My boss said the other day, "Once the temperature drops below zero, it really makes no difference how cold it is at that point." True. But when Fahjah showed me a picture on his cell phone that he took this morning of his temp gauge in his truck, while traveling just south of EC, and it registered 35 below, somehow that felt....North Dakotaish.
Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls are about 20 minutes apart. Fahjah and I work within a block of each other up in Chippewa, so late in the year, when consistent temps in the low 40's force me to stop riding my bike to work, we commute to ease the fuel expenditure. Last year, we used my car more since, with the past gas prices, it usually only cost me 40 bucks to fill up while Fahjah's truck was closer to over 100 bucks. This year, I've been completely and utterly lazy and he's let me. The reason, you see, is because I go full retard when driving my car in snow. I'm blaming the car. Two winters ago, Brother had driven it home after I did an all-nighter at work and I Earnharted a bridge wall. He agrees. Not that I'm retarded...well, not the driving part anyway. He blames the car too.
Every morning Fahjah picks me up at my house on the way up to Chippewa. I leave my warm house, get in a warm truck, go to my warm work, get back in a warm truck, and return to my warm house. For me, 20 below is a minor, momentary discomfort of frozen snot in my nose, should I choose to breathe between house and truck or truck and work. I choose to hold my breath.
I realize I'm spoiled. I do. But aside from the comfort level, I enjoy riding to work with my dad. Sure, most mornings I'm surly and quiet. But at the very least, the afternoon rides home are chatty and informative.
This morning as we're following a car that boldly states across the back of the trunk, "Barack Obama supports drilling in fetus heads," Fahjah is reliving a memory to me, one of those "you've got it so good, you spoiled monkey you" stories.
Faj is number four of four children. They lived in a nice Cape Cod style house in Hillside, Illinois, that, if I remember correctly, my grandparents bought right around 1951 when my dad was born. I've seen a picture of it brand new and while I always hold in my memory a house with an immaculate lawn, a huge garden in the back yard (Grandpa had a serious green thumb), and giant trees around it, the initial picture is completely devoid of even a single plant. I'm not even sure there was lawn.
Their house had three bedrooms; two upstairs, the master downstairs. My Aunt Phyllis was the only girl of the kids and I think she had one upstairs bedroom to herself. My two uncles and my dad had the other room on the second floor. Six people shared one bathroom. They had a one-car detached garage and a long, single-car-width driveway.
Fahjah was telling me that they had five cars. Phyllis was the only one who didn't have one at the time. They had to be arranged by order of departure, the latest of whom would park in the garage. The last person home each night performed the "Arranging of the Cars." The older brothers handed down the chore to Fahjah as early as 14 years old.
This was the late 60's and the cars all had carburetors, not fuel injectors. Some finesse and dancing along the fine line of starting and flooding was a requirement to starting a carburated vehicle in the frigid weather. Not this fancy, fuel-injected, turn the key and it starts silliness. Fahjah said in the winter they parked every two cars nose-to-nose in the event of them not starting in the morning. He said there was a 50/50 chance that while one might not start, the other might, and they could jump start the other. And that finesse I was talking about? After 40 or so years, Fahjah still remembers that the LeMans required one pump of the gas pedal then crank. The Bonneville, two pumps then crank. Later on, he said, the Caprice required about six pumps.
On those rare days when I will actually drive my own lazy ass to work, as I back out of my garage-door-opener-powered, two-car garage, down an empty driveway and zoom on down the road, I may think back to Fahjah's story, and exclaim, "No wonder he moved out as soon as he was out of high school. All those people? One bathroom? Dear LORD!"