Pushing Through

finding strength on a cold Wisconsin morning

Mike Paulus

There was the cold and there was the being late. I blame them both. Certainly, I can not blame myself for what happened.

Before Wisconsin’s recent thaw and these 30-degree days chomping away at the ice on the roads, leaving ad hoc potholes – before all that – we had a week or so of subzero weather.

On those days, you didn’t need to scrape your windshield in the morning. It was covered with a salty film, but no ice, nothing to stab with our plastic doohickies. Coming inside the house from the hard, cold air, your boots weren’t even wet.

On the day it happened, I knew it was that kind of cold. And as always, we were running a few minutes late. Everyone was awake and everyone was getting ready, shoving lunches into backpacks, brushing hair, stirring chocolate-flavored creamer into a coffee mug, throwing spoons into the sink.

As always, I had wanted to be out the door by now. But sometimes Brother Reality has different plans. Horrible, irritating plans.

As always, I had wanted to be out the door by now. But sometimes Brother Reality has different plans. Horrible, irritating plans.

On that morning, I just wanted to warm up the van. So as always, I threw on a jacket, grabbed the door handle, twisted it, and yanked. This door has always stuck, in any season, since the day we bought our house. My muscles just know – give it a good, sharp tug.

However. On this day, the door stuck tight. It was obstinate. I twisted and I yanked. Over and over. All I wanted was to run outside, start the van – resting right on the other side of the wall – and run back in. I checked the clock. We needed to get moving.

And here was my big dumb door. Daring to oppose me.   

“It’s frozen,” I thought. It’s happened before. The metal door freezes to the foamy door seal, and you gotta pull it with it a double shot of POWER.

I gave it said power. The door budged a little, then sprang back into place. Fearing my MAN ARMS could rip the knob clean off the door, I figured I had better get outside and push the door in with my shoulder, preserving the handle for future generations.

So tossed on my shoes and ran out the (suspiciously unfrozen) patio door, through the snow, around the house, and to the door. Again I twisted, but this time, I rammed the door withy my shoulder.

Again the door plunged inward but sprang back. That foamy door seal, I thought, it’s stretching. I may need to rip it. So I shouldered the door, kicked the bottom, and pounded the top, trying to break the seal. It was about to give.

I took a breath, leaned back, and manfully slammed into it with all my mighty might.

It gave.

But all was not well. The door frame popped and splintered, and the door only opened a few inches. I looked down and realized the rod thingie was still there, extending from its hole in the door near the handle into its hole in the doorjamb. How could this be? I wrenched the knob back and forth, but the rod thingie stayed in place.

See, for all my twisting of the handle, it wasn’t actually doing a ding dang thing.

I pulled the door shut and ran back around the house. My wife – apparently having witnessed my FEATS OF STRENGTH from inside the house – handed me a butter knife to jimmy the thingie. And jimmy I did. The rod slipped back into the door. As I swung the door open, the rod popped right back out and fell onto the floor.

The door hadn’t been frozen at all. The rod thingie (that devious devil) had simply remained in place, probably broken from the day before.

We finished up and got out the door.

After a trip to the hardware store that night and a few YouTube videos, I’d repaired the doorjamb and installed a brand new handle. As it turns out, door handle replacement isn’t very difficult I’m pretty handy.

So what have I learned? I’m strong enough to break into my own home. This will come in handy if we ever get locked out of the house with a pie in the oven.

Also – if you’re running late on a very cold day, be careful. Forces beyond your control  may trick you into smashing through your door like a wild-eyed caveman.

And certainly, you cannot blame yourself for what happens.