Yesterday was chemo day.

When I first arrived at Texas Oncology, a wonderful infusion nurse, Jean, greeted me to take my blood. Before anyone gets any infusion, technicians take your blood to make sure your body is safe and in good order to accept the infusion. So, blood and other readings always come first. Makes sense.

While she is taking my blood, Jean mentions that her son, who lives in Denver, was beginning to understand that “experience is the cruel teacher.”

“I’m not following, Jean.”

“Well, yesterday it was cold in the morning, so he went outside to his car to start it and warm it up. While it was running, he went back inside, and when he came back out to leave in the warmed car, someone had stolen his car. Experience is the cruel teacher.”

As Jean told me of her son’s incident, for some reason, an occurrence that happened to me many years ago entered the brain. Apparently, I had an example that reminded me immediately about experience being a cruel teacher.

I was raised primarily in New Mexico and Texas, hence no real winters. But when I was 23, again, several years ago, I got a scholarship to enter graduate school at Michigan State University. The green Ford Pinto station wagon was loaded and off we went to Michigan. Had no idea what to expect “up north,” but had my first inkling when on the drive up, stopped for breakfast in St. Louis. When the waitress came to the table, she quickly asked, “What can I get for youse guys?” Right then, I knew we weren’t in Texas, or the South, any more and we weren’t even halfway to Michigan. Good night, what could come next?

Beaumont Tower at Michigan State University

Beaumont Tower at Michigan State University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shortly after arriving in East Lansing and finding a very small apartment complex (two buildings with six units in each building, and one parking lot with about 20 spaces). Shortly after classes started, Fall began to show up with beautiful foliage, hikes through the local arboretum and frost on the windshields. Each morning I had early classes and other dwellers were leaving for class or work. So, at any given time, I could see people in the parking lot at their cars, warming them up and scraping the frost off the windshields. Good for them.

On the other hand, I would take a pan of cold water out to the car, start it up and then pour the cold water over the frost. It melted it immediately and I would give a smug, ain’t I smart?, kiss-my-ass smile as I drove past the other dwellers off to class while they were still scraping and grumbling. My shit-eating grin satisfied me all the way to the college parking lot just a few miles away.

I did this for a couple of weeks, no doubt endearing myself to the others I would see in the parking lot each morning.

Then it got colder, but the routine didn’t. One day, I went out to the parking lot, started up the cold car while others were already warming their cars and scraping. As the car warmed, I raised my pot with the cool water for everyone else to see and then began pouring it on the windshield. Well, instead of cutting the frost, the cool water froze immediately and created a bigger mess on the windshield than I had before I spread the water. It just didn’t melt, and because I was from Texas, I didn’t have a scraper.

As others now left the parking lot before me, two shot me the finger, and three others gave me the same smug, ain’t I smart?, kiss-my-ass smile that I had given them as they left the parking lot — all of them laughing.

So, yesterday, when Jean was telling me about experience being the cruel teacher, it immediately brought the incident of the East Lansing cold weather and windshields to mind.

By the way, on the way to school that day, I bought a scraper. The next morning when we were all in the lot, we were all scraping. As others would drive past me, I would wave and show them my scraper. This time they waved and only began to laugh when they were past me in the parking lot. That was nice of them to wait.

Experience, indeed, can be the cruel teacher. Thank you, Jean, for jarring my memory.