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The dangers of walking in a winter wonderland

Tae Andrews | Sunday, February 18, 2007

Normally I’m a fairly sure-footed fellow, save for those occasional exceptions when my internal inner-ear mechanism seems to be out of whack (such as late at night Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays on my way to and from Sbarros).

So imagine my shock when I was exiting DeBartolo last week, bundled up in my jacket like a South Park character to protect against the cold, when I slipped on some ice and bit it. Hard. I felt like Kenny as he suffers one of his many ignominious deaths.

As I lay there dazed, random passers-by looked at me in derision, laughter written all over their faces. (Oh, and by the way, thanks to random South Quad guy for stepping over my prone form. What a Good Samaritan you are.)

Of course, I have been on the other side of that scenario, pointing and giggling like a schoolchild as other people wiped out on the treacherous slip ‘n’ slides that pass for walkways around this campus. However, I found the sudden role reversal somewhat less than hilarious.

It’s all fun and games until you’re splattered on the ground like Humpty Dumpty. Trust me, it’s no fun when you find yourself in that position. So as I lay there in what some would refer to as the “Awkward Turtle” position, flipped backwards onto my shell as my arms and legs waved feebly in the air, a variety of thoughts occurred to me.

The first was just to lie there and die of embarrassment and hypothermia. “I’ll wait it out until I succumb to the freezing temperature and my body shuts down,” I thought. Well played, Mother Nature, I thought, as I waited for Death to take me (complete with scythe and Norm MacDonald’s voice).

Yet apparently a part of my psyche wanted to live, for some spark within me burst into flame. “No,” I thought, “it’s not my time to die. Not yet.” As such, the next issue at hand was how to get up. This turned out to be easier said than done. However, as Jeff Goldblum and the Jurassic Park movies taught us, “Life will find a way.”

I recalled a news story I read once about how a pair of hikers trapped in a snowstorm built an igloo and weathered the frozen tempest. So I started to gather snow about me in the hopes of insulating myself against the cold. Unfortunately, all I succeeded in doing was creating a sort of sloppy snow angel out of the muddy slush around me.

Finally, I was able to roll over and pick myself up off the ground, wet and cold with a bruised knee and a battered ego.

So if you find yourself in that position, perched precariously at the tipping point between keeping your footing and finding yourself splayed out on some black ice, here are a few tips:

u Yelp for help and latch onto anyone and anything close at hand. Maybe you’ll be able to stay upright, but even if you can’t, misery loves company and it always helps to drag people down with you.

u Tuck your shoulder and try to snap roll like a ninja (you could also try to launch into some break-dancing move like the step-over). The upside to this one is that if you pull it off, you’ll probably look pretty cool, although the downside is that if you don’t pull it off, you’ll probably just face-plant and eat some ice.

u Try to increase the coefficient of friction on your shoe soles by wrapping chains around your sneaker soles. Who says snow tires are just for cars?

u Or you could try to build a protective igloo or pass off your wiping out as an impromptu snow angel-making session.

Regardless of what you decide to go with, remember to keep a smile on your face as you traverse the treacherous crosswalks on campus. Whoever thought that walking could become an extreme sport?

Contact Tae Andrews at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.