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The Adventures of The Red Wool Coat

#Lesson: Learn to Laugh at Yourself

I had just landed my job at a large investment company in January of 1985. The company had very specific dress code requirements, and they were very conservative. A time when businessmen wore three-piece suits and women were not permitted to wear slacks to the office. Upon getting my new sales position, I had to immediately invest some money into a business clothing wardrobe, along with some high heels (at least two inches high). It was a time when the mullet and shag haircuts were the fashion, and you could not have your hair teased higher than two inches on your head, otherwise you would be sent home for such an infraction. I was also in utter disbelief that the maintenance staff was also required to wear business suits to change light bulbs and such.

My new job also brought along with it, a small apartment that I rented in the artsy section of the community. It was close to the busway, which was about a mile and half away from my apartment, and the third stop on the bus dropped me off directly across from my office building. It was cheap and convenient transportation to and from work. I lived behind a large mansion in a carriage house apartment that sat above the owner’s garage. I owned a car that I primarily used for grocery shopping, going out with friends and driving out to the country to visit family. On most days, I would typically walk to the busway carrying my workout bag which contained my workout clothes and my high heels. It was fashionable at the time to wear white socks and tennis shoes with your business attire to get around the city, so as not to ruin your high heels.

Part of my investment in my new wardrobe was the purchase of the most beautiful red wool coat. Up to that point in my life, it was the nicest coat that I ever owned. I found it at The Burlington Coat Factory at a fraction of the cost that I should have paid. The coat fell on my body to about mid-calf, so it covered me well. The coat was very heavy weight, the inside of the coat had a wool lining, and it was the warmest coat that one could own. I got many compliments on that coat and my best friend would even borrow it from time to time, as she loved it too.

I was never so happy to own the red wool coat as I was in mid-March of 1993, when the snow blizzard of the century came rolling through the northeast. I spent days alone snuggled up in my apartment as a result of the snow and ice that shut down the entire city. The only time I left my cozy surroundings was to shovel the long driveway leading back to my apartment. The owners spent their winters in Florida, and they had stopped the plowing service, as we typically didn’t get such storms in March. Of course, I wore the red wool coat to do my shoveling duties.

The great blizzard was quite a memorable snowstorm, leaving large banks of dirty snow from ash covered roads and lots of melting slushy ice puddles everywhere. A spring thaw immediately followed the storm that brought heavy rain and sleet. The freezing temperatures left sheets of ice that covered the leftover snow. After spending several days locked up in my apartment, I was relieved to be able to return to work. Little did I know that what seemed like a normal workday, was going to be an adventure for me and my red wool coat.

I started my return to work, with my normal treks to the busway to catch the bus. I thought about driving to the busway, but I knew parking would be difficult due to the sidewalks not being thoroughly cleaned. Snow-covered cars still unable to move, lined the streets and finding a parking spot would be difficult. So, I did my usual walk, allowing myself more time to get to the busway.

Safely arriving at my office building, I stopped to pick up a newspaper from a coin operated newspaper vending machine, which was located on the corner, directly in front of my office building. I put in the required coins and shut the door. As I tried to proceed to my office, I could not move forward, and wondering why I turned around, only to see the edge of the red wool coat locked in the machine. I could not believe my circumstances; I quickly surveyed my surroundings to see who may have witnessed me in such a silly predicament. I frantically started rustling through my purse in search of more coins, praying that I had enough money and the right change to release myself. I kept hoping that one of my officemates or possibly even my boss would not see me in such a situation. Worse yet, I may have to beg passersby for money or abandon the coat to find someone who had appropriate change to release me.

Thankfully, the universe granted me with enough coins in my purse to procure my coat from the vending machine. I then scurried away from the scene as quickly as possible, as though it never happened. I could have been standing there attached to the machine waiting to be rescued for quite some time, had I not had the correct change.

That incident was not the only adventure that me and my red wool coat would have that day. After work, I went to the gym that was located in my office building. Obviously, the three mile walk that I did everyday back and forth to the busway did not fulfill my need for exercise. I did my workout, showered and put my business attire back on, along with my red wool coat and tennis shoes. I caught my bus home, got off at my stop and started my long walk to my apartment. It was dark, cold and damp outside and I was carefully watching where I was walking. Visibility was low, even though there were lampposts along the way, however the sidewalks were not still completely free of snow and ice. There was a misty cloud of coolness in that air, and you could see, feel and hear the drizzle of a sleet like rain in the darkness.

