We had freezing rain last night. I live across the street from the university, and I struggled to get halfway across the road…and then saw that the sidewalk ahead of me, which has a nice curving downward slope, was a perfectly shiny glassy sheet. We ought to do physics experiments in a frictionless environment! Unfortunately, I’m a biologist who finds accelerating down an icy ramp to be an uncomfortable experiment that is hazardous to my discipline, so I chickened out and am stuck at home.

And I had a day full of meetings planned, darn.

Unfortunately, I’ve also got a prospective student popping in to my office a little later this morning. At least, we planned that meeting — I don’t know if he’s making it in, or if I can cross the street in time. I’ll be braving my 100 meter commute a little later, I guess.


  1. The Mellow Monkey says

    Hope you make it across safely if you attempt it again! I’ve known several people who’ve been badly injured on ice like that. Aside from the stereotypical broken hips, there have been front teeth knocked out and wrists broken so bad that they required implants to hold the bone together.

    I’m not a fan of slippery days at all. Give me slush or wading through feet of snow any day.

  2. says

    I bought a pair of slip-on traction devices for my shoes a few years back, basically a heavy rubber mesh with coils of wire, they’ve been a FSM-send on snowy days. For ice, there is a similar kind of slip-on made of non-skid rubber with the same kind of studs you see on winter tires.

    I’m rather surprised you don’t already have something like that. Then again, if I had a day of nothing but meetings, I’d probably “misplace” them. Accidentally, of course.

  3. says

    Sprained my finger finding the ice under yesterday’s snow. Took the bus the whole way today. Don’t go anywhere you don’t have to.

    Rob, I warned my husband to wear his trax yesterday. He still almost went down. They help, but they’re not perfect.

  4. Larry says

    Supposed to be in the 70s today here in the Bay Area.

    We may have our problems but frozen sidewalks isn’t one of them.

  5. evilDoug says

    I have a pair of something very similar to those Gregory linked to at 5. They work great but are really annoying on dry sidewalks and will punch little holes in linoleum. Still, they keep me from being sued by the city for taking chunks out of the road with the back of my head.
    These work really well too.

  6. Larry says

    I had that happen during my commute in upstate New York once. All the roads had been salted so they were absolutely fine, but no one had bothered to treat the sidewalks. I had to get down a 40 meter ice slope while carrying a banker’s box full of graded exams. My solution was to sit down, kick the box to make it slide down the hill, and then sled down on my butt. It was safe, but I got to teach my class with soaked pants.

    Another faculty member grabbed onto the handrail, turned sideways and skated down on their shoes. Which works reasonably well as long as there’s a handrail and you don’t attempt to walk.

  7. jamessweet says

    January 2012 I slipped on ice while taking out the trash and broke my elbow. (Actually, I fell twice: The first time I just scraped my knuckles up. Then I got up and continued to walk on the same ice. WOW that was dumb…) Two big screws holding my elbow together, and over a year later it still ain’t right :(

    So yeah… don’t take risks on ice.

  8. says

    If you fall over on ice, don’t attempt to stand up again. Scoot forwards in a sitting position, using your hands for propulsion, until you’re out of the slippy patch.

  9. iskenderoglu says

    Be careful out there. She Whose Utterances Require a Response thought she was doing me a favor, letting me sleep in while she put the trash out at the curb two Februaries ago. I awoke to her moans, and her curled up on the carpet doing a fair impression of a fetus. Next thing I remember is the ride to the ER, where she got a splint put on her Colles’ fracture. Full range of motion now restored, thanks to half a dozen screws, a steel plate, and some high quality medical attention.

    Yak Trax are a good idea for times like that.

  10. Alverant says

    We had rain and snow on Monday night followed be freezing temperatures. Tuesday morning I had to walk like a penguin to the train to avoid falling. If the train wasn’t late, I would have missed it. Even then it was a fight not to slip on the ice while standing still. Sometimes even going a few blocks is too much.

  11. Don Quijote says

    Walk on ice using the skiing postion of your knees slightly bent and your weight slightly forward. I you do start to slide lean more forward (never backwards) and turn your feet to the snowplough position of toes in and heels out. With most of your wieght on the balls and big toes of your feet the side will be controlled. Increasing the angle of the snowplough, bending the knees more, and leaning further forard may stop the side completely. Never lean back.

  12. kevinalexander says

    The problem with the slip-on spikey things is that you have to remember to bring them with you. Then when you use them and get to where you’re going you have to pull the soggy things off again and stuff them into your pocket or laptop bag before you go inside or you will ruin the flooring.
    I invented boots with retractible claws. You just make like Dorothy, click your heels together and claws appear. When you get to where your going you click them again and the claws retract.
    Unfortunately, I’m too broke to patent them.

  13. azportsider says

    What Mellow Monkey said at #1. Greg Laden took one of those falls a couple of years ago and busted up his knee pretty badly.

    That said, during my high school days in Colorado, our two physics teachers used to take their VWs out to frozen lakes, just to do those very frictionless experiments (like Newton’s first law).

