Friday, April 05, 2019

COLUMN: Cleats

I don't want to sound morose or anything, but it's a simple fact of life that each of us has a finite number of minutes on this planet. Mine seem to be allocated thusly: For 30% of my earthly minutes, I'm sound asleep. 10% I spend eating. Another 30% I spend in this office staring at a computer screen. And whatever remains are mostly minutes spent worrying about whether I'm going to slip and fall on the ice.

This week, I'm celebrating five years since a routine trip to take out my kitchen trash turned into a broken ankle and an unplanned six week staycation on my couch. As I was walking my trash to the curb that night, I didn't notice the trail of frozen water draining from the gutter of my garage. I'm guessing my ankle didn't see it coming, either.

Once upon a time, I loved sliding around on the ice, building snow forts, and pouring water down sled trails to make them good and icy. If I fell? Big whoop. Laugh a little, pick yourself up, and fall down all over again. I don't have perfect recall, but I'm pretty sure that falling down used to be FUN.

These days, however? Not so fun. If I slip even the slightest fraction of an inch on any ice, all I can picture is my ankle snapping like a twig, which is interesting given that I didn't even witness it snap like a twig five years ago. The view at the time was somewhat obstructed by my butt landing on it. Have you ever been so mad at someone that you've wanted to shove a foot up their...? Well, DON'T. I am proof positive that IT COULD BREAK YOUR FOOT.

If there's even the slightest glimmer of ice on the ground, trust me to find it and almost die. So now I'm pretty much terrified of the outdoors, and the only thing worse than an uncoordinated klutz is a PARANOID uncoordinated klutz.

So my heart dropped last week when I woke up and heard a weatherman issue my least favorite words in all of meterology: BLACK ICE. Black ice is the scientific term for ice that is evil, malicious, and black-hearted. It's ice that HIDES and pretends to be pavement. It's ice that keeps the LifeAlert people in business: "HELP! I'VE FALLEN AND I CAN'T GET UP!"

But not for me. This year, I was prepped and ready for the blackest of ice. When I went home for the holidays this year, my parents gifted me a pair of stretch-on cleats. Simply attach to the bottom of your shoes, and if any black ice comes between you and the ground, your cleats impale it with extreme prejudice, the evil menace is thwarted, and you continue about your merry way in an upright fashion.

Perhaps stretch-on cleats are nothing new to you. Maybe they've always been for sale at all the places normal people go who aren't weirdo shut-ins that buy everything online. For me, this was new terrain. Despite my macho physique and athletic prowess, I am shockingly inexperienced at cleat-ing. Maybe that's why I was surprised when I took them out of the bag.

I think I have an average shoe size. Yet based on what fell out of the "one size fits all" bag, I either have freakish Sasquatch feet or my folks bought the children's model. There's no possible way these could fit a normal adult human foot, is there?

Well, it turns out they ARE one-size-fits-all, provided you have the dexterity and virility to stretch them around your shoes. I suppose the sort of people who frequently wear cleats are the sort of people with the necessary arm strength to implement them. As for me, it took a five minute workout to stretch the things in place. At one point, one of them flew off my foot like a deranged slingshot, nearly using up one of my cats' nine lives.

Eventually I got them on, stomped to the car with the confidence of anyone wearing metal needles on their feet, and headed to work resuming my daily autopilot routine. This involves the morning ritual of stopping for coffee and a pre-work snack. Remember when I said I'd never worn cleats before? I have to restate this, because it's the only explanation I can offer as to why I just strolled right into the gas station with cleats still attached to my feet.

I guess my mental powers at 8:15 a.m. were not enough to realize that tile floors are every bit as susceptible to cleat punctures as black ice. Don't worry, though, I didn't actually get the chance to aerate their floor. That's because the gas station had laid out cardboard to alleviate customers tracking in snow ick. I took one step and PUK-THWAP PUK-THWAP, my cleats went clean through the soggy cardboard which was now attached to my shoes and I went surfing down the aisle like a one-man cardboard regatta. My fear of breaking an ankle was instantly replaced by a fear of doing the splits headfirst into the Slurpee machine. I don't speak punjabi, but I'm pretty sure I could still catch the drift of what the clerk thought of my performance.

Soooo if you happened into a gas station and bore witness to the world's worst breakdance routine followed by a sheepish solo sock hop, many apologies. It turns out there ARE worse things than falling down. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take these spikes off my shoes, pretend this never happened, and hide in a corner until spring.   

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