Suburbs get through deep freeze with ingenuity, patience

Few things other than extreme weather test humanity’s ingenuity and patience equally.

Besides the cold, Monday’s arctic blast brought challenges, triumphs and even some recollections of more frigid days of yore. Throughout the suburbs, folks bundled up and carried on.

With schools closed, parents had to find alternative ways to occupy the minds and idle hands of cooped up kids. Business owners had to decide whether to close up and miss out on customers, or stay open for sparse crowds.

Commuters prayed to MacGyver — the patron saint of accidental remedies — that the homemade de-icing method they read about on Google actually worked.

These are some of those stories.

Bringing the heat: It took more than elbow grease to get the hood latch unfrozen on Marty Madigan’s wife’s car Monday. The Elk Grove Village resident had to wield a hair dryer like a lukewarm blowtorch to get to the dead battery dwelling inside his wife’s car. But eventually the latch loosened and the vehicle was resuscitated.

“After a half-hour on a battery recharger the car started right up,” Madigan reported, adding “I’m not looking forward to tomorrow.”

Thinking spring: When it’s too cold outside for two young boys, it’s time to bring the outside in.

For Carol Stream grandmother Suzanne Hlotke, entertaining a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old was made easier Monday thanks to a makeshift putting green the boys got for Christmas. Despite her best intentions to practice a fair-weather sport, occasionally the boys were still in the mood for winter games.

“They’ll sometimes turn it into a hockey game between the two of them,” she said. “What are you going to do? Their routines are completely out the window.”

Getting better at this: The first time Glessna Coisson experienced this kind of cold, it was 30 years ago and she locked herself out of her newly built Naperville house wearing only a nightgown.

“I forgot the garage door locked behind me,” she remembered. “The paper said the wind chill was negative 83. I found my husband’s golf shoes and luckily the builder was working on a house nearby and my yelling got his attention. I told him I thought the sliding door might be open and it was, but I warned him about my dog.”

Luckily, the builder had beef jerky in his pocket and used that to coax the dog out so he could get in without being attacked, Coisson said.

“My feet were burning, they had become so cold,” Coisson recalled. “For the next 23 years, I don’t think we ever locked that sliding door.”

Now in Oswego, Coisson said she spent this cold snap in the “playroom” of her daughter’s house in Yorkville playing pool and watching TV.

“We were way more prepared this time,” she said. “We had plenty of wine.”

Bananas in the arctic: According to Buffalo Grove resident Linda Frank, there are advantages to waiting for bone-chilling cold to head to the grocery store.

“There was almost nobody there,” she said. “I was able to park really close and I got personal service. They seemed really happy I was there.”

That said, Frank wasn’t able to get everything on her shopping list at Long Grove’s Sunset Foods Monday.

“They said they were waiting on trucks from Indiana,” she relayed. “They were out of paper towels and toilet paper. And there were no bananas.”

Looking for warm: When the power went out for more than 20,000 ComEd customers on Aurora’s east side Monday, it didn’t take long for homes to start losing heat.

Michael Ochs said the temperature inside his house dropped 10 degrees in an hour, but he and his wife kept their 4-year-old daughter Emma busy on an impromptu scavenger hunt.

“She’s loving it,” Ochs said in the midst of the outage. “She got it in her head that we were looking for warm. She’s looking under the bed, under couch cushions and all over the house. She keeps reporting that she hasn’t found it.”

The Ochs were without power for about two hours before it was restored.

Carb-load your neighbors: If the cold can suck the power out of an idle cellphone, imagine what subzero temperatures do to humans who are busy shoveling sidewalks.

Des Plaines resident Gemma Cesare and her husband repaid their next-door neighbors with a big pot of pasta after the Good Samaritans spent the past two days shoveling their sidewalk and driveway free of snow.

“They said, ‘No, Gemma, don’t worry about the snow. Stay there and we’ll take care of everything,’” said Cesare, who is in her 70s. “It’s an absolutely wonderful, wonderful neighborhood to be in. We’re like one whole family.”

How cold is it?: It’s so cold, the ubiquitous Portillo’s servers who staff the busy drive-through lanes during the lunch rush were kept inside for the second day in a row Monday at the eatery’s Rolling Meadows franchise.

It turns out there’s not a big market for a wet Italian beef sandwich when the thermometer dips into negative digits.

“There’s no business at all,” Assistant General Manager Grace Depakakibo said.

Never too cold for coffee: Most of downtown Arlington Heights had closed up shop Monday, but the Starbucks remained open for the java lovers who needed their fix.

Resident Michael Paull wasn’t surprised the rest of his hometown’s downtown was shuttered but looked on the bright side as he stepped into the frozen air gripping his cup of coffee.

“Don’t you feel more alive?” he said.

ŸDaily Herald staff writers Christopher Placek, Katlyn Smith and Marni Pyke contributed to this report.

Damien Hlotke, 7, of Carol Stream, rides out Monday’s arctic blast by practicing his short game in his grandmother’s living room. Courtesy of Suzanne Hlotke
  Roberto Tiro needs a jump start to get his car going at the Aspen Ridge Apartments in West Chicago. Mark Black/
  How cold was it? A sign in downtown Naperville put the temperature at at minus 14 degrees just before 10 a.m. Mark Black/
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