  14. frog says

    Joining the chorus of people endorsing Yaktrax.

    However, I will note that they are a very bad idea on bare (not icy) metal. I was striding down an icy sidewalk, smugly thinking how superior I was as I jetted past the slow pedestrians picking their way cautiously along. Then I came to a utility-access plate upon which the ice had thawed, and as soon as my foot hit the surface–wheee!

    I managed not to fall, but it was a very close thing. I pulled a couple of muscles in my struggle to stay upright. So yeah, just a word of caution.

  15. says

    @kevinalexander #18 – I always carry a backpack with me — yeah, not cool for an old geezer but with my tablet, phone, current book, sinus spray, cough drops and all the other detrius I want to have with me throughout the day, not having it isn’t an option. Anyway, the trax have a waterproof nylon bag; during snow season, I just put them in the pack and move on with my life. If I need them, they’re there. If not, they weigh almost nothing and take up very little room.

  16. says

    @frog #22 – That’s why I like the slip-ons rather than special shoes: I can take them off and put them back on again as needed. The challenge, like you said, is remembering to do that.

  17. mothra says

    dunorth (R) has pull over rubber soles with small carbide spikes- perfect for ice. I walk eight blocks to NDSU daily. From experiance, Yak Trax do not hold up as well and do not provide as much traction.

    I began wearing the dunorth pull-overs after having fallen and dislocating my kneen on ice on the NDSU campus. On that occasion (winter 96-7) the firemen rescue squad also fell on the ice trying to reach me. It wuld have been a funny ‘keystone cops’ type of scene, had not one of the firemen broken his wrist- a far more serious injury than mine, on his fall.

  18. says

    I remember walking/sliding down a driveway that was covered in a smooth sheet of ice. I was doing okay, but then I looked back/up and saw some fool in a car, sliding straight toward me with all four wheels locked! He didn’t even think to warn me with a honk, and I had to jump out of his way. What makes this guy’s actions even stupider is that he was going the wrong way — it was the entrance, and he was exiting.

    So yeah, stay off those icy roads. You might not do anything stupid, but someone else might.

  19. MG Myers says

    Thanks for all of the suggestions for dealing with the ice. Shhhhhh – don’t tell PZ what he’s getting for an anniversary present! I just ordered it.

  20. says

    A sidewalk like that in Buffalo in 1969 was the proximate cause of my first broken arm.

    But I got better! Today in Joshua Tree: forecast high of 84°F.

  21. says

    Wait, I spoke too soon. Went outside just now and my front walk was covered with snow!

    No, wait, wrong again. Those are almond blossom petals.

  22. robpowell says

    I had a similar experience on my 50 meter commute from my apartment kiddie corner to the Central WA Uni. Campus. Trying to be in time for a final, take a spill on my butt, and then sit the entire 2 hour final with a bruised coccyx. I R smert. Of course, this incident isn’t without history. As a young, soon to be blissfully separated from the military paratrooper, I decided that taking the stairs from the 3rd floor parking lot in a Hawaiian apartment was for plebes and POGs, and proceded to airborne into the inviting dirt pile next to the building.
    That pile had been there for almost a year. It was hard as a rock. Running 3-5 miles a day on a chipped heel hurts. again, I R smert. 11B apparently stood for 11 Bonehead in my case

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    Gregory @23:

    not cool for an old geezer

    Say what now?

    Chris @30: Comments from the Mojave Peanut Gallery always welcome.

  24. Esteleth, stupid fucking starchild Tolkien worshiping douche says

    A few years ago, I broke my coccyx falling on ice. It sucked really bad.

  25. qwerty says

    I did hear on the radio that I-94 had massive problems this morning with icy conditions that forced state troopers to close it down for a period of time. (FYI: I-94 runs near Pharyngulaville – aka Morris, MN.)

    Hopefully, the sun has come out and melted some of the icy surface or someone has thrown some salt on the sidewalks or get our your skates!!!

  26. fastlane says

    I can’t believe anyone living in the midwest hasn’t bought stock in (or at least a pair of) Yaktraks or something similar. First winter living in Wichita, Dumbfuckistan was enough to make me buy two pair. One for me, and one for SWMBO.

  27. says

    It is 28C/83F, I have a sunburn, and tomorrow I am going to the rainforest and the beach. Just thought you would want to know that :-p

  28. Lofty says

    And somehow this planet is the best a divine creator can dream up for his faithful? Yeah.
    Take care and may the FSM guide your feet safely to the lounge room. Remember sHe provided the knob on the thermostat for you, old sinner.

  29. Trickster Goddess says

    so I chickened out and am stuck at home.

    Thus answering the the question: “Why didn’t the chicken cross the road?

  30. New England Bob says

    After 59 years of winters in NY and MA, I now pack up and head to FL from Sept to May each year.

    I don’t miss the snow or ice and especially the bitter cold that gave me a cardiac arrest three years ago.