Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter
ozma914

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next week's column: Winter Gives Me the Slip

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

(Unrelated note: For any of you who are paranoid that LiveJournal is about to slip under the economic waves, I have InsaneJournal and MySpace accounts, both under the same username ... but I don't think there's much of a danger at this point.)


You all know I hate winter. I hate the snow, the cold, the heating bills, the ice, the lack of color, everything. The only thing I like about winter is the Lions Club citrus sale, and they ran out of oranges and grapefruit early this year.

I’m also not a fan of concussions, so falls caused by winter are pretty much on top of my list of bad things.

I was chipping two inches of ice from the concrete pad in front of my garage. No story beginning with that sentence could possibly end well. Bundled up and toasty warm, I’d lulled myself into a false sense of contentment by listening to podcasts on an iPod. It was going fairly quickly, because the night before I’d dumped forty pounds of salt on the pad. Who needs soft water anyway, when the salt pellets could be better used to stave off winter?

Complacency is murder in a lot of jobs. In the fire service, where people go to “routine” calls and end up in the hospital. Cops, utility workers, stuntmen, over the road truckers – you do the same thing for years and years, never have an accident, and subconsciously you start thinking it’s really not all that dangerous.

I’ve been shoveling snow and ice for years. Centuries, it seems like. Hell is a place where you shovel snow for eternity, only without the winter coat or the iPod. This was just another, as the weathermen like to say, “Event”. We’ve been having a lot of Events. The next time someone uses the phrase “global warming” in front of me, I’m going to knock them into a snow drift.

Well, I ended up with all these chunks of ice. Shoveling them off the pad would have left them in the middle of the driveway, in the path of the neighbor’s vehicles. So I started scooping them all the way across the driveway, over an area I hadn’t shoveled. Or salted -- that would have taken a dump truck load.

If it had been a steep hill, I’d never have tried it, but it was just a slight grade. Hardly noticeable. At least, not until your feet are flying over your head like a character in a Peanuts cartoon.

Despite what you hear when Charlie Brown tries to kick the football, most people don’t yell out when they’re falling. They don’t have a chance – not in real time. Inside the mind it takes forever, but outside you’re pretty much a goner by the time you realize there’s a problem. For me, there was a split second between going from vertical to horizontal, and I didn’t utter a word until the “oomph” when the air left my lungs.

My life did not flash before my eyes, for which I’m very grateful. My life was mostly pretty dull, and what parts weren’t dull were often embarrassing.

Then there was a millisecond that seemed to take forever. That began when my hip, then my back, came down on the ice. I remember distinctly thinking, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.”

Then my head bounced off the concrete of the pad.

That was bad.

People do different things at this point. Some lay still, first mentally and then physically checking themselves over for injuries. Some yell, on the assumption that they must have been badly hurt. Me, I get right up, fearing that if I don’t do it then, I might not be able to do it at all.

Strange thoughts come at a time like that. The first was, “I’d better get up before somebody sees me lying here, and calls 911.” It never occurred to me that I might need 911.

My second thought was, “Emily’s birthday is in two days, I hope this doesn’t ruin it for her.” It wasn’t so much the idea of her sitting beside my hospital bed; it was the possibility that I’d be so sore I couldn’t take her out for her birthday dinner. Since it turned out to be minus 2 with a howling wind at the time I was going to take her out, we both agreed my level of soreness wasn’t a factor.

My third thought was, “I’d better get inside, so that if I lose consciousness I won’t freeze to death.” A guy’s gotta look after himself. Freezing to death, while lying in the same patch of ice that dropped me to begin with, is pretty much my idea of a worse case scenario.

Winter was out to kill me, no doubt about it.

I didn’t see birdies, but I did hear a bell, which I believe was my skull, which got rung. I stumbled inside, fighting the same sense of nausea that overcomes me whenever I hear the terms “election season” or “reality TV”. There Emily checked my pupils, made sure my skull was in one piece, showed me that she was holding three fingers up, and pronounced that I would not be ruining her birthday.

Now, here’s the thing. I knew my back would hurt the next day, and probably my hip. What I didn’t anticipate was that every muscle in my neck – not the spine, but the muscles – would be screaming in pain, along with all my abdominal muscles, both wrists, and, oddly, my ankles.

The whole thing may have happened in an instant to my conscious brain, but apparently my subconscious was fighting all the way down. I haven’t tensed up so much since the first time my ex-wife mentioned the word “vasectomy”. It didn’t keep my skull from bouncing off the ground, but, oddly, once the initial effects wore off I found no damage to my head at all.

You can say it’s because I’m hard headed, but I prefer to think I got my strong head from exercising my brain so much. That may be all the exercise I get for the rest of winter: I’m thinking any more ice can just melt off the natural way – in the spring.
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark, winter
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