Thursday, February 11, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside ...

Time once more for Mama Kat's Writers Challenge. This week I like
2.) Describe your worst winter weather story.
(inspired by Alisha from A Day In The Life Of Okie Rednecks)

3.) Tell us about that scar.
(inspired by Katie from Rooftop Harmonies)
 as the prompts to follow in my writing for the nonce.

#2 - The worst weather story is a toss up because the prompt could be taken in several ways: the worst weather experienced in winter, the worst story involving winter weather in some way, or the worst story heard during winter weather. So after 3 microseconds of deliberation, I settled on this one:

Part of my research work when I was at Argonne National Laboratory involved giving academic seminars at universities. One fine February I was scheduled to give a Friday seminar at Iowa State University in Ames. What followed was a real nightmare.

I caught a flight out of O'Hare mid-day on Thursday. The weather called for snow later in the day at Ames, but it was not supposed to cause problems. Now at this point you need to know that I am one of those fortunate people who had two complete sets of wisdom teeth grow completely in. As the last pair rose to full height, I started not being able to close my jaw fully and so the extra teeth were scheduled for removal.

(Have you figure our where this is going?) Mid way to Ames, I hear a crack and suddenly have a mouth full of what feels like gravel. When I examine the detritus, I have a sneaking suspicion that one of my extra teeth had broken. A few cursive probes of the tongue quickly confirmed that I suddenly had a really jagged stump in the back of my jaw.

My first thought was the standard "How long before this bugger really starts to hurt?" That was followed by "What else could go wrong?" I should never have asked that second question. At that point the pilot comes on the intercom and explains that Ames is in the midst of a blizzard, but we may still be able to make it in. So we all are ordered to strap in and the pilot guns it to try and beat the closure of the airport.

We come barreling in for a landing, bobbing and weaving in the winds like a leaf in the autumn winds. It is snowing so hard I can't even see the wing out the window to my right. The pilot comes on back on the intercom and announces that they have closed the airport just as our wheels touched down. We are the last plane that will make it in or out that day. But wait, there is further good news. The Ames airport is connected to the rest of civilization by a number of miles of isolated road. Guess what is also closed - you guessed it, the road to/from the airport.

So let us recap. I have a tooth that has shattered and which I deeply fear will begin to hurt shortly. I am trapped in a closed airport for an unknown length of time in a huge blizzard miles away from the nearest dentist. A few hours of stewing and pacing insures an increasing state of anxiety.

Finally, after eight hours of stewing and fretting and pacing and dreading, the snow plows finally got the road to/from the airport opened enough for a caravan from the airport to town to follow then. At about 1am I get to the hotel and collapse. I have decided that it the tooth hasn't started hurting by now, it might not start until I can get back to Chicago. At least I sure hope so.

Bright and early I had breakfast with some of the faculty from ISU, with fewer in attendance than planned because guess what - there is a blizzard still blowing and snowing out there and they can't make it to campus. Throughout the day several people asked me if I was distracted about something. If only they knew.

Scars? What scars? Just because I have scars from head to toe doesn't mean they are special. I know where my scars are because I suffer from a condition where my scar tissue will not stop growing. When I have surgery, the scar usually has to be irradiated to stop the excess tissue growth.  So I'm going to talk about one of my non-surgical scars.

Many years ago when I was a pre-schooler, my brother and I shared a bedroom and set of bunk-beds. Being the older brother, I had the upper bunk. One day as I climbed the wooden ladder up to my bunk, the ladder broke. The sharp end of the bottom half of the ladder hit and skewered the side of my head, barely missing my eye.

A lot of crying and bleeding followed. There was enough blood that mom couldn't see where the cut was at first. I knew it was serious because it was one of the few times I ever saw my mom even slightly rattled. A lot of wet cold towels and ice later it quit bleeding. A nurse friend of mom's came over to look at it to see if we needed to journey the miles to the hospital. The nurse said that it might not hurt to get stitches, but that since the bleeding had stopped, etc. they'd just dress it and see how it was the next day.

That is how I got the scar to the side of my left eye. Yeah, the scar that becomes more and more obvious the older I get and the further my hairline sprints from it. That scar.


  1. Did you ever get your tooth fixed? One of mine broke off too, but only hurt for about a day and stopped so I didn't go to the dentist.

    Visiting from Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop.

  2. That plane story sounds like one of my worst nightmares. (I have a recurring dreams about breaking and having to spit out teeth.)

    And your scar story reminds me of why I don't like bunk beds.

  3. I know those Iowa blizzards. I lived in Ames for 5 years while my husband and I were in graduate school at ISU. But that tooth--argh! That sounds horrid.

  4. Airports and blizzards do NOT mix. Glad you escaped Ames intact, though it sounds like you may have a pyschological scar or two remaining. ;)


  5. Do you realize you told 2 stories where you've fallen apart - broken tooth and scar on face?

    I hope you got the tooth fixed prior to the pain setting in and I imagine having a scar as a kid was a cool thing to have. :-)

  6. Head wounds pour blood. My kids got a few and after the first one I didn't panic any more. My two older kids had a bedroom set of two twin beds that met at a large table so their heads were close to the table. My daughter during the night's tossing and turning clunked her head on the edge of the table. Forehead scar. Darn, do scars become larger or are you noticing it more now?

  7. im shivering with thoughts of cold and extra wisdom teeth and scar tissue...

  8. Oh my goodness Dan! A ruptured tooth and a snow storm in a small plane. That is frightening for sure!

    I think every person that had a bunk bed has a story about some adventure with it! : ) I am glad your mom was able to find the wound amidst the blood and take care of you!

  9. that story is gonna give me nightmares.

  10. Did the tooth ever hurt? I broke a tooth this summer, but since the tooth didn't break near the nerve it never hurt, thank goodness.

  11. Being in an airport during bad weather is one of my worst nightmares.

    And your mom is much braver than me, I would have been rushing straight to the ER.

  12. Ouch on both stories. When I was in college, my roomate and I used bunk beds. After falling twice, he made me take the top bunk--at least being a dead sleeper has advantages.

  13. Dang, my head hurts now! I can't handle tooth pain and don't know how you made it that long without getting some help! You're tougher than me!!


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