Be prepared, especially when it’s cold outside
February 1, 2007
It’s 12:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, and I would kill for a space heater. Heck, I’d settle for anything that would warm my frozen limbs. Instead, I curl up and hug my knees, praying to God that sleep — or death — will free me from this frigid hell on earth. I’m camping outside of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. for free tickets to a Sufjan Stevens concert, and I’m having the time of my life.
p. The Boy Scout motto has always been “Be Prepared.” As an Eagle Scout, I know this, and should abide by these words. Instead, I’ve always preferred to pack less when given a choice in the matter. “I don’t need a printer or a lamp,” I said to my parents as I began packing for freshman year. “And really, bed sheets? Blankets? I think I can do without. You know? It would just be so much easier if I slept on my bare mattress. Really.” I reluctantly gave into their cries and ended up bringing pillows, blankets and even sheets to furnish my freshman dorm room. But I wasn’t happy about it.
p. I don’t loathe owning things. In fact, I relish every addition to my collection of solid color tee shirts. However, I prefer packing too little for two simple reasons: weight and simplicity. Who wants to worry about remembering a million and one things, or carryingall that dead weight? Not me. If I forget to bring something it’s never because I forgot, but due to my own intent. This trepidation to being prepared directly led to my freezing that Friday night. Taylor, the friend I was camping with, told me to bring a sleeping bag and pillow. Naturally, my bag included only a thin sweatshirt and neck pillow. “James, you’re going to freeze,” Taylor said upon looking at my gear. “Nonsense,” I replied. “I’ve got a toothbrush and a neck pillow. And besides, I was an Eagle Scout.”
p. To make my point, I left out the fact that I had been possibly the least qualified Boy Scout in the history of that organization, worse even than the other boys in my troop who set barrels of hay on fire and smoked pot during summer camp. At least they could light a match. I still can’t tie a knot, start a fire, or put up a tent. Admittedly, I can read a compass, but I don’t think that helps much when you find yourself camped in a tent in the middle of our nation’s capital.
p. Sometime around 4 a.m., in a state somewhere between awake and asleep, I thought I would actually freeze to death. Several hours ago, I’d lost feeling in my feet, which I’d wrapped in Taylor’s thick wool coat for warmth. She, in her heavy sleeping bag, snored lightly beside me. So this is what it feels like to be homeless, I thought to myself. I swore that, if I survived, I’d give a cool 50 bucks to the next bum I saw. “There you go buddy, why don’t you buy yourself some hand warmers or maybe a nice electric blanket.”
p. I was about to call it quits and give up my fight against the cold slowly inching its way up my body. I planned first to text message all of my closest friends, bequeathing my life sized ceramic dog sculpture to my brother who, though allergic, has always had a fondness for canines. Suddenly, a voice from outside my tent yelled, “None of you fuckers are getting any tickets.” For a moment I’d forgotten where I was. I was freezing to death in order to get tickets for what would be a really gnarly concert.
p. “Fuck you, asshole,” I hissed through chattering teeth at that jerk. Taylor shifted lightly beside me and then returned to her slumber. I couldn’t give up on living if it meant that asshole would get my tickets. No, I was going to get those tickets, I told myself as I rocked back and forth in the fetal position with newfound determination.
p. It wasn’t a love of music or a desire to give my extra ticket to a friend that got me through the rest of that night, though I wish it was. Bitterness toward everyone who hadn’t been camping for nine hours in the freezing cold kept me alive. Like the young Paul Atredies, protagonist of the “Dune” novels, I was kept alive in the face of insurmountable odds by my own determination to come out on top. For Paul, the prize was rule over the desert planet known as Dune and all the sweet euphoric spice chemical he could consume. As pleasant as that sounds, I’m glad I got those tickets.
p. __James Damon, a sophomore at the College, is a Staff Columnist. His views do not necessarily represent those of The Flat Hat.__