gall and gumption

Thursday, February 15, 2007


So last November I bought my father a pair of YakTraks. One day last winter we were out walking the dogs together and he slipped on the ice and fell, hard, on his back. It terrified me. He got up and was fine as it happened, no further problems, but it took me a while to get over it. I was shopping for socks at the pricey outdoor gear store and saw these things and got them. But for most of the winter he hasn't really needed to use them. Till this week, when we got this storm that came in Tuesday. It left 4-5 inches of snow which partly melted Wednesday and then another storm came in and froze it into ice. Yesterday morning the snow ploughs didn't clear our apartment complex till nearly 11, and when I was out with the dogs it was awful, all the parking lots (there are several buildings) had all these cars foundering in them, people spinnning their wheels madly trying to get out of the snow. I surveyed all this and decided not even to try. I didn't want to drive my 35-mile commute on icy roads.

Under these conditions I try to do most of the dog walking anyhow. And I've given the YakTraks a couple of trial runs and I love them. You know when there's a lot of ice you do this sort of very very old person shuffle with your knees bent, and that's when you're not walking with two dogs that are totally demented about squirrels. And with the YakTraks I could just step out onto a sheet of the blackest slickest ice and it was like walking on a carpet. Take that, dogs!

My father works as a traffic technician. He goes out at night with a crew and supervises the repairs of traffic lights all over the District. And of course these nights it has been bitterly cold, with ice. So nag nag nag nag did you wear the things on your shoes? Don't forget to take them, I'm leaving them here by the door, maybe you should just put them on your shoes now so you don't forget, they're really good! "Yes, all right, Kia, I'll be all right." (trans. "You are boring me now.") In the afternoon there was another thaw, cabin fever was getting to me even though I had taken the dogs out, and I knew that the it was all going to freeze again. It had been a struggle getting my car out even after the ploughing. So I went to Home Depot and bought a shovel. Not a snow shovel, but a metal shovel that would break the ice. I got home and didn't even go inside. I whacked away at the ice in my parking space, and there was a lot of it. While I was doing that a woman arrived in a big SUV trying to park in the space next to mine and only managed to get stuck. So I helped dig her out. I was totally into this shoveling business. And then I thought what the hell I'll clear the path into a parking space for my father too. So I did that for a while basically until my arms started feeling like jelly. Oh and there was another little consideration. To break the ice I had to hold the shovel by the top of the handle and bring the edge of it down with as much force as I could. Kind of like pile-driving? Well I pile-drove the edge of that shovel into my toe. Luckily my toe was numb. That, plus the jelly sensation in my arms, finally made me stop.

I went inside and there were the YakTraks lying next to the door. He had totally forgotten them. So I called him and nag nag nag nag etc. be careful of the ice take your time and he promised he would.

At about 10 p.m. I took the dogs out for a last little stroll. And Misha was acting rather strangely. She kept sort of wandering about. Usually, as I think I've explained, she is the one who is mad to go back home again. But she kept leading us all over the place, in her sort of fretful and dopey way. We could walk on top of the hard crust of the snow without it breaking and it made a delicious sound. Especially with the YakTraks. At last, though, enough was enough, and we went in and I tried not to worry about my father. About midnight I heard Misha whining. I entertained for a few seconds the old folklore about psychic dogs and then decided I really didn't need to think about that. So I just said "Bugger off, Misha," which for some reason works with her. Woke up in a panic in the middle of the night because I didn't hear my father snoring. The dogs always push my bedroom door open, and his for that matter. No snoring. So I jumped out of bed and hurried down the hall and noticed that he had in fact made it home. Back to bed.

This morning I come back in with the dogs and my father is up drinking his coffee and doing that puttering about morning thing he does that drives me crazy. He told me that when he got home Misha insisted on being taken out. My father explained that she has been wanting to take a dump but can't find a suitable place to do it -- she wants to crap on a nice patch of grass and of course there is no grass. So they went wandering and wandering about in circles. I just do not understand this. This dog is -- it took her over a year to learn the idea of walking on the same side of the tree that I'm walking on. And her grasp of it is still not what you'd call sure. She passes most of her life in a state of existential befuddlement punctuated by near-hysteria. And then, inexplicably, when it comes to taking a crap, a thing that a dog, you imagine, ought to be able to do mindlessly, suddenly there is all this deliberation and planning and punctilio. When I'm out with her on a day when grass is visible, it's bad enough. If we're inside the grounds she must go down a hill to do it and find just exactly the right spot. Distracted rambling ensues. Then she finds the right spot, assumes the position, grunting and solemn, and at that moment notices that -- hey! This isn't the true spot, the true spot is about 8-10 feet thataway. So, still squatting, she does this sort of sideways shimmy to get to the true spot. She's fat and has this wonderfully expressive face. But you know, sometimes I'm pressed for time. And then I can't help asking her, "Why does it have to be such a production?"

So the true spot was buried under four inches of ice-encrusted snow. Her attitude to problems is that the person who can solve them all is my father. So he got home from work, walked across heaps of snow and patches of ice, turned right around when he came in to take Misha out -- and forgot the YakTraks again. And of course he fell.

This morning I hung the YakTraks on the front doorknob.


At 12:52 PM, Blogger leslie said...

I hope your father is OK?

At 2:56 PM, Blogger Kia said...

Oh, he's fine. But he took the things with him the next morning after I hung them on the doorknob.

With some men this is how they learn.

Last night I bought another pair and sold them at work before lunchtime (no profit involved). So now I have to go back to that store again.

At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post gave me the chills---literally, in the form of memories of the snows of yesteryear. Reading your comments and watching the news about the storms sweeping through the Northeast remind me again of why I moved back to L.A., where the weather today is in the low 80's. But then again, it is L.A., which is a very mixed bag indeed, so believe me, I'm not gloating. But I did leave the Pacific Northwest to avoid further scenarios such as the one you describe. The last year I was there, I was trapped in my house (located on a high hill) for a week, sans YakTraks (which I wish I'd heard of).

Missing the Carribean right now, I'm betting. (Aside: the other R.N. on this case I manage is from St. Vincent, and our aide is from Belize. Six degrees. . .)

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Kia said...

That's interesting about the nurses, paul k. I'm sure you're aware of the migration of nurses from the Caribbean.

In Jamaica especially they don't really make a living wage, and conditions in the public hospitals are appalling. These hospitals used to be good but debt now eats up 125 percent of Jamica's GDP and there's no money to keep up the infrastructure.


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