Holidays

The Impossible Journey

It was New Year's Eve in the late 1980s. The previous few days' winter weather had brought over a foot of snow to the metro area. I was in my senior year of high school. As was a popular party option back then, some friends had rented a few hotel rooms at a hotel at I-70 and Colfax Avenue. About eight of my buddies and I began the evening pre-partying at one of their houses. Soon we piled into two cars to head to the hotel (mine was not one of them). We arrived and partied it up in the adjoining rooms for a while, getting quite intoxicated. After ringing in the magical twelve o'clock hour, a portion of the party -- myself included -- moved out to the pool area. As time passed, people left, either heading home or returning to the rooms. This is where my adventure begins.

Soon it was just me and a couple other people playing around the pool. I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, the only person left was passed out in a lawn chair. I looked around in a panic, unable to recall where our rooms were. I thought for a few seconds about curling up in a chair next to my passed-out buddy, but suddenly had one desire: to get home!

Now, let me explain a couple of things here. I was extremely drunk, the temperature outside was in the teens at most, there was lots of snow, I had no jacket and was wearing topsiders with no socks, and my house was about eight to ten miles away by the roadways. But I knew a shortcut!

So off I went, stumbling my way home. I had to fight the wind that kept blowing my fabulous plastic stovepipe New Year's Eve hat off, fight the puddles and the occasional splashback, fight the heckling from oncoming traffic. I finally gave up on the hat after a gust blew it under a passing car. The journey continued for what seemed like hours until I reached my shortcut. It just so happened to be down a big, snowdrifted ravine, across a field, and through a complex that housed some of the county's vehicles. Since the snow was almost up to my knees, I ran as fast as I could down the ravine, through the field and toward the fenced-in complex, taking a couple of face-plants along the way. Halfway there, one of my shoes got stuck in the snow. Deciding it was too cold to stop and dig it out, I ran on. A few steps later, the other shoe was gone. So now I'm barefoot, running through the snow. I finally arrived at the fence and climbed the cold steel with my numb fingers and toes. Once over, I saw that the complex had been cleared of snow, but I realized there was no way I could make it home.

So I tried a couple of doors to complex buildings, but to no avail. I then spied a row of vehicles and headed toward a county truck. Amazingly, the door was unlocked, and, even more amazing, the keys were there! I hopped in, started it up and cranked the heat. My hands and feet began to get some feeling back. At that point I thought, "I can just drive home!" I drove the truck around the complex and found the exit. Unfortunately, it was gated and padlocked. I sat there for who knows how long, revving the engine and contemplating crashing the gate. But in my sobering, thawed-out state, I decided against crashing -- and trying to explain the county truck parked outside my house the next day. Instead, I opted to sleep in the warm truck for a few hours, to the wonderful tunes of AM radio.

I awoke to the sunlight. As anyone knows after a hard night of drinking, there are certain bodily functions that need to be taken care of. We're talking number two here, and it wasn't going to wait! I strategically angled myself out the truck door and let loose. To my good fortune, there happened to be half a roll of paper towels in the truck, which became quite useful! After that, I figured I had better begin the rest of my journey home.

I then realized, cursing myself, that my shoes were back in the snowdrifts, and there was no way I could walk the rest of the way on the frozen, gravel-covered streets. I searched around the truck, and the best thing I could find were two little hand towels. I wrapped my feet in the towels, somewhat moccasin style, and headed out. So on I went, through the snow and gravel, in my trusty moccasin towels, brushing off the occasional odd looks from the Sunday morning church crowd driving by.

I finally arrived home, feet aching, head pounding, but in one piece. I still have the moccasin towels as a souvenir and some great family photos of the morning after. And that was the worst New Year's Eve ever.

At least I was able to recover my shoes a couple of days later.

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Clint Thomas