Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ice Ice Baby

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I woke up yesterday morning to the sounds of ice picks and hammers. Probably the neighbor gone overboard—tired of ice skating out to her car for the past two weeks—trying to break up the three-inch glacier covering everybody’s lawn out here on good Olde Cape Cod.

Then it occurred to me that the noises were just too loud to be the lady next door, so I put on some clothes and went outside to see what was going on. Rounding the corner of the house, I discovered a team of Swiss ice climbers scaling our chimney, which has sported a variety of challenging world class icefalls since last week’s storm. Querying them in my broken German, I learned that our chimney is rated WI4 on the World Icefall Difficulty Scale.

There is no recession going on in Cape Cod emergency rooms. The Guinness Book of World’s Records was at the hospital in Hyannis certifying the record for most broken bones set in a 24-hour period. The ER doctors almost broke the cracked skull record, coming in second to the Saugus Marble Company disaster. We all remember when their delivery truck, loaded with six million marbles, crashed into a home heating oil tanker in the path of the Boston Marathon back in the 70’s.

On day one of this modern ice age, Mary and I were leaving for work and I stepped out the front door onto the stoop, only then realizing that it was covered with a clear glaze of ice. Briefcase in one hand and cup of coffee in the other, I was in trouble. I couldn’t retreat back into the house without my foot slipping out from under me, nor could I negotiate the rest of the steps without the risk of a life changing injury.

I considered having Mary call 911. I could just stand there until firemen came to pluck me from my predicament, hopefully with such skill that I wouldn’t spill a drop of my coffee. Running this scenario through my head, I imagined the fire log in the weekly local newspaper: “Man stranded on frozen steps rescued by hook and ladder company at cost to taxpayers of $1,500.”

Plan B came to mind fairly swiftly. If I could just squat down, it would take at least four feet out of my fall, reducing the chance for a severe injury. So I called back to Mary: “I’m goin’ down!” With that, I slowly (and I mean really slowly, which Mary found to be intensely entertaining and comical) started squatting down. About half way into Plan B, I became aware of the physics involved. It has something to do with the ratio of the size of your derrière to the mass of your frontal lobe and, apparently, my ratio is too large.

My feet went out from under me in an instant and I landed hard on my ratio. Fortunately, I hadn’t injured anything, although I did lose control of my coffee; all the more entertaining for Mary, who by now was experiencing uncontrollable laughter—the kind that’s interrupted every few seconds with a snort.

From this point, all I had to do was scoot down the steps until I could reach a patch of snow and regain my footing. The rest of the trip to the car was quite treacherous and has remained so for over a week.

I wanted to share this tale with all of our friends who are enjoying the season down in their Floridian lairs. I imagine you’re all feeling very happy and smug about your decision to leave the character-building New England winters behind. If I was the envious type, I would cast a cold spell on you that would have you considering pulling a sweater out of the closet or closing a window or two, but I’m not. See you in the spring.


  1. R: If it is any comfort or satisfaction to you it was only 60 here in SW FL this morning by the time we dragged ourselves out of bed. This winter is one of the more colder on record. I recently discussed this with one of my "Al Gore Global Warming Worshipping Friends" and she assured me that years of unusual cold just confirms the impending global calamity of heat. Really, that is what she said.

    So get yourself some crampons and don't fall on your stoop. You can get them online at

  2. Thanks for the tip. I ordered these great crampons and will never worry about the ice again:

  3. Sweet! Top of the line. It only costs a little more to go first class!


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