Tuesday, April 07, 2015

COLUMN: Ankle Redux

I've heard it all my life: "You need to grow up!" "When are you going to learn some responsibility?" "Act your age!" "You're so immature sometimes!" Well, it was exactly one year ago this week when I decided to do an act of pure brazen responsibility -- and it landed me in the hospital.

I remember it fairly well, because it was the night of the 2014 Golden Globes and my voice was hoarse from cheering Amy Poehler's win for Best Actress. While I suppose it could be argued that having such a vested interest in a television personality that you've never met isn't exactly a cornerstone example of maturity, let's just ignore that for now, because I'm about to prove to you just how mature and responsible yours truly can be.

The awards were long over and I was getting ready for bed. I was in the process of powering down the living room when I glanced towards the kitchen and saw it: a single bag of overflowing trash, and it was garbage pick-up day in the morning. A voice spoke up in my head. It was Irresponsible Shane, and he's loud.

"Screw it," said he. "Just dump it in the bin tomorrow and let it rot for a week."

Then that awful voice of reason -- the one that exists entirely in my mind yet coincidentally sounds a lot like my mother -- piped in. "Shane MICHAEL," it said. "Take out the trash right this minute!"

Fine. This would be the night that responsibility would win. Call ME lazy? Call ME immature? I'll show YOU. I don't care if it IS 12:41 a.m., I'm taking the trash out because THAT'S the responsible thing to do. As I steered the waste bin to the edge of the curb, I had a swagger in my step and a pride in my gait. I could have easily shirked this responsibility and no one would have even been the wiser. But not me. I'm a go-getter who's taking the high road.

But no one told me there was ice on the high road. About two feet from the edge of my alley, there was a teeny patch of black ice formed by my gutter run-off. I didn't notice it until I was already falling. My feet went flying out from under me as I dropped to my knees. My left foot landed perpendicular to the pavement as if I were a ballet dancer ready to do the weirdest Nutcracker you've ever seen. Then my butt caught up with the rest of me and landed square on my left foot. Something bent, I felt a pop, and then everything sorta went white.

I prayed it was just a sprain. Somehow I managed to hop back into the house, and -- after finding no ice in the freezer -- employed impressive MacGyver-like tactics and duct-taped a bag of frozen peas to my foot. I woke in the morning and immediately knew it was no sprain. My foot was black and blue and my ankle had grown a cankle and the cankle had grown a goiter and the bag had opened and peas were EVERYWHERE and the cats were incredibly confused and THIS IS WHAT RESPONSIBILITY GETS YOU, PEOPLE.

Hours of fun and X-rays later and it was confirmed: my late-night sidewalk breakdance had resulted in a double break to my left ankle. The orthopedic surgeon, being the orthopedic surgeon that he was, immediately wanted to start surgering things. I asked him what it entailed and he said he'd simply screw a metal plate and I'm pretty sure he said other words after that but that's when things went white again. My other option, and the one I chose, was to cast it up and it'd probably heal just fine but I might have problems down the road.

Well, it's now been one year down that road, and so far so good. There are certainly times when my foot still aches a bit -- I used to enjoy sitting on my feet sometimes, and those days are done. Occasionally when I'm driving, my ankle will just spontaneously start throbbing, but it's thankfully short-lived.

There is, however, one side effect that the doctor didn't warn me about: I'm now hopelessly and entirely TERRIFIED of ice. This is super great news because I didn't have enough irrational fears in my life as is, and now I feel like a much more well-rounded phobic. It's no secret that I'm a bit of an uncoordinated klutz. This I can't help; it's more birthright than immaturity. Every winter, without fail, I will find ice, fall down, and go boom. But fall down and go SNAP is an experience I'd prefer never to replicate.

The other day, I was leaving the office with a co-worker after our recent snowfall. As we walked to our cars, we were in the middle of a dialogue (that was in no way, shape, or form about work-related stress because we love our jobs and are above petty gossip, whining, and complaining) when suddenly she realized that our dialogue had turned into her monologue. That's because she was walking like a normal human person while I was 50 yards back, cautiously inching along like an octogenarian.

"REALLY?" she said to me incredulously.

"Don't worry," I shouted back. "If you slip and fall, I'll be along in three to five minutes to give you a hand."

Once upon a time, I looked at snow as a winter wonderland, not an ankle-snapping icy deathtrap. As a stocking stuffer this Christmas, my folks got me a pair of slip-on ice cleats. Basically they're just pieces of vaguely shoe-shaped rubber covered in tiny spikes. You stretch them over your shoes and presto, you've got the traction of a mountain climber in seconds. Or so I thought.

It turns out they don't stretch quite so easily. I have an average shoe size, but I'm pretty sure these cleats are designed for oompa-loompahs. The first time I tried putting them on, it took roughly 20 minutes and a majority of the skin off my index finger. Easy-on, easy-off these ain't.

Yes, they added much-needed traction and allowed me to walk like a standard 44-year-old. Getting places was awesome, but once you were IN those places, it's another story. I choose to plead the fifth and not say anything to incriminate myself, but let's just say if you happen to be in an area Walgreen's and notice a path of tiny holes stretching from the door to the cat food aisle, I WAS NEVER THERE. Worse yet, my local gas station lines their floor with cardboard in the winter months, and every step I took sounded like a hail of gunfire as I aerated their makeshift flooring.

So I learned a quick lesson about not wearing the spikes inside, but I can't get the things off and back on without a fight. Changing shoes is an option, but that means I get to take a Bag o' Muddy Shoes with me everywhere as a fashion accessory. So those are my options: Either I become Shoebag Shane or I walk around in the snow like there's a stick named Winter firmly wedged in a place where the sun don't shine. OR, maybe I'll man up, act my age, and choose the responsible mature option: stay indoors until spring.

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