A quarter of the way into my walk, I felt myself step on what I thought was frozen snow. But I was taken by surprise, as I immediately felt my foot break through an ice layer into a cold puddle of water. In just a split second, I found myself lying flat on my back in a deep puddle of cold slushy water. The gym bag I was carrying was now on my stomach. I could immediately feel the icy coldness of the water on the back of my neck, legs and all over the back of my hair and head. My immediate reaction was to get up as quickly as possible, before any passerby’s saw me in such an embarrassing predicament. However, as much as I tried, I could not pull myself up, I was sliding around on the ice underneath me, and the weight of my wet coat and gym bag was holding me down. After what seemed like minutes of slipping and sliding around on my back in the slushy water, I felt a sense of panic set in and was now wishing for some help. In frustration, I threw my gym bag off of my stomach and tossed it to the side. I finally was able to roll myself over onto my stomach. I had second thoughts about that maneuver, as I felt like a pig that was enjoying a roll in the mud, however the cold slush was far from enjoyable.

I struggled and I finally able to get myself up on all fours. Using my wet gloved hands to push myself up onto my feet, I was able to set myself free from the several inches of ice water. I stood there freezing and soaking wet, thankfully all alone, continually glancing around to see who may have witnessed such a sight. I was relieved that I had not become a frozen fixture to that sidewalk, adhered for someone to find me the next day. With a newspaper headline of “Woman wearing a red wool coat found dead, frozen into sidewalk”. I certainly did not want my story to end that way.

I still had quite a distance to walk home, as I had yet to walk down the shop lined main street of the area in which I lived. I had to make that walk, looking as though I had gone swimming in a red wool coat. I wanted so badly to stop in a shop and ask for some type of help. My pride held me back, I knew my makeup remnants and hair now looked as though I had just tried out for a part in an Alice Cooper band.

I thought that I was possibly going to freeze to death, I started to cry a bit and the red wool coat felt like it now weighed more than two hundred pounds.

I was somehow able to get myself home that evening, I did not hesitate to jump in a hot shower to warm myself up. After my shower, I placed my dripping wet red wool coat in the shower to dry. I tried to press and squeeze as much water out of the coat as I could. I then sat down with a hot cup of tea and a warm blanket, and I started to laugh at myself. Yes, I cracked up laughing and I sat and pondered, as I asked myself if other people found themselves in such situations.

It was not until many years later, after I married my husband, I shared this story with him. Ironically, he had a similar situation at the same time during that same blizzard. He shared with me, that his home sat at the top of a large hill, and he was not able to get his vehicle up the driveway and into the garage due to the ice and snow. As a result, he abandoned the car at the bottom of his driveway and started to walk up the hill. However, it was so slippery he could not be stable on both feet. He made several attempts, but he kept sliding back down the hill in his business shoes. He finally resorted to getting down on all fours. Wearing his business suit and winter overcoat he crawled up the hill to his home. Grasping at whatever he could hold onto to get himself to the top and into his house. He told me that it took him over a half hour to make his way the short distance to his doorway. His clothes and overcoat were an utter mess, covered in wet snow and some dirt. His concern at the time, was also about what the neighbors would think, if they saw him out in his yard crawling up the hill in his business clothes.

Even though it was many years later, I was reassured to know that I was not the only one that had these types of things happen to, them, and we both had a good laugh sharing our stories with each other. The universe confirmed for me that I had certainly chosen the right marriage partner.

As for the red wool coat, it did not dry out that evening. The next morning. I rolled the coat in a ball and placed it in a big black garbage bag. No, I did not throw it away, but I took it to the dry cleaners. I believe that I even told them what happened, as I did not want them to think that I lacked common sense, that I knew enough not to place a wool coat in a washing machine.

I had to wear a light raincoat which wasn’t nearly warm enough for the conditions. I was very happy to retrieve my red wool coat several days later, and it was as good as new. I wore the coat for many more years, until I got married. My husband was not as fond of the red wool coat as what I was, and one Christmas he replaced it with a gorgeous gray wool coat. My husband and I now live in Florida, and thankfully I don’t have much occasion to wear a wool coat of any color. I gave my red wool coat to my girlfriend; she still wears that coat on extremely cold days. I sometimes wonder, what other adventures that the red wool coat may have had.

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