The streets and sidewalks did not look as slick as they were. They were white, streaked in places with grey. I knew enough that the grey places were probably sleet that had melted to form a sheet of ice, but I thought the white spots were a bit rough and wouldn’t be as slick.
I walked about three blocks—one block west of my house, then turned and walked two blocks down the street behind us—before I gave up. The white spots were just as slick and treacherous as the grey spots. The entire landscape was ice. Even the yards had a hard coating over the grass. Simply walking on the yards didn’t break the ice—I had to stomp down hard to break through so I could get some traction.
I was careful along the entire route, but having nearly slipped on the ice at least a dozen times, I decided to give up and go home. I had been hoping to cross Campbell, the major street south of us, and go to CVS to buy some eggs and, perhaps, a few other goodies we hadn’t bought in the pre-storm shopping frenzy. But before I got to Campbell, I decided it would have been crazy to keep going; I had walked well over two-thirds of the way to CVS, but I unwilling to try to make it the rest of the way. So I turned and retraced my steps toward home.
As I slowly plodded down the sidewalk, I met another walker heading in the opposite direction. We exchanged pleasantries; his last comment as we passed one another was “just trying to stay alive on these slick streets!”
Half a block further, just before I reached the east-west street that leads to my house a block further, I hit a really vicious slick spot; unlike the other spots where I’d almost slipped and fallen, this one didn’t give me a chance to try to catch myself and regain my balance. Before I even knew I was slipping, I was on my back and then, a fraction of a second later, the back of my head slammed into the pavement.
The newsboy cap I was wearing flew off my head before I hit the ground, or maybe as my head made contact with the icy street. The instant my head hit the pavement, I heard a “crack” as if a thick piece of wood broke as it slammed into the back of my head. I let out a very loud “god damn!” as the pain and embarrassment hit me simultaneously. My head hurt, but my immediate thought was not of the pain, but of the consequences of the fall. Before I even started to get up, I thought to myself, “this might be very, very bad.” I’d never hit my head so hard; I’d never heard a sound like that. I reached back to see if there was any blood and was glad there didn’t seem to be any. I felt for my cap, grabbed it, and put it on.
When I tried to turn onto my side so I could push myself up, my effort to turn over just sent me into a half-spin. I was close enough to the curb that I was able to reach out to stop the spin, then managed to drag myself up on one knee, then stand up. The street seemed even slicker than before as I began to make my way around the corner; I was afraid I’d fall again, so I gingerly stepped onto the sidewalk but it, too, was incredibly slick. I managed to get to the yard of the neighbor’s house behind mine, where I slammed my foot down hard enough to get a foothold by breaking through the ice to the grass below. I walked across the neighbor’s side-yard to the alley behind my house, then crossed the alley slowly to my own yard, where I broke through the half-inch thick glaze with each hard step until I got to the sidewalk in front of my house. In spite of slipping and sliding, I didn’t go down again; I got to the door, then inside.
By the time I got inside, my head was hurting worse than it had been when I fell. It wasn’t the sort of external pain I’d expect from crashing into the street; it was an internal headache like nothing I’ve ever had before. My wife heard me call out to her and helped me get to the couch, where I sat for the next half hour. She got an ice-pack for the back of my head and two Tylenol, then went on her way; judging from what she said when she came back, I assume she had gone online to figure out what to do. “No alcohol…stay awake…what’s my name?” Something like that. She told me she wanted to make sure I wasn’t confused.
I sat there for awhile, then posted on Facebook about my godawful headache and the fall that caused it. A number of friends commented, saying I should go to the E.R. to get it checked out; I didn’t see most of the comments until awhile later, though, because I had stopped looking at Facebook and was just sitting, dazed. When I finally got back to read them, I assured everyone my headache was much better and that I’d see someone if things changed.
This morning, I’m doing fine. My headache has returned, but it’s not nearly as bad. It may be a sinus headache, anyway, unrelated to the fall. I don’t even have a knot where my head hit the pavement. There’s a tender spot and maybe a tiny raised area, but nothing worrying. If I’d had health insurance (and if I’d been carrying my cell phone), I might have called 911 right after the fall, because I was more than a little concerned that I might have cracked my skull, internally. But after I got home, I decided I didn’t want to incur a huge expense for something that might have been just a nasty bump. My though about 911 was fleeting; I thought it would be best to panic only AFTER I had symptoms that something was, indeed, wrong.
I did learn a lesson from that unfortunate fall yesterday, and that is not to venture out onto icy streets and sidewalks without appropriate footwear. By that, I mean shoes with cleats or grips of some kind designed to get traction on ice. Though my running shoes have deep tread, they are woefully inadequate to take on ice as slippery as I encountered yesterday. I had walked the same street over ice the day before; it was far worse yesterday. I recognized that from the moment I left my house; if I had been smart, I would have let that serve as guidance to just stay inside. But I didn’t. So here we sit, for a third day imprisoned by ice, wishing and waiting for a thaw.
I’m still concerned about my trees and don’t want them to fall onto my house, but I’m more concerned about myself. This ice storm is a bad beast. I hope I’m the only idiot who learned the hard way not to venture out, but I suspect I’m not. And there are plenty of other idiots who won’t learn, this time, because they will be fortunate not to hit that “wrong” slick spot. Not this time.