I slipped and fell while I was out running errands last weekend. Considering how much and how often it’s been snowing and freezing this winter, it’s probably surprising I haven’t taken a tumble long before now.

As falls go, this one was pretty minor. It was a short slip, with a soft landing in a snowbank, which is a lot better than hitting the pavement or landing on the rock-hard asphalt of my driveway. I’ve done that a few times in winters past while going out to retrieve the mail, which is why even now – in the kind of weather we’ve been having – I never go out to get the mail without totally bundling up, as if I’m going to be out battling the elements for an extended period of time. Boots, coat, scarf, gloves, and sometimes even a hat, just to take that short walk down to the mailbox and back. The way I figure it, I want to be protected enough that if I did fall, and injured myself so badly that I couldn’t get up – or hit my head and got knocked unconscious – I wouldn’t freeze to death by the time someone found me.

This might sound like paranoia or overkill, but it’s not something I really think about anymore. It’s something I just do – a common-sense precaution, like keeping blankets and other cold-weather supplies and provisions in the car in case of emergency. It may seem silly to do this when most of the driving I do is relatively close to home. Still, you never know when an accident, car trouble, or bad road conditions might leave you stranded somewhere in below-zero weather, so it’s better to be prepared.

I wasn’t quite as prepared as I should have been when I slipped and fell last weekend. I hadn’t bothered to zip my jacket up all the way or to put my gloves back on for the short walk from the grocery store to my car. After I put my groceries in the trunk, I started walking around to the driver-side door, and that’s when my foot slipped and I went down. My car was parked next to a pile of snow, and when I instinctively reached out to break my fall, I landed face-forward and elbow-deep in the soft snow.

It took me only a few seconds to stand up, get back on solid ground, and shake the snow out of my sleeve and the opening at the top of my jacket. I drove home shivering in my damp clothes, with my arm and hand stinging from the cold. All from just a few seconds of exposure, and from a small, soft fall.

Experience is always the best teacher, and I’m sure that from now on, especially during the rest of what feels like an endless winter this year, I’ll remember to take the time to cover up and bundle up completely before I leave the house, the store, or wherever I happen to be. And no matter how quick or short I expect my trip to be.

I’d like to ask you to do the same.

I realize you may roll your eyes, as my kids still sometimes do when I give them motherly advice. And you may tell yourself that you don’t need to listen because you’re younger, smarter, more careful, or more coordinated than I am. That may be true, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry. So bundle up, zip up, and cover up as much as you can whenever you go out – even if you’re just going out to get the mail or run a few errands. And especially if you park next to a snowbank.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on February 20, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014

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