My appointment to get my biometrics taken in an application support center coincided with the coldest day in Chicago since 1912. It reached -26C, with wind chills possibly reaching -40C. It was literally so cold that they brought the polar bear at the Lincoln Park Zoo indoors. But, like the foolish Singaporean that I am, armed with a thick down jacket, leather gloves, rubber boots, and a strong sense of deference to government orders, I ventured out.
(Here is where I’d insert a picture of Chicago snow for you, if not for the fact that it was simply too cold to even expose my hand to operate a phone and take a photo.)
It was sunny out, with blue skies. Quite a change from the relentless snow in the days before. A minute into trudging through the snow piled up on the sidewalk, I remained naively optimistic. This isn’t so so bad, I thought. Cold, but I’ll probably live to blog about it. I avoided stepping on yellow snow and frozen dog poo. The snow was deep, but no higher than my boots. I can do this. It was a frail hope that was soon carried away by a gentle, chilling breeze. My nose began running, and I pulled my scarf up to cover it. It was -26C, and we were allowed to look like bandits.
I checked Google Maps on the train, just to make sure I got the address right. 4853 N Broadway. I got off the train, and started walking in the general direction of a tired but officious-looking building – tall, grey, bland, imposing.
Pro tip 1: go on Google Street View and know exactly what your destination looks like before getting lost in -26C weather.
The building was further than it had looked on the map, and I jogged at stretches where I was unlikely to slip and crack my skull open. I may not have been walking for more than 10 minutes, but my feet were starting to feel cold. How? It felt like ice between my toes.
Pro tip 2: your feet sweat, and the sweat freezes. Do not wear cotton socks.
I took out my phone to check where I had gone wrong. I had to take off my gloves, of course.
Pro tip 3: get those fancy gloves with touch tips.
I had already walked past my destination without realizing it. I started walking back towards where I came from. A blast of wind blew snow off roofs and into my face, and curious lunchers at Chinese restaurants stared. Ice crystals were forming on my lashes. There was a gas station ahead. The hands were starting to hurt, and my feet were going numb. The sun was still shining. The skies were still blue. It was like death with a smile. I tried wiggling my toes. I couldn’t tell if they were wiggling. I accosted a cab driver just getting out of his car, and asked him for directions.
“See that strip mall, over there? The blue sign? It’s right at the end of it.”
I took off after a quick thanks. I may have come off rude, but at this point I needed to get somewhere, anywhere. I jogged across the street and through the strip mall’s parking lot, towards where he has pointed. My hands were burning. But there, there it is! Application Support Center. At the end of a ghetto ass strip mall! I ran. I pulled at the door. And then the other door. There was a FedEx slip on the door, to tell the office they had tried to deliver a package but no one answered. I peered in between the door cracks. Empty. I looked for the address number. 4853. This is the place. I stumbled off to the adjacent laundromat in an icy daze.
I’ve never been so happy to be in a laundromat.
I pulled out my phone – maybe the office went to lunch and will be back eventually. But it was too late. My phone was dead from hypothermia.
Pro tip 4: keep your phone like you would a baby – inside of your coat.
I waited for my angry red hands to stop hurting. Two hipsters were chatting on their phones, observing me. I walked to the owner of the establishment, a Latino lady watching a spanish soap on a tiny TV, and asked to use the phone.
Pro tip 5: memorize phone numbers.
Mr. Ang checked the government website, and confirmed the news – government offices are closed. The Latino lady called the office staff, and verified that fact. I thanked her for the use of her phone and the existence of her laundromat, hailed a cab, and headed home.
Pro tip 6: the US government is not at all like the Singapore government.
Pro tip 7: cold weather can kill. Don’t let those benign-looking snowmen and snow angels fool you.