I'm in Sapporo, my favourite city in Japan, and possibly the world for the next few days. Happy!
In my first Japanese winter, I discovered that they don't do much with the snow here. Sure, they shovel it, but they don't do that whole salting thing like in the US. And I think they only snowplough when the snow gets too tall for people to be able to go to work. Japan would collapse if people couldn't get to work. In this country, typhoons aren't cause for days off. Heck, after last year's earthquake, people tried to continue working, but the whole 20-shakers-in-an-hour made it so they gave up.
Anyhow, I walk everywhere here. The Thursday school I take a bus to, but it's still an 8 minute walk to the bus stop, and then and 8 minute walk to the school. My first year, the snow started in November and the last snow was in May. Seven months of snow/ice. Slip, slip, slide. I spent that first year being really tense, always convinced that I was seconds away from falling.
Then, one day on Death Trap Road (story for another day), I did fall. One of those slowed-down affairs where you know from the start what's happening and it takes forever to happen. Of course, Murphy's Law was in fine form that day. Noone was around when I started falling, but the second before I hit the ground, someone appeared. A kid. One of my students. The only student of 400 who laughed every single time he saw me. Yup, that kid would have to be the one to see my fall.
For the rest of