push my car out of the snow. Finally, in what seemed like an eternity, but were actually 2-3 minutes tops, my car was free from its icy shackles and onto the clear road.
I was extremely grateful and still teary (this time out of sheer relief!). I hope my eyes did convey my heartfelt gratitude to the gentleman, because I am quite sure my feeble attempt at “Thank You So Much!” did not reach his ears through my car’s shut windows. I wanted to get down from my car to thank him properly…..but he was already walking away, towards his car, waving a goodbye.
For the next 2 hours or so, while being stuck in traffic, I beat myself up non-stop for being such a dork and for not thanking him properly. I hoped I would get a chance to thank him better the next time I saw him in office. But it was quite unlikely….as I did not know his name or his department. And I never did see him again after that evening. To be very honest, now, after all these years, I am not even sure I will recognize his face if I ever saw him again.
But every year, around Christmas, when the weather gets chilly and the winds are freezing, I remember his random act of kindness to me, a complete stranger, with profound gratitude. It always brings a smile to my face. And I send a silent thank you his way. There is very little probability that he will ever come across this post or for that matter, really remember, how important his help was to me that particular evening of 2007 Chicago Winter, but I am sure his compassion hasn’t gone unnoticed in almighty’s books and he has received ten time more compassion and happiness than he brought me that stormy, snowy, freezing winter evening.
So here’s me saying a Big Thank You to all such kind-hearted people who have been nice to me over the years without expecting anything in return and without me ever acknowledging their awesomeness! Thank You Again.
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS – By Clement Clarke Moore
|Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house|
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,