I found myself at the bottom of the stairs, as one does this time of year.
Sometimes you take the old tried-and-true approach when the steps are icy: one at a time, with great care, as if you are carrying Fabergé eggs loaded with nitroglycerin. Sometimes, however, you move a little too fast, and you have that reaction a pilot gets when the fog clears and there’s a mountain range in the window.
Most guys leap right to their feet: “Ha, ha, I’m fine! Just a mouthful of molar fragments.” But I lay there for a second, thinking: “I can’t feel my feet!” Then I realized it was because it was 26-below with windchill.
It was a good fall, as these things go. Sometimes your legs go up Rockette-style, and you hit your coccyx on the ground like a cowboy slamming a shot glass on the bar. Those are the falls that make you feel as if you have been rebooted. There should be a start-up chime, like your computer. Now loading humiliation.exe.
But this was one of those sack-of-taters-falling-off-the-truck slips. I just tumbled down the short flight onto the patio. Of course I cracked my shin, because shins are the most likely part of your body to get hit by something. And the least prepared; they’re like 20-somethings without health insurance who drive motorcycles while refusing to wear helmets.
It was surprising it took this long to fall. It’s as if the sidewalks are paved with Teflon and you grease your shoes with Crisco before you walk the dog. The other night our hound saw a rabbit, and of course wanted to chase it; if I hadn’t braced myself on a snowbank, I would have won the Iditarod.
You can put down sand. You feel noble as you toss handfuls like the Johnny Appleseed of silica. “I am he, the one who Bestows Grit, the Strewer of Traction! Your feet shall find purchase here, friend.”
It is a thankless job, but what’s the alternative? Leaving the ice alone, putting up a camera, taking pictures of people who fall, putting them up on YouTube, hoping the compilation goes viral, looking for ad revenue while you capitalize on other people’s pain? Please. That’s antisocial. Besides, I only made $3.92 from ads last year.
Of course, you also can go the chemicals route. You can buy ice melter, which comes in two varieties: the granules that make the ice look like the Nazi at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when his face burns off, or the “pet-safe” stuff that sits on the ice like ball bearings on a marble countertop.
That’s what I use, although when you consider that people pay Tony Robbins good money to walk on fire to build character, maybe dogs would profit from some hot rocks on the sidewalk. “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow! But I did it. I found new strength within, and maybe I can make changes in my life and be a dog who doesn’t eat his own poop. Metaphorically, at least.”
The ideal solution would be city workers with flamethrowers. I think we’d all be happy to pay for that. No, they wouldn’t do your steps, but that’s OK; if I fell down the steps after they came through, I’d want to lie there a while. “Ah, the freshly blasted sidewalk. It’s so toasty, I could stay here forever.”
And I probably will; I think I busted a shin.