It had all the makings of a calm, peaceful day. The bitter cold night had passed and the Cambridge, Ohio weather forecast was calling for more cold air but with sunshine. At this point in our, seemingly never-ending Ohio winter, sunshine is more than welcomed. Just as I was about to get settled in for the day – my phone rang. Lisa was calling and I should never have answered my phone.
Everyone here in southeastern Ohio is trying to cash in on the oil and gas boom that has pipeliners and oil workers willing to spend their high earnings to make themselves as comfortable as possible. Restaurants, hotels and other shopping venues are being built all over the area and one of those restaurants, “Buffalo Wild Wings” (or BW3), opened today (2/23/15). That is what Lisa was calling to tell me. But more than that, she was calling to inform me that the first one-hundred customers in the door at eleven o’clock (when the doors opened) would receive free hot wings for one year. Well – there went my comfortable, warm morning. I really have no life to speak of here – especially during these bleak winter months when golf is out, walking is dangerous, and the snow too deep to drive around in. So, being without any excuse, I headed to BW3s (finally figured out what the three “w’s” mean – Wild, Wings and Wow it’s cold).
I arrived at around 8:30AM and noticed that approximately ten other vehicles were also waiting in the parking lot. For about fifteen minutes everyone just sat in their warm vehicles. I estimated the number of people and decided my chances were good to just sit in my nice, warm truck until someone made the first move to the door. It was about then that I realized I had forgotten to wear my warm boots and grew a little concerned about my feet getting cold. But, maybe I would not have to stand outside too long. At about 8:45 a group of people started from their vehicles and formed a small line at the front door. Then another car unloaded and, almost immediately everyone was making their way to get in line. I did as well. By my count I was number thirteen and settled in to my position, feeling some relief that I was in place to get my free hot wings for a year. Now all I had to do was wait.
The first ten minutes in the seven degree weather was really not bad. I stood proudly in my number “13” position and started up some conversations with some young guys near me. They were oil and gas workers and I immediately knew we had little in common. Their conversations consisted of copulation, female dogs and (apparently) a contest to see which of them could string together the most four letter words without taking a breath or changing up adjective usage. I slunk deeper into my jacket and hoodie and tried to block out their conversation and the reality that it was really getting colder.
I heard someone mention that we had two more hours. It was then that I first began to question my ability to hold on until the doors opened. My feet were just starting to feel the cold and by 9:15 I was cursing myself for not wearing more socks. At one point I removed one of my gloves and stuffed it inside my hoodie to block the cold wind from slicing into my face. My glasses started fogging up and I could no longer see anyone or anything in front of me. I figured it really did not matter since I still had a good hour and a half to wait.
At 9:45 I began battling with the desire to go back to my truck and tell Lisa I did not get there in time. It was then that I noticed a woman on a cane near the front door. She was not wearing a hat or gloves and, yet, was laughing it up with some young people and saying she had been there since six o’clock. Never mind going back to my truck. Geez! If this little great-grandmother can endure this – surely I can. But, then again, she also had lived through the depression, WWII and at least eighty-five Ohio winters. This was nothing.
By ten o’clock I thought I was, perhaps, home free. The sun began to rise and I inched my two frozen blocks at the end of my legs into whatever sun I could find. I have well chronicled the problems I have with my quadruple wide, flat, ugly feet and about all I could do with these things now was scoot them across the sidewalk to find a new position. I was certain that they were turning blue and I (sort of) hoped that my right, big toe might just fall off and I would be able to avoid surgery. By 10:15 they were so frozen I could have cut into them myself and never felt a thing.
I don’t exactly remember at what point the wind started blowing but it must have been during that last, painful thirty minutes. That seven degrees had climbed to ten but the wind made it seem like it was thirty below. I could barely see through my fogged up glasses that a ribbon cutting ceremony was about to take place. The mayor of Cambridge and other local dignitaries positioned themselves for the cameras and actually seemed to be smiling. What the $%^# was wrong with these idiots? I wanted to scream, “Get back inside before you freeze to death along with all the rest of us!” The four letter thoughts I had at this point would have made any oil worker blush but my teeth were chattering so hard they never would have understood me anyway.
After all the pomp and circumstance of opening a restaurant in Cambridge was over, “BW3” workers began handing out those little trays they put wings in and wrote a number on each. Mine was number ‘eighteen’. At about 10:55 I could no longer wiggle my toes or bend my knees and as the line finally started moving into the place – had to “Frankenstein” my way inside. Originally, I had no intention of eating but by the time I got in – was too cold to resist at least sitting down for a while – that is if my knees would bend. I vaguely remember being seated and could barely get my frozen jaws to move enough to order a drink. They did not have hot chocolate. So this is hypothermia!
It took me a few minutes to get my brain to work and I finally looked at the coupon book that was handed to me and all the other one hundred lucky, frozen, cattle being rustled inside. Apparently there were a couple of stipulations to this “Wings for a Year” campaign. First, it meant a snack sized order of wings and that was only free once per week. But the real kicker was this: it had to be in Cambridge, Ohio.
Let me add all this up for you. Lisa and I may be here for another year starting in June. That is a real possibility. If that happens – it will be worth it. But we also may only be here for another ten weeks. A snack sized order of wings is five wings. In ten weeks that will be fifty wings. Let me get this straight – I stood in line two hours and fifteen minutes in seven degree weather with frozen feet, snot running down my face, knees frozen into unbending poles and for what? Fifty chicken wings. And I don’t even like chicken wings.
Upon finally getting home I brought my five chicken wings inside and just stared at them for a few minutes. I thought about rubbing some of the hot sauce on my still frozen toes just to see if it would help. The problem was I only had five and that would not be nearly enough sauce to cover these paddles God has blessed me with. So I did the next best thing. I ate them.
And now I have heart burn.
Ten more weeks and 45 more wings to go – and we will be home. Love, Steve and Lisa.