high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Where can I sign up for that yin and yang workshop?

Winter quarter at Ohio State has begun, and accordingly it has started snowing again in Columbus.  I really don't mind the snow and the cold too much, generally speaking, but it can become treacherous on the outskirts of campus, including our neighborhood.  The danger stems from the local residents' disinterest in shoveling their sidewalks, which is interesting when you consider that the sidewalks around campus are probably some of the highest-traffic sidewalks in the city.  Before you think that the sidewalks I'm talking about are only in front of student houses, which are more understandably un-shoveled, let me repeat that the snow remains on the sidewalks even in our neighborhood.  You may be saying "So what, put on some boots and just walk through the snow."  But this thinking demonstrates a lack of understanding, and I am within my rights to chastise you for it.

Chastise, chastise, chastise.

The reason the sidewalks are treacherous is because as people walk on them, the snow gets packed down - really packed down - and becomes quite slippery.  Now, you could "dig in" as you walk, but inevitably the top of the snow melts ever so slightly and then re-freezes, creating a solid sheet of ice.  It's not like a smooth glassy surface, because the snow becomes lumpy pre-freezing from everyone walking on it, but trust me, lumpy ice is just as easy to slip on as non-lumpy ice.

Walking from home to work is about one mile, work to class about one mile, and class to home about one and three-quarters miles.  Therefore, I have well over a 5K a couple nights each week within which to badly injure myself.  While I initially gave it "the old college try," I wussed out after a few falls and decided to take my chances in the street, where I might get hit by a car, but at least I wouldn't get run over by the car after having slipped and fallen on the ground.  Truly, the only place to walk in our neighborhood and around campus after a few snowfalls is in the street, because that's the only surface not coated in ice.  A solid, lumpy, continuous casing of ice.  And when I say "walk in the street," I truly mean right down the middle of the road, because the ice sheet extends about a car-width over the sidewalk and into the street on each side of the road.

The question is this: Why don't people clean off their sidewalks?  Or, put another way: What the hell is wrong with people?  Benefits to shoveling your sidewalk include the following:

  • Good exercise
  • A sense of pride and accomplishment
  • Safety for yourself and others
  • Probably less damage to the sidewalks from freezing and thawing
  • Less need to carry a second pair of shoes to work
Downsides to not shoveling your sidewalk include the following:
  • Angering your neighbors
  • Potential for injury
  • UN sanctions

Now, I acknowledge that UN sanctions have limited ability to prompt a desired outcome, and if everyone in the neighborhood is neglecting to shovel their sidewalk, then the point about angering your neighbors becomes the less noteworthy "angering your neighbor."  So that just leaves the point about potential for injury (if we're arguing from the perspective of "these are the bad things that could happen").  Don't people care about the prevention of injury?  This seems serious, because on my personal slipping excursions I've had one of two experiences:  Either I partly catch myself, which causes my legs to splay apart, which always leads to re-spraining my bad knee, or I don't catch myself at all, other than to "catch myself" with my hip, which is usually the first point of contact with the sidewalk.

Maybe I'm the only one who has problems walking on icy sidewalks.  This is a real possibility, because I've always had trouble with balance.  I know that skiin' ain't easy, but the first (and last) time I went, I spent far more time on the ground than I did on my feet, and my hips were a brilliant shade of purple for about two weeks following the outing.  My lack of balance extends beyond icy surfaces to other places, such as buses, trains, and slanted roofs (note that most roofs are slanted).  I'm always envious of other passengers on crowded public transport who sway to-and-fro in perfect harmony with the moving bus or train, barely touching the overhead rail or the pole beside them for support, even when the stupid blonde kid comes careening into them each time the slightest bump is hit or the most gradual curve is taken.  In moments like these I think "Is this a psychological problem?"  But my efforts to think of my feet as roots fail as the metaphorical tree of my body is felled by the very next bump or curve.  I then turn to physical explanation, wondering "Am I just top-heavy?," but in my mind I quickly reply "I don't like the connotations of that thought."

My troubles with equilibrium are especially annoying on rooftops, not because I've fallen from several stories up and lived to tell the tale (I wish!), but because I don't feel comfortable enough being on rooftops to even put myself in a position to fall.  The logical suspicion is that I'm afraid of heights, and that may as well be the case, because I could never say to people on a worksite "I don't want to go up on the roof because I just have really bad balance."  Please see my earlier post about the role of excuses in tests of manliness.

I wonder - is a fear of heights the same thing as a fear of losing your balance while high up and killing yourself in a fall?  Maybe, maybe not.  I've jumped out of a plane at 14,000 feet, which would suggest that I don't have a problem with heights, but in that context I had a parachute that I was fairly certain would open.  In contrast, I'm very uncomfortable going up even a few rungs on a ladder and working on something above my head, because I always feel like I'm about to lose my feet.

The obvious solution to the problems of both falling on the ice and falling off of ladders is to tap the innovative scientific minds at our disposal and find a way to effectively install airbags inside of people.  We do knee replacements, hip replacements, and nose reconstruction already.  Is it so much to ask to install a few airbags?  Hell, isn't a boob job pretty much the same thing already?  This is a great idea, regardless of whatever pithy counter-arguments you present, I will not be swayed.  Unless we're on a bus and we happen to go around a curve.


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