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Saturday, Dec 2, 2023

Successive Slippery Sidewalk Spills Adding Insult to Injury

Author: Nate Marcus

(Disclaimer: the author does not accept any liability should the general public choose to follow the advice listed herein.)

I can think of nothing funnier (when it happens to you) and nothing more embarrassing (when it happens to me) than falling flat on my face. I believe it's time to give what I call "slippage" at Middlebury due consideration. Icy conditions mean more and more students are carrying around living wills; the most severe spills, for instance three-person pileups, have caused unconsciousness and loss of fertility on campus.

Now, I know what you're thinking: slipping doesn't happen to me. Wrong attitude! Sheer numbers show that most students on campus have no center of gravity (motor skills regretfully weren't required for admission). People on crutches now represent half of the campus. Besides, as your parents might have told you, it's not your slipping to watch out for, it's the other guy's.

Despite the seriousness of this topic, very little has been done on campus to address it. The Department of Public Safety has only very recently been briefed on recent research reports indicating that icy conditions may cause slipping. (Previously, Public Safety linked this phenomenon to lost MiddCards and unlocked doors.) "Slippage," indeed, has gone under-diagnosed throughout Middlebury's vibrant history, yet has ranked among its earliest problems, even before the debate on whether first-years should be able to register their horses on campus.

I henceforth present some suggestions from and for my peers on saving face after a tumble because, rest assured, you will find yourself in a scenario like the following:

Say you're walking up from Bi-Hall (we shall liken this to a moving treadmill), or walking across the "tundra," or down from Stewart or up to Proctor. Suddenly you step on a concentrated patch of crystallized dehydrogenate oxide (that's ice, I think) and you experience gravity upheaval (fall) because you are an idiot (have a genetic normalcy maladjustment). You are now Neo from "The Matrix" dodging bullets … only not in slow motion. Pop quiz: in the above situation, what do you do, hotshot?

Okay, time out. The truth is, there is no saving face from a slip. However, many peers have offered suggestions to alleviate the tension after a fall. The first best thing to do in this situation is to take deep breaths. If you've had Lamaze training, use that.

Next, look around to see if you've been spotted. The bare branches, stripped of their leaves, do nothing to cover your slip from the gaze of others, so you will feel extremely exposed, akin to that feeling of being caught making a naked run by your professor, who then tries to make you feel more comfortable by telling you how especially convincing he thought your paper on primitive behavior was.

But, of course, any serious spill only happens when there are five or more people around you who are not your friends. Sometimes we can find relief in thinking, "At least there was no one attractive around." Be sure to say this loudly enough for the giggling group of the opposite sex to hear you clearly. Keep in mind that in slipping, you might look more stupid than if you actually fell down. You might then consider just going for the fall. Be a hero!

There are other ways to feel good about suddenly getting lucky with the ice. You might choose to warn others of the slippery spot — "Yeah, that's slippery, watch out, I thought so." You might even be impressed — you've never seen yourself do a split! But perhaps the best way to connect with reality after this sobering hook-up is through Zen practices. Just repeat the following chant:

"Fuel the Zen. Be the Zen. Be the ice. There is no ice. Did I really fall? It is all an illusion. This blood, it's not really there. Those people, they're not really laughing."

Should in your personal scenario you find yourself on the ground just as a large tour group is passing by, veteran survivors advise a hair flip (this works best for blondes) and a disinterested aura.

One girl suggests that if you go down, cry. Guys will flock to help you up. Suddenly you will be the envy of passers-by, flanked by four to eight dutiful citizens.

And guys, I'm surprised at you for not taking advantage of the icy conditions! Being present when girls slip is actually one of the best ways to meet new people. Pick them up (literally). Comment on their rosy cheeks and on their beautiful fall. Pick the most slippery place to hang out, and wait to meet them there. If all the good spots have already been taken, get yourself a jug of water and wait with your trap set.

Here's another scenario: you're walking along, appreciating our so-called "green campus," when someone you don't know has a nasty fall. What do we say to someone in this critical situation? Cheer them up with a few encouraging words. "Are you okay?" and "Have a nice trip" are outdated. Try instead, "Was that a triple axle?" or, perhaps, "You ate beans tonight didn't you?" Remind them at least they are wearing clean underwear. If you really want to be helpful, point out that that the spot is very slippery. They will be happy to know this in case they pretend not to understand the cause of their fall. But please, beware of trying to help these people up; disaster always ensues (with exception to guys "pimping it," in which case falling on prey could be suitable).

Tour guides may praise the snow removal system on campus. They may say, "You don't just slip in the wintertime." That will be the focus of my next seasonal article. But we all know that slippage has significantly shaped our lives here at Middlebury. After playing shirts and skins, broomball players will pause to consider wearing their helmets off the "rink" and back to their dorm rooms. Safety kneepads and elbow pads, highly tempting, are resisted at Midd only for fright of fashion, as these articles have not yet been premiered in J-Crew catalogues. And many upperclassmen have expressed disdain for the new sidewalk leading from Stewart to McCullough. But they're missing out on that freshman experience of falling on the way! Slippage has been a prime source of mass humiliation (especially for Febs) and much organic waste for those who bumble out of Proctor and spill their tray (why are they eating outside, anyway?). But there is hope: if we all remember to keep these principles in mind, perhaps we would become better, more expert slippers in the future. Amen.