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. . . next thing I knew, I was on the ground!

March 7th, 2013

Charlie-ChaplinIt’s been awhile since my last post. There are good reasons for that. I had some new stories to finish, and the new novel is still coming together. But the really big thing since my last post is dealing with the aftermath of a nasty fall I recently took while jogging. That’s what I want to talk about today.

Falling.

I’ve always thought of myself as having a good sense of balance and decent reaction time, so when I saw that there was some ice on the ground a few weeks back, I figured it was no big deal.

I can handle this. I’m smarter than the ice. If I slip, I’ll react, catch myself, land safely.

Yeah, right.

I should have known better. I’ve heard stories of people slipping and falling over the years. One of them busted her wrist, another his face (a couple of teeth gone in a second). Both of them claimed they were chugging along, and the next thing they knew they were on the ground. I thought that was hyperbole, but it’s exactly the experience I had when I tried crossing a patch of snow only to discover it was covering a glassy patch of ice.

Fortunately, I got off easy. No broken wrists or teeth. No cracked skull or coccys. I landed on my ribs, got up, walked home, drove to the ER. Diagnosis? Rib fractured. Yeah, I got off easy. But agility and balance had nothing to do with how I landed, because honest to God, I did not know I had fallen until I was on the ground.

The experience left me with the urge to crunch some numbers, to resurrect what little I remember of calculus to determine why the fall seemed to happen so fast. Turns out (by my best estimates) that the fall took approximately ¼ second, or ½ second faster than the the average reaction time, or the time it took for my brain to realize my body was in trouble. Literally, I was on the ground before I knew it.

And how fast was I going? My math may be a little rusty, but I estimate that fall terminating at a speed of 16 ft/sec – or about 11 mph. (Car bumpers are built to withstand a 5 mph impact!)

Charlie Chaplin once said: “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it!” Well, I’m not laughing. (It hurts to do that.) But reflecting on the details of the experience has given me a new respect for ice and the dangers of falling. I didn’t buy it when I heard those stories of how fast it happens. It sounded like exaggeration. The numbers prove otherwise.

Take my advice. If you see ice, hit the treadmill. That’s what I’ll be doing . . . just as soon as I finish healing.

Next up, I’d like to talk about a different kind of falling, the sinking feeling I got when I heard that one of my favorite bookstores — Between Books in Claymont, Delaware — will soon be closing its doors, forced out of business to make room for a rental company. (Sheesh!) I’d like to share some reflections about the store and what it has meant to me over the years. Look for that post soon. Until then . . . rock on!