It's the time of year when people ask, "How do you spell coccyx?" Because they just broke it, slipping on the ice. Of course, with telemedicine being popular now, people also might wonder how to pronounce it. So let's say it together: "tael-bone."

It's treacherously icy out there. A walk down the steps makes the descent from Everest look like a waterslide. A month ago, you turned a sidewalk corner without thinking; now you feel like an 18-wheeler taking a hairpin turn without brakes.

The problem was that slush storm that hit last weekend instead of the predicted half-foot of snow. People are less inclined to shovel slush, perhaps because it sounds like a description of a long, boring sermon. ("How was church?" "Ah, the preacher just stood up there and shoveled some slush.") Even if you scooped up the slush on the sidewalk, it was followed by freezing rain, and you can't shovel rain. End result? Coccyx-cracking slippery sidewalks.

Sure, you could dump those caustic melting chemicals on the ice, but it's bad for pet paws and has the moral taint of pouring motor oil down the storm drain. This calls for greater innovations. Here are some suggestions.

• Pants with air bags. Think of the peace of mind: You're wearing a small explosive device tucked in the part of the anatomy doctors call "The Plumber's Crevasse." You slip, the bag deploys, and you bounce back to your feet.

Possible downside: You forget to remove it after walking the dog, sit down to watch TV and get lofted over the ottoman.

• Flamethrowers. I googled whether they were legal in Minnesota, and the suggested questions were a bit alarming: "Can you open carry a flamethrower?" (Yes, except in Maryland and California.) The next question: "Can you carry a Taser in Minnesota?" I don't think that works very well on ice. Then there was a plaintive query: "Why don't we use flamethrowers anymore?" Because we are a weak echo of our sturdy forefathers, I'm sure. This was followed by "Is it legal to own napalm?" "Can you own a bazooka?" And, "Is it illegal to carry an ax in your car?"

So just by googling I got on a list. It's been nice knowing you.

• Handwarmer sidewalk carpets. Every winter I think they should make pants out of hand-warmer material. If you combine them with plumber-crevasse explosive air bags, a fellow would be set for any situation. Walkin' the dog, leash in one hand, flamethrower in the other: Count me in.

But what if they made really big hand warmers you could put on the sidewalk? This would solve everything, and it would be so satisfying to pull the thing up after it's done its job, like giving the pavement a Brazilian wax.

None of this will happen, because no one listens to me. So we will deal with icy sidewalks as we always have: by walking on the snow on the boulevard. Think about it. We shoveled the snow off the sidewalk onto the boulevard, so people could walk on the sidewalk, but the only terrain that gives us traction is the boulevard heaped with the shoveled snow.

You know I'm right. And you know the next step: Cities will require you to shovel the boulevards, too.