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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

I’d Rather Be Smart Ice Than Dumb Ice

I made my way back to the office today, after a week and two weekends off. Not much had changed, except that my schlep to work takes me inside one building and then briefly outside into a short walkway to enter my actual workplace. And this morning, for the first time that I can recall, that walkway was populated by a small sign sitting just in front of my building. The sign read:


I wasn’t quite sure what to do when faced with such a sign. I try to prepare myself for whatever oddness may zing my way during the workday, but this sign caught me fully unawares. And my Boy Scout training hasn’t kicked in in years, so it was no help, either.

“There’d be nothing left but my clothes and a few gobs of Charlie kebab on an icy cold skewer.”

To be fair, if my Boy Scout training had kicked in, it would have realized that it is, in fact, merely Cub Scout training, and therefore would have had me tying beginner-level knots or singing campfire songs or failing miserably at archery practice. My Boy Scout training is pretty much damned useless when you get right down to it.

Unclear on how to react to a falling ice advisory, I stopped in my tracks to ponder the next move.

This turned out to be a poor decision, considering that I hadn’t quite reached the walkway yet, and was still inside the revolving door that leads outside. With a number of other people, who were none too pleased with the impulsive jackass who stopped suddenly in the frame of the doorway to read some stupid sign. A couple of them bonked their noses on the glass, and a couple of them cursed at me from behind. Maybe the same couple, maybe not; I was still too busy pondering the sign to notice.

(But maybe if they’d stuck it out in the Boy Scouts, they’d have been prepared for the situation. Or could apply a nose-saving tourniquet, if need be. Or at least build a campfire and make s’mores to comfort themselves. I hardly see how I’m suddenly to blame for the life choices these people have made.)

Paused thusly in the doorway, I considered my options, vis a vis this plummeting ice warning in front of me. There seemed to be three things I could do:

#1. Cross the walkway, looking up to check for ice

Oh, sure. That’s just what the sign wants you to do. But I know my luck, and I can envision just what would happen. I’d start across that walkway, crane my neck to scan the skies for any sign of icy danger, and *WHAM* *CRACK* *tinkle*, an icicle right in the kisser. No question about it.

(By the by, that *tinkle* up there is meant to suggest the sound an icicle might make after making impact with a face — or possibly the ground, once the face had been successfully plunged through.

It is not meant to suggest the sound — or the bodily function — that I might make following said encounter with a fast-moving icy object.

Seriously. I don’t care what Jimmy Peterson tells you about that time he hit me with that snowball in the fifth grade. I had been in the bathroom right before recess; my pants were probably wet because I’d leaned on the sink. Or I splashed them by the water fountain. Or it was somebody else’s pee.

And anyway, that Peterson kid hit me when I wasn’t looking. And right after a Big Gulp. Plus, I was ten. IT’S NOT RELEVANT, I TELL YOU! DAMN YOU, JIMMY PETERSON!!)

Right, then. Where the hell was I?

Oh, an icicle in the face. Fantastic.

So, clearly, I couldn’t look up in response to the sign. If a big sharp chunk of ice hit me in the top of the skull on the way to work, I might have a slim chance of surviving it. But if I’m gawking up like frigging Goofy at an animated airshow, then I’m catching an icicle right in the eye socket. And there’s no coming back from that. There’d be nothing left but my clothes and a few gobs of Charlie kebab on an icy cold skewer. Next option.

#2. Ignore the sign and go to work

Look, I didn’t get to where I am today — or even to were I was this morning — by ignoring signs. If the sign says ‘WALK‘, I walk. If it says ‘DON’T WALK‘, I stop. Or I run. Or I mambo — but I sure as hell don’t walk.

I yield when I’m told to ‘YIELD‘, ‘MERGE LEFT‘ on posted command, and when I see a sign that says ‘WATCH SLOW CHILDREN‘, I do as I’m told. I find the nearest short bus, pick out the kid with the most dents in his helmet, and follow him around for the rest of the day. Watching. It’s not especially convenient, but what can I do? You don’t screw around with signage.

So, no thanks. What else have we got?

#3. Find a different door to enter the building

I suppose that might work. But the other doors are all the way around on the other side. And if there’s falling ice over here, who’s to say there’s not a big fat bunch of frozen plummeting death over there, too? For all I knew, the entire building was ringed with these signs, warning travelers to maintain a healthy perimeter, lest they be struck down by a raging iceberg raining down at terminal velocity. Could I even get to the other doors without walking near the building? Was it remotely safe? Would it be worth the risk? Wasn’t I tired already? Who would do that on a Monday morning, anyway?

Not me. That’s for damned sure. Life’s too short to be running laps around your office, trying to get to work. My life’s doing enough circling around something nasty as it is.

That left me out of options, as far as I could see. But as I stood there feverishly hammering out a fourth choice, a glimmer of the physics involved seeped into my sleepy head:

My office building is sixteen stories tall.

The walkway I was standing in is ten feet wide, maybe twelve.

Falling ice is probably coming from the top of the building.

Now I’m no physicsality expert, but I’m pretty sure that an object breaking — or sliding off the top of a shelf a hundred feet-plus in the air might well travel outwards while it’s screaming towards the earth. It could, without undue stretching of the imagination, even reach a distance of ten feet from the base of said shelf. Maybe twelve. And maybe, just maybe, directly where I’m standing.

The thought chilled me. As did the wind, blowing in my face. From the direction of the office building. I chilled further. And wanted badly to run — but didn’t dare look up, for karmic reasons already discussed.

The only safe course of action, I decided, was to return whence I came, and back slowly into the building I’d just exited, and away from this most troubling sign. It took a bit of negotiation with the people stuck in the revolving door behind me, but when I calmly and patiently explained the sign, and the danger, and the icicles, and the bit about Jimmy Peterson, they agreed to let me push the door backwards and return to safety.

Or maybe they were just pretending to agree, so they could grab me on the other side, give me a collective wedgie and sling me by my underpants from the top of the revolving door. They even hung me with a square knot and a tautline hitch tied in the elastic waistband. Seems one of the angry bastards may have been a Boy Scout, after all.

When I finally managed to extricate myself, I had few choices left. Outside the door was icy death from above. Inside my jeans were the shredded remains of Fruit of the Loom boxers. The decision was clear — I turned right around and went the hell home.

I’ll try again tomorrow, I guess. But if that sign’s still there, I’m not even getting to the door; I’ve learned my lesson. If worse comes to worse, I’ll go back to work in the spring, when the roof is safely thawed and it’s safe to walk freely again. I wonder if they’ll put out a sign to inform us of that.

Permalink  |  2 Comments

2 Responses to “I’d Rather Be Smart Ice Than Dumb Ice”

  1. #Debi says:

    You are right to be cautious. Why, not long ago, on Grey’s Anatomy, one of the doctors was impaled by a falling icicle as big around as her arm. (Of course, it was a Hollywood actress arm, so not that big, really…) Anyway, if it can happen on TV, you know it can happen in real life… What I couldn’t figure out in that episode is why they didn’t just wait for the thing to melt from her body heat instead of tying up an OR to extract it…again, it was probably that Hollywood actress thing again. Someone with that little fat probably doesn’t have much body heat…what would a Boy Scout do in that situation, wonder?

  2. Charlie says:

    Not sure what a Boy Scout would do, Debi — they kept all the important info from us ‘Cubbies’ back in the day — but I’m sure it would involve starting a fire and a kerchief tourniquet and probably some fancy knots.

    I wonder what the merit badge for ‘deadly icicle melting’ looks like?

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