Saturday, January 16, 2016

A winter's tale

When I went off to Michigan State University back in 1968, I did so for a number of reasons. What I told people was that it was 1400 miles from Huntsville, Texas and that sounded about right to me. 

This was not totally a joke. 

In fact, I had been recruited to Michigan State because of my National Merit Scholar status. At the time, MSU was trying to improve its academic image, to show that it was not just Moo U, the original Midwestern land grant college with a legendary football team. So they took their successful football recruiting program and applied it to getting scholarly kids enrolled. They had lots of money, and I was in the running for a full scholarship.[Spoiler alert: I did not get a full scholarship, although I did get something.]

In the middle of February, I flew to East Lansing for the scholarship test. I had thought there would be a few hundred people, but it turns out there were over a thousand, half of us one weekend, the other half the next. It was a lot of fun. I got there a day early and went to a movie across from the Holiday Inn where I stayed. It is a sign of how out of it I was in those days that I passed up a chance to see The Graduate and instead plopped down my three dollars to see Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The next day I took a cab to Shaw Hall where I would be staying. A very nice guy, whose name I cannot recall at all, showed me around campus and gave me a rundown of life in the slow lane. There was a banquet with an incredible talk by Leroy G. Augenstein, a professor of biophysics. The title was “Come, Let Us Play God,” and it was about the coming ethical questions arising from rapid progress in medical, biological and genetic procedures. It was very invigorating.

The next morning, I traipsed three blocks across campus at 7:00 a.m. I had prepared for the weather by bringing my winter coat -- basically an unlined raincoat -- and a pair of lined gloves. I did not have boots, hat or scarf. When we got to the testing site, they told us it was minus 3 degrees [-19.4 C] with a wind chill of minus 23 [-30.56 C]. 

This is the first time I recall hearing about wind chill. They may have mentioned it in southeast Texas where I had spent my life thus far, but it was an abstract concept at best. As I settled into my seat for the test, I seriously reconsidered whether I wanted to spend four years in this icy hell. The fact that I and the five or six hundred other people in that room were competing to get in seemed to cast doubt on our alleged intelligence.

Although I did not get that particular scholarship, I did decide to take what MSU had to offer me. It was a life-changing decision and I am glad I made it.

And it prepared me for the years I would spent enduring Midwestern winters. Among many things I learned in East Lansing was how to dress for the weather. 

I share this with you today because we are expecting the temperatures to drop to below that long-ago February morning's cold tonight and for the next day or so. We are under a wind chill advisory until Tuesday noon, with wind chills of perhaps minus 35 [-37.2 C] or so.

At least I don't have to walk three blocks through that to take a four-hour exam!


Lavada said...

It snowed here last night- a dusting......minus 2 C....nothing like the temps you have experienced tho. YIKES.....!!!

Mitchell is Moving said...

Brrrr... If I were you, I'd stay inside today and watch "The Graduate."

(I remember having to explain the concept of windchill to a friend from Southern California.)

Ur-spo said...

MSU is still considered by some Moo-U. :-)