Of ice and men

I’m glad winter has finally arrived, and we have had snow and cold, and my car has been encased in ice like a bottle of vodka. The vehicle is out now, but it took about an hour to chisel it free, and I need a new ice scraper.
Every year my car gets coated in ice at least once, and I view this as a sign of the changing seasons in Vermont. It’s sort of like that first sugar run or that first bluebird, only annoying.
Never before has the ice been as thick and solid as it was this time, however, and never before have I been so close to just letting it sit where it was and either calling a cab or buying a blowtorch. Also, it happened on the same day that I had a serious battle with a vending machine, and so I might not have been quite as patient with the automotive igloo as perhaps I should have been.
What happened, essentially, was this: Two weeks ago tomorrow I gave a speech at South Burlington High School, and then I went straight to the airport to catch a plane. It was snowing, and I parked on the top level, which meant there was no roof over the car. That afternoon, the rain turned to sleet, and then the next day, the temperatures plummeted to the single digits in some areas and well below zero in others. I believe at Burlington International Airport it must have been cold enough to cryogenically freeze Walt Disney’s head.
When I returned to Vermont on Wednesday evening, I had honestly never seen anything quite like my car: a sedan-shaped hillock of rock-solid ice, some of it thicker by far than my fist. The plane landed about 4:30. I left the airport at quarter to six. In that hour I hacked at the ice, getting a terrific cardiovascular workout and pleasantly surprised to discover that even now I am capable of forming new combinations of expletives.
In all fairness, my language probably wouldn’t have been quite so colorful if I hadn’t lost a battle with a bag of Sun Chips earlier that day at another airport. I had slipped eighty cents into a vending machine, and the bag was pushed to the very edge of its shelf. And then it hung there like an icicle. I shook the machine, but it wouldn’t budge. And so I found someone who could give me change for a dollar and put another eighty cents in the machine, reasoning that I would either wind up with two bags at a reasonable price, or one very expensive bag. Either way, I would be fine with the result because I was really, really hungry.
Wrong. The second bag edged the first a little farther — so far that it was clearly defying all laws of gravity — but neither fell off the shelf. And so I shook the machine. Jostled it. Even turned my back on it, convinced that if I pretended I didn’t care and was actually leaving, one or both bags would fall from the perch. Finally I pretended the machine was a football running back and I was a linebacker, but all that accomplished was that I looked scary and insane, and like the sort of person who probably shouldn’t be allowed to board an airplane. And then my flight was called, which meant that the next person planning to buy one bag of Sun Chips got three.
I only mention this because I thought about those Sun Chips a lot as I stood on the third level of the parking garage at the airport and hacked at an ice sculpture of an automobile.
Of course, I’m not complaining. OK, I am. But only a little. I had found those first days of January when it was warm enough to ride my bicycle a little unnerving. And so I was downright relieved to come home to the Vermont we know and love: The Land of the Polar Tomato.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on January 28, 2007.)

Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of eighteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Guest Room. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, and The Double Bind.

4 thoughts on “Of ice and men

  1. Patricia Kesling-Wood says:

    OK, so I live in Hawaii. But I am up at 2 am because the sailboat I live on is rocking like an unbalanced washer.
    Yet I had much sympathy for this winter predicament of yours. I used to live in Illinois and compete in horse shows. A freak storm encased my horse trailer in 6 inches of ice while I was on my way to the fairgrounds and once i arrived in the parking lot, I was unable to get my quarter horse gelding out of my trailer. There I sat.
    So close.
    And yet so far.
    Like your sun chips.

  2. Sue Lemure says:

    I felt bad when i saw this had no comments !! Im so happy u love Vermont!!! We do too , Altho the White Mountains call to me all the time.. Proud to be a New Englander Sue L.

  3. Sue L says:

    HI again Chris its Feb 3rd and we had some ICE & SNOW last night!!! Now i feel like we have earned a warm day! 🙂 Sue L. Oh patiently waiting for DOUBLE BIND!!!

  4. No SnowQueen says:

    I’m so very glad I do not live in a place with more winter than where I do live. Waaaah!!! There is more than enough winter that occurs here. As I write this, it’s harder to get up in the mornings, becasue it’s already so dark outside now (August, the cruelest of months, methinks…). But I don’t want to go crazy over Summer and move to, say, Florida. Bugs roaming about, as big as my hand, I Don’t need. I think North Carolina sounds nice, though…

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