Night 1, Part Two
The first night did not disappoint when it came to being cold. The temperature in the tent kept dropping and dropping as I put on more and more layers of clothing—only to feel warmer for a few minutes and then cold again. By the time I finished writing last night’s blog, I could barely feel the tips of my fingers even though I had gloves on. When I finally gave up and crawled into my sleeping bag, I was shivering so much that it took several minutes to warm up enough to stop shaking … and several more minutes to actually get warm, even though I was fully clothed with gloves and stocking cap on. For the biggest part of the night I stayed relatively warm—as long as I stayed inside my sleeping bag, and despite the fact that the zipper on it is of the devil! I could never get the thing to zip up completely.
But I lived through the night, and nothing got frostbitten.
About daylight, I woke up. Man, it was cold! There was frost all over the tent and ground. I decided it was time for coffee, so I attached a mini propane tank to my “trustworthy” burner, which I’d used many times before … but this time when I lit it, flames appeared not only where they were supposed to but also from around the seal. My tent almost caught on fire. In fact, it burned a good-size hole in the mesh window.
The whole scene looked like a Three Stooges script. Picture it: I can’t get the flames to go out, so I’m holding on to the part of the tank that’s not on fire with one hand while trying to unzip the tent zipper (which isn’t cooperating—it must be from the same company as my sleeping bag) with the other hand.
Finally I got the door open and threw the whole thing outside the tent to put the fire out. Did I mention it was very cold while this was going on? And that because the stove was messed up I had to drink the cold sludge still in my thermos from the day before? All this happened before eight in the morning. What a way to start the day.
Once the sun came out, it was a nice day. I had some good conversations with people who stopped by. Someone finally brought me some hot coffee, but without my stove I couldn’t heat anything up to eat so I resorted to cold chili straight out of the can.
Many of my homeless friends have propane burners to heat coffee and food, but many do not—so they, too, have to resort to cold coffee and cold food like I did this morning.
The difference is, they do it every day.
Today’s takeaway: I have a brand new respect for the skill it takes for someone to feed himself without burning the tent down.