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My wife wheeled the trash can from the back to the front of the house. She cautioned me about the sidewalk behind her. "You might want to put some salt down on that icy patch." I had things to do, and salting the walk was not on the list. Besides, it's just a small, narrow walkway between the house and the bushes, and nobody uses it except us.
"People need to take responsibility and watch where they step," I told her, justifying my lack of concern. I rolled the can to the curb, dragging it down the steps along the way, then set it on the snowy boulevard. Walking back to the front door, I looked down, "I don't see any ice patches."
After work the next day, I used the snow shovel to clear small snowdrifts that worked their way across the front walk. "They must have missed us this morning," I said, looking at the trash can that still sat up right where I left it in the snow. Usually, after picking it up with the mechanical arm to empty it, they set the can back down several inches from it was sitting; often, it falls over on its side, and the lid is open. But today, there were no extras prints in the snow; no one had moved the receptacle.
Lifting the top, I was surprised to find it empty. "Man, he's good!" I said of the driver who put the can back in the very same spot, standing up with the lid closed. I grabbed the handle, pulling the trash can through the snow to take it around back.
Bang, bang, bang; it boomed like thunder with each step it bumped over. "This thing sure is loud when it's empty." I pulled the trash can along the west side of our house with my left hand and carried the snow shovel in my right.
My foot slipped just a bit on the slightly uneven sidewalk. Naturally, I put my other foot down to steady myself. Both feet began sliding and shuffling, desperately seeking dry ground. It was one of those moments where you don't have an opportunity to even think about what you're doing. Without conscious input, my body instinctively began making corrections to avoid a catastrophic injury.
My mind was trying to catch up to my swiftly moving feet, "What's going on here?" Things only got worse when I started thinking. "The trash can! Lean on the trash can to get your balance!" The receptacle's angle with additional downward pressure applied and the fact it has wheels - gave me a lesson on the physics of motion.
I started to fall backward. To keep the can from pulling me down, I released my death grip on the handle. The trash can took off like a hockey puck slapped with a stick! The hollow plastic drum made a heck of a racket when it hit the nearby tree and bounced back to the concrete. The hinged lid slammed against the sidewalk, like a drummer striking a cymbal at the end of a solo. Meanwhile, my panicking feet did everything they could to keep me upright. Releasing the handle gave me one free hand to assist.
I began flailing my left arm wildly through the air; that was not helping. Still behind in the game, my mind started barking orders to the thrashing hand. "Grab the bushes!" Lefty grabbed the leafless, dormant shrubs, but the branches were brittle. They snapped off, offering me no support.
I was now facing west with a handful of broken twigs, a full 90 degrees off my intended course. My feet continued doing their best to keep me from going down. In the back of my mind, I heard Michael Jackson's song, Billie Jean. Was I inadvertently doing the moonwalk? My brain, trying to help, shouted more orders: "Use the shovel. Steady yourself with the shovel, man!" I tried. I really did. I tried using the shovel as a cane or a walking stick.
Our shovel has an ergonomically correct handle to reduce pressure on your back when lifting snow. I briefly wondered why you never see an ergonomically designed cane with a disproportionately large base? I soon learned the answer.
As I poked and stabbed frantically at the ground, the curved handle entered the match and engaged battle with my knees. The shovel would be another contributing factor to my imminent demise. Holding on for dear life, I contorted in ways I didn't think were possible.
While the handle sparred with my knees, the shovelhead began striking at my feet like an angry rattlesnake. In the mayhem, I somehow turned 180 degrees from my original heading. There were too many elements involved in this attempted rescue mission. "Drop the shovel," was the new command from Brain Central, and so I did.
My left hand was still clasping the handful of broken twigs; my right hand now waved rhythmically through the air. My torso was thrown and tossed about as my lower body struggled to hold on. I felt like John Travolta riding the mechanical bull at Gilly's in the movie Urban Cowboy. This situation was not going to end well.
I envisioned myself being thrown from the bull, landing in those prickly, cold, stiff bushes. I could lose an eye. I wonder how many stitches would be needed to repair my torn body. Would I require a cast or two? Was a hospital stay in my future? If so, how long would I be in traction? I should never have attempted moving the trash can without a helmet and proper eye protection. "Lord, help me!" I cried out.
The shovel I heaved a second before deflected off the side of the house and began sliding back toward me. My left foot was going up, as my right foot was descending. The head of the shovel came to rest under my right shoe. Finally, I found solid footing on the shovelhead; unfortunately, the shovel itself was not stable.
My foot pushed backward, riding the scoop like a plastic saucer sled. The shovel stopped abruptly when the tool's wide handle grip struck the frozen base of the bushes. My upper body momentum caused me to lunge forward from the now stationary shovel. It was happening - I was going to fall.
Remember that trash can I dropped behind me a few seconds ago - the one which was now in front of me with the lid laying open on the ground? I was headed right for it! While reaching out, I opened my hands, preparing for a crash landing. My fist-full of broken twigs spewed ahead, landing in the lid.
I fell to my knees, also landing on the hinged lid. My boney knees crushed the sticks with the force of a swinging mallet. Ouch! I interlocked my fingers, hoping my clasped hands would keep me from breaking my nose when I face-planted on the front, which was now the container's top. Landing on my elbows kept me from falling all the way forward.
The chaos finally ceased - my exhausted body came to a rest. Anyone who has prayed on a kneeler in a church can visualize my position.
Since I was already on my knees, I used the moment to offer a prayer of thanks! Although I would be stiff, tomorrow - it seems I had once again eluded the services of paramedics, a squadron of EMS staff, and first responders.
I got back on my feet and looked around to ensure no one had seen this atrocity. There being no witnesses, I gathered my trash can and my snow shovel. I stepped to the right, avoiding the sidewalk, on the narrow space between the house and the concrete.
I looked back to examine the area where the incident occurred, "I wonder if that's the ice patch Melissa mentioned yesterday?" Shaking my head, I walked on, "Someone should put some salt on that before somebody slips and falls."