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Too well padded

| Sunday, Feb. 2, 2003

I have always considered myself relatively fit. I don't go in for marathons, but I do walk and hike a lot. So, when winter arrived, I continued my outdoor activities. This led to an incident one Tuesday morning just after a fresh confection of snow laced the ground. I rummaged through my clothes to find the right items to keep me warm on a long walk. Unable to find the needed undergarments, I chose to slip a pair of flannel pajamas under my lined jeans. So it was a tight fit, so what• So was I, fit that is. I put on several layers of additional clothing, my boots, guaranteed to withstand temperatures lower than -25 degrees F., and finally, my microfiber insulated coat. A hat, scarf and gloves completed my outfit. I slung my mini-binoculars around my neck, put on sunglasses and started off.

It was a chore opening the door, and I felt, well, stuffed in all the clothing, but the promise of a hike in the cold air, scanning for fresh deer tracks and winter birds, drew me onward. I left the porch, went through the yard to the alley and started on my walk. The first two and a half miles were uneventful. The sun was finally up, and I had seen several deer tracks. But the birds were wintering at my neighbor's feeder and not in the bush.

On the way home I started along the side of the road, walking facing traffic, though there was none. That's when it happened. One moment I was merrily striding along; the next I was airborne. Fortunately I have some training in the martial arts, and my body reacted, allowing me to take the fall without injury. That's when I discovered it would have made no difference. I bounced! Yes, bounced and slid two feet on the ice hidden beneath the snow on the side of the road where the sun had not yet touched. My binoculars were as undamaged as I was.

I was well padded and, after recovering from my surprise at lying on my back, I did the first thing anyone does in such a situation. I looked around, making sure there was no one within 100 yards. There wasn't. It was time to get up. But I couldn't; I couldn't bend. The layers of clothes prevented that movement. For a moment I remained horizontal by the side of the road like a stranded turtle. I had to get up. Someone might drive by and mistake me for a forensic exhibit. I tried again, but no luck. So, I bent my knees as far as I could and rolled to my left. Now I was on my hands and knees, sort of. I still couldn't bend. It's a law of physics that if you can't get your feet beneath your body, you can't stand up.

So I began to scrabble, crabwise, through the snow toward a stand of trees. I reached them and proceeded to use the one with the most branches near the ground to drag myself erect. I did it. I turned to see a white car stopped on the opposite side of the road. The window rolled down and my 77-year-old neighbor stared at me.

"You need any help?"

"No, I'm fine." I gave her a sheepish smile.

"Are you trying out something from one of those murder mysteries you write?"

"Something like that." I noted that she had the same look in her eyes I had seen that spring when I had discovered a spider plus web in the kitchen. I had opened the window and thrown it outside with the admonition, "You are not allowed to kill in the kitchen. You could only kill in the basement." My neighbor had been gardening in her flower box by the garage at the time. She hadn't bought my explanation about the spider and had avoided my basement since the incident. Now she was watching me hug a tree for support.

"When you get home, stop by," she said. "I'm making chicken soup." She rolled up the window and drove away.

Ah, chicken soup, the universal panacea for everything including acute embarrassment. I started home, secure in the knowledge that the sun was out and had melted the ice traps on this side of the road. But before the chicken soup, I needed to find that catalog on winter gear. I needed high-tech microfiber winter underwear. As someone said, there is no bad weather only bad clothing. Or maybe I should consider walking in the mall until spring.

M.A. Mogus is a Greensburg freelance writer for the Tribune-Review.

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