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This Winter Could Have Been So Much Worse

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader


It's a Thursday night, and rumor has it there's another snow storm scheduled to arrive. I had a late dinner with a friend, and she asked me what I thought about the weather. I said I was okay with it. She laughed, and I said, “what can I do about it? It's winter.” And it IS winter. It's been more of a winter than usual, but I really am okay with it. The furnace seems to be working (knock wood) and as I write this it's practically March, and it's not dark at 6 p.m. anymore. The sun is still out! So, before we know it, everyone on Facebook will be bitching about how hot it is. We're never satisfied.

So I watch with glee when the weather forecast predicts the next Snowpocalypse, or Snowmageddon, or whatever they are calling it this week. It could be so much worse. A lot worse. Like, life and death worse.

October 13, 1972. A plane, planning to fly over the Andes mountains, crashes at about 7,000 feet, give or take a few thousand. A team of Uruguayan rugby players is on board, along with assorted relatives, lots of luggage, and lightweight clothing, because it's spring, after all. You think it's been cold this winter? Imagine being stuck on a mountain with nothing to eat but a handful of chocolate, toothpaste, a little bit of wine, and the occasional dead passenger.

You might have guessed that I'm re-reading Alive, the incredible true story (sorry, but the phrase DOES fit) about a rugby team planning to fly to Chile but a funny thing happened on the way there. The plane clipped a mountain, the tail got sliced off and crash landed on a whole bunch of snow. Forty passengers were on the plane, but some of them went home in the stomachs of those who survived.

When I read people bitching about the weather on Facebook, when I read about faulty heaters and 50 degree temperatures in houses, of shoveling snow, etc., etc., I can't help but think what those young men stuck on a mountain would have given for the contents of our kitchens, so they wouldn't have to dine on human al dente.

So when people complain about our very wintery weather, I read about how these young men survived, and how two of them climbed mountains that were thousands of feet high, on practically no calories at all whatsoever, to find someone to help them. Sure, they were young, but 10 weeks on a mountain with no Pizza Huts to speak of, let alone a stray plant, would do a number on anyone. Having to slog up and down mountains with an occasional dessert of toothpaste and wine is cruel and unusual punishment. It makes for fascinating reading, however. Stealing food from fellow survivors, dealing with an avalanche, constipation, diarrhea, and camping out in a broken airliner in sub-zero temperatures in thin air make this winter seem like a piece of cake, in my opinion.

For those of you who don't read (and who's reading you this column, incidentally?) you can watch the big-screen version of the book, starring Ethan Hawke, as Nando Parrado, and Josh Hamilton as Roberto Canessa, the two expeditionaries who found a Chilean cattle rancher, and wrote him a note. “I come from a plane that fell in the mountains. I am Uruguayan ...”

Not to mention hungry, tired, filthy, practically frozen, and no doubt, stretched to the limit, both physically and mentally. Being good Catholic boys, there was some debate if eating their fellow passengers was a sin or not. After some comparison between doing that and holy communion, they realized that to survive, they'd have to do it. Call it cannibalism, call it anthropophagy (for you intellectual types), call it “oh my God, are you f---ing kidding me,” (if you're a teenager). I call it a horribly difficult decision, but essential to survival. Anytime I hear people bitch about this winter, I know it could be so much worse. We could be trapped on a mountain with no available pizza delivery, no down jackets, no decent gloves, and scant food, but abundant cigarettes. Throw in the broken fuselage of a plane, with 14 roommates, fierce wind and lots of snow, and you have an interesting version of hell. Forty-five people (including crew) got into the plane, but only sixteen got out. I've not watched any documentaries about the survivors and whether or not they ever got into a plane again, but I'm sure their psychiatrists (if they ever sought their services) heard things they never thought they'd hear, or ever want to hear again.

So complain all you want about this winter. We'll survive, even if the local Kroger's is sold out of Doritos and Mountain Dew. Unless we get really snowed in, for a couple of weeks, I'm willing to bet the average American has more than enough food to get through a really bad storm. Only when you've been stuck on a mountain for several weeks do you need to start looking for dead rugby players. Be glad you're here in Indiana, within walking distance of a grocery store, and tell yourself, “it could be so much worse.”

Because it COULD be.

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