January 1985: my first winter in Chicagoland, after having been raised in Alabama and spent my grad school years in Virginia. I do not yet have a winter coat, only a medium-weight jacket and a pair of inadequate gloves. I wake up in the morning and need to get to school to teach my 8am class. The temperature is minus-27 and the wind chill is minus-SEVENTY. I discover that my old beater of a car will not start. I shiver and shiver. An incredibly gracious neighbor offers to give me a jump, but when I reach under the hood to open the latch, it breaks off in my hand. So I have to sit down on the concrete and try to remove the grill with a screwdriver, in my medium-weight jacket and inadequate gloves, with the wind blowing around 25mph, so I can open the hood and get a jump and then put the grill back on and close the hood and go to work where it is extremely unlikely that the car will start when it’s time to go home which means that I’ll have to find a colleague who can give me a jump and do the whole thing with the screwdriver again. I curse and curse, and shiver some more. And though I do make it to school that day, and back home again, all day I tell myself that (a) I need a proper coat DAMMIT and (b) at the end of the school year I am headed back down South as fast as I can possibly get there. (And I did come back down South — twenty-nine years later.)

Alan Jacobs @ayjay