The temperature outside is four degrees.
When one figures in the wind (out of the northwest, freshly chilled and compliments of the Great State of North Dakota), at four degrees, one is assured of wide-eyed consciousness followed by idle, almost dreamy speculation regarding blackened toes, car trunks doubling as meat lockers, and, for some reason, Mexican food.
The good citizens of
snuggled in fluffy layers of serious clothing, close their eyes against the
dark winter-y landscape and inwardly thank the heavens for heated buses.
And then he gets on.
We shall think of him as Mr. Foolish Businessman, because that is how he is dressed. While the North Wind Doth Blow and the snow eddies in gravity-defying rings in doorways, this guy has taken it upon himself to come to the bus stop in a suit and a light overcoat.
No hat. No boots. No scarf. No gloves.
I frown in concentration, an expression I adopt several times a day that wreaks havoc on my desire for a wrinkle-free face. So much ridiculousness in the world: Why is that woman feeding a baby French fries? Why have so many people taken up recreational spitting? Why do I have an uncle who warns me, several times a year, that I am to never fall asleep on cold concrete?
These are the things that keep me awake at night.
And now this guy.
Why are you dressed for weather at least 40 degrees warmer than today’s projected high?
What would happen if we, the weather-respectful of the bus, were to rise up, push you outside for a bit? How would ya like that, huh?
In my head, where things are warm and, increasingly, bubble-wrapped for my protection, I envision the regulars on the bus rising in mute consensus.
We walk, slowly, menacingly, to the front.
“You’re not from around these parts, are ya?”
The man looks around in discomfort, looks up at the non-gruntled collection of sun-deprived, over-stuffed commuters before him. “I – I was born and raised here.”
Disgusted, a puff of air escapes the lips of the 6:36 crowd. Somewhere in the background, a woman starts to play the harmonica softly. A coyote howls in the distance.
“Well then you should know that it’s winter here, partner, and we don’t cotton to people who won’t acknowledge the awesome power of Old Man Winter!”
A grumbling chorus of “thazz righ’, dawg”s and “ja, you betcha”s is heard.
“Bus driver! I hardly think –“
The bus driver’s face makes an appearance in the rearview mirror, then returns to tailing the die-hard
Minneapolis biker earnestly navigating a snow
rut in the roadway before him.
“Think? Well that’s just it, isn’t it? You’re not thinkin’, are ya? Frostbite is within our stiff-fingered grasp and ohhhh noooo, you can’t be bothered to put a hat on, can ya?”
The group chuckles cruelly, moves forward, arms outstretched…
And what happens next becomes the stuff of transit legend.
They speak of it now, in hushed tones, the morning the riders of the 17W rose up and took back the winter. They found him, Mr. Foolish Businessman, swaddled tightly in scarves, decorated with the mismatched and abandoned mittens sometimes found on the bus. “Wind chill, that’s what’ll get ya,” he repeats. “It’s the wind chill that’ll get ya…”
And he never again forgot to wear a hat.