One Man's Alaska

Empty cereal boxes

June 12, 2010

While cleaning out my car the last two days, I found two empty cereal boxes, neatly folded, and squeezed between the passenger seat and center console, with some scraps of paper tucked in with them. Anyone else cleaning my car would find those items, look at them curiously, and throw them in the garbage without giving them any further thought.

For me, these items instantly made me recall my drive through Canada this past winter. When I was stranded in British Columbia, waiting for new winter tires to arrive so I could get back on the road, I met a 75-year-old man who happens to have lung cancer.

We spent some time together during my stay there, and he told me horror stories about people getting stranded somewhere off the side of a road, and dying from exposure to the cold (hypothermia). He said that even though these people had almost everything else they needed with them to stay warm, they didn't have matches or a lighter.

He mentioned that one person in particular was found sitting with his back to one of the tires on his car. The man said that even that tire would burn, and better yet, would give off a black smoke where someone might see you.

I was smart enough to bring several lighters with me, and heaven knows I had hundreds of pounds of books with me I could burn if I had to. But I started saving these other scraps, the cereal boxes and paper, "just in case".

That's a wonderful thing about memory. As soon as I saw these cereal boxes, and as soon as I pulled them out from between the seat and the console, all of these memories came flooding back, and for a few moments, I was there, back in British Columbia in the dead of winter.

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