The first time I ... saw snow.
The first time I experienced snow, I peed in my pants.
I was in Chicago, Illinois in the United States for an assignment – visiting the famed Hamburger University (McDonald’s training facility in Oak Brook, a suburb of Chicago) with a group of Asian journalists. I’m a vegetarian, by the way ... how’s that for irony? But that’s a story for another time.
It was weeks into winter and the temperature in Chicago was hovering around 0˚C. It was freezing. This was in 2006, before we Malaysians had such easy access to affordable thermal innerwear and winter wear. I wasn’t earning much and didn’t want to spend too much buying winter clothing so I borrowed a coat, a pair of gloves, a beanie and a scarf from friends and family.
Having never experienced winter, I assumed that the coat I had borrowed would keep me sufficiently warm – it made me sweat when I tried it on in my bedroom, after all. I also didn’t get myself proper winter boots as I had a pair of suede ankle boots and I thought that it would be good enough with some really thick socks.
Well, let me just say this: Never underestimate how cold winter can get. Especially in Chicago, which is called the “windy city” for a reason.
Oh, and suede shoes? Not a great idea as they get wet easily and your feet will freeze.
On our first night in Oak Brook, we were treated to a cocktail reception at the university grounds where we were served gourmet hors d’ouvres made from the fast food chain’s classic ingredients – burger patties, buns, lettuce, potatoes, etc.
Minutes into the reception, someone commented that it had begun to snow outside. Within seconds, most of the Asian media delegation started putting on our coats to head outside, cameras in hand.
What a wonderful sight ... snow! We jumped and danced around excitedly, hands outstretched as we tried to “catch” the snowflakes. It was fun. Cold, but fun. And magical.
It continued to snow the next few days and everything outside was covered in a blanket of snow. It was a sight to behold but it got a little less fun for me. I was constantly wet and cold. My nose was always frozen; so were my hands.
We had one free day to explore downtown Chicago. It was great, except that it was so cold, I had to drink cups of hot tea (and even some beer) to keep myself warm.
Unfortunately, what goes in must come out so after some time, I had the urge to pee but there wasn’t a hotel or a restaurant close by. I kept walking around but things were getting so desperate that I felt like crying. Suddenly, I spotted a hotel in the distance. I tried to hustle but my feet were frozen and I could only manage to walk really slowly.
I was about 50m away when I felt something warm in my pants – I had peed a little. I was mortified but I really couldn’t hold it in anymore!
When I finally got to the hotel I quickly made my way to the washroom. But I was faced with another challenge. I was wearing a pair of button-fly jeans and it was impossible to undo them with my woolen gloves (why didn’t I think of getting waterproof ones?) on.
I pulled them off only to find my fingers frozen stiff; I couldn’t bend them. This was getting ridiculous, I thought. I was so desperate and contorted my body in all different positions to control my bladder. After a few minutes, my body finally gave up and my bladder gained control. I was a mess, in more ways than one.
I was more than embarrassed. I was ... miserable? Yes, most definitely.
I must have stayed in that bathroom for half an hour. The first 15 minutes were spent trying to get over how mortified I was at what had just happened. The next 15 minutes saw me trying my best to clean myself up.
Later, still slightly damp and incredibly uncomfortable, I hopped on a bus back to my hotel which was at least 30 minutes away.
So here’s the lesson from my experience: It is always better to be too prepared for something than not prepared enough. And when it comes to travelling, it is always better to pack more, than pack too little.
Lastly, it never pays to be penny wise, but pound foolish.
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