When I was an idiotic little kid, I used to think flying would be terrific fun.
No, I’m not talking about planes (as a toddler, I viewed planes as a cramped locale in which surprisingly high numbers of color books were produced and given to me with a kind of extravagant abandon unknown elsewhere—planes were the Versailles of those years). I’m talking about flying, about becoming the next Wendy and just alighting away.
I just never realized how perilous the ditching gravity gig could get.
There’s been no shortage of snow in the past month. That’s fine.
The issue is when the sun comes out … and the melting begins.
But we don’t get full melting here, snow piles dissolving into waters that drain away. Oh, no. We are a climate that is damnably determined to be moderate, to stay true to the course of keeping us all in what is essentially a region-wide outdoor freezer. If warmth must be admitted, it will be done as discreetly as possible: we will be permitted a balmy afternoon of … oh, 35 degrees.
The rate at which snow melts in 35 degrees is not getting it a Nascar contract anytime soon.
But nor can it not melt, which would be optimal.
Instead, you get a soggy mess: snow mounds crying in that brave determined way that shows they are trying their best to put on a game face, but their emotions are just too strong. Surely, you can almost imagine the emo snow mound thinking, anyone with proper feeling will pretend they don’t see these trickles of quiet tears streaming down.
It’s all very British.
And then, just as the ground is the littlest bit wet, the climate seems to heave a sigh of relief that the duty’s been done and it’s fine to plunge us all back into the cold, cold world (do you know what the lowest level of Hell is like in Dante’s Divine Comedy? It’s ice), and suddenly, the free-flowing tears of the snow are stilled.
The issue is I am expected to walk on them.
And that’s where the hatred of flying comes in.
Because there is always that moment: the half-second when suddenly I realize one or both of my feet is so not affixed to the icy ground, and it’s anyone’s guess what the landing will be like. Will I land and keep on walking? Will I touch ground for the quickest of seconds and then be launched into yet another perilous glide, the sort of thrill that I always thought I’d experience in activities I’ve tried assiduously to avoid, such as skydiving? Or, as seems to happen at least once every winter, will I bomb the landing and just fall on the ground?
The thing is, I am always concerned about the last outcome. One of these days, I feel certain, I will break my leg, or at least sprain something.
I have an uncomfortable suspicions that both of those situations might provide some highly beneficial personal growth in me, to allow me to learn that independence is an illusion and we are all interdependent, blah, blah.
But I am very much pro-personal-stagnancy these days, and so I mainly creep along the ice at the kind of slow saunter normally associated with someone walking off a plank. (Look, Peter Pan was on a lot in the non-Versailles-like parts of my childhood.) Because, based on my intense watching of the 1998 winter Olympics women’s figure skating competition, it is crucial to go into those triple loop-septuple twirl combinations with momentum.
Seeing as Michelle Kwan and I have opposite goals (I’m interested, Sheryl Sandburg-style, in leaning in to gravity, and Kwan appeared to be all, Wicked-style, about defying gravity), I figure I want the opposite of momentum.
But even the slow walk can only do so much momentum buzz kill.
This is what I am thinking, one evening, confronted by a pathway glazed over with ice troublingly smooth.
I consider my options. I, positive thinker that I am, imagine the possibilities. (Positive thinking doesn’t appear to be much concerned about originality and thinking in words not adopted by major corporations to sell material goods.) I could go to the left and see if the apartment buildings there had been more diligent about clearing the sidewalks.
I could go to the right and see if… well, see if the Pentagon is all chillax about people strolling through their parking lot at night on the off-chance it’s less iced over than the nearby sidewalks.
Neither of these options excites me (although it does occur to me that if Pentagon picks me up and hurls me into some dungeon, that will be inside and maybe by the time I’m released years later, all the ice will have melted. So it’s not worth entirely ruling out.)
Ok, I tell myself, sternly, imagine the possibilities.
Then I think: what if I ditched that whole walking skill set I picked up and just … crawl across the ice?
This would solve the whole issue of breaking something because I’d be falling from higher up.
I cautiously look around. I don’t see anyone around.
This is creative problem-solving, I tell myself. I’m rejecting the box.
(I’m thinking it’s going to be hard to deliver this mantra confidently if somehow I know emerges and asks why I’m crawling across an icy sidewalk. But hey, isn’t everyone supposed to be learning to be less judgmental, anyway? Really, I’m about to be a societal hero for pushing people to get over their hang-ups about grown-ups crawling.)
Then I realize.
I’m a one-mitten woman.
The thing is, I’m normally attached to the whole idea of having two mittens. But I’m also perpetually on the verge of being late to work. And so, when I realized I had just one mitten, I didn’t want to squander 15 seconds by looking for it.
And that had kind of happened around oh, 17 days in a row (sometimes I was more worried about being late to brunch, not work. Look, being a yuppie is inordinately tough sometimes).
But I had the distinct expectation that putting my bare hand on ice was going to be rather unpleasant.
Nor, upon reflection, was I confident that I could crawl with only one hand ever touching the ground. (I just feel like amid the whole rush to have me learn the whole walking and talking thing, my parents were kind of careless about teaching one-handed crawling. Another thing to bring up at Christmas dinner sometime.)
So I crawl—figuratively—back in the box. I slowly, slowly, slowly walk across the ice.
I am, I’m thankful to report, still personally stagnant.
(That means I didn’t break anything.)
But we’re about to get another major snowstorm tomorrow. And rumor has it that sometime in the next few years the sun will show its face again.
I’m so going to track down that other mitten.