Hapless columnist to mimic flightless bird - petsitterbank

Hapless columnist to mimic flightless bird


It seems like every other day scientists are breathlessly announcing they have discovered ice somewhere else in our solar system.

They’ve famously detected icy deposits on other planets, on moons, in comets, even in the gigantic rings of Saturn.

Q: Is that scientifically awesome, or what?

A: NO! Sorry, I hate to throw your sense of wonder into the deep freeze, but the scientific truth is we have so much (bad word) ice on this planet that the last thing we need to do is waste time wandering around the galaxy looking for more .

If you don’t believe me, just check out the part of the planet located at my house, where, one week into spring, the sun has been melting the snow on our roof, causing it to puddle on our front and back steps, where it is transformed into miniature skating rinks whenever the temperature dips.

In recent years, I have taken some serious tumbles on these slick steps, which is why my wife now coats them every morning with enough of that chemical ice-melting mixture from Canadian Tire to melt a Polar Ice Cap.

Unfortunately, however, the fact that I am now able to safely enter and leave my home without flipping head over heels has lulled me into a false sense of security.

So there I was last week, strolling through the park beside our house with our good buddy Pam, who routinely forces me to leave the safety of my den and join her on long outdoor jaunts designed to increase my appreciation of nature while decreasing my waistline at the same time.

We were happily striding along a path and I was regaling Pam with my deepest thoughts on a variety of topics when, suddenly and without warning, I stepped on a patch of sheer ice and — WHOOOOOSH!!! — my legs went flying out from under me, my body somersaulted in mid-air, and I slammed onto the frozen path.

Normally, in this situation, I know precisely what to do — I lie on the ground moaning like a wounded woodland creature until my wife comes to the rescue. In this case, however, my wife was at work, so I looked up at our friend Pam and bravely conveyed the following message: “ARRRRRGH!!!”

A very kind motorist even pulled over and poked his head out the window of his car to inquire whether, all things considered, he should summon a priest to give me last rites, but I was determined to prove that I was a hardy, pioneering Winnipegger .

Which is when, with all the dexterity you would expect from a retired, six-four, 320-pound newspaper columnist, I rolled onto my stomach, slithered off the icy patch, pushed myself up into a kneeling position, and ordered Pam to crouch down low enough so that I could grab her shoulder, at which point, with the sort of groaning you would hear at an Olympic weightlifting event, I hauled myself back onto my somewhat wobbly feet.

It would be fair to say I was in shock, in the sense I had prepared for the icy conditions by wearing a pair of winter boots with soles equipped with thicker ridges than a pair of snow tires, along with a gigantic, puffy winter parka that I can barely squeeze into but is large enough to provide shelter for a normal-sized family of four.

Tragically, however, I had forgotten to do the one thing that medical experts recommend for surviving extremely icy conditions at this hazardous time of year, by which I mean walking like a (bad word) penguin.

If you go online right now, you will discover dozens and dozens of breathless news reports in which a wide variety of health professionals, insurance firms and even Alberta Health Services state categorically that the best way to avoid slipping on the ice is to emulate the ungainly gait of the humble penguin, birds that famously never fall down unless they are being chased by documentary filmmakers.

“Does it look silly to waddle down the street? Absolutely. But give it a shot — penguins, after all, have a decent amount of experience holding their own on ice and might have a thing or two to teach us,” gushes an article on Vox.com that is accompanied by a graphic outlining the proper penguin walking technique.

“The keys to the penguin walk are simple: extend your arms (er, wings) out to your side, bend your knees and shuffle side to side as you move forward (rather than taking big steps). All of this will help maintain your center of gravity in a treacherous climate — the type of environment that penguins have existed in for centuries.”

Q: Seriously, Doug, are you trying to say that you plan on mimicking the slow-motion waddle of a penguin until the ice finally melts for good, possibly in mid-August?

A: Yes I am! Sure, I’ll look like 320 pounds of stupid in a 10-pound bag, but that’s a small price to pay for ensuring I do not sustain any further injuries to my medically valuable organs.

I learned a painful lesson from this last icy encounter in the sense that I have found it difficult to do a lot of things — breathing is just one example — because I apparently pulled a muscle in my chest when I crashed to the ground.

I’m hoping the flat-footed shuffle will keep my battered body safe, but even if I end up in the hospital emergency room I’ll still be the best-dressed patient there.

After all, you can’t impersonate a penguin without a decent tuxedo.


Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs

Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.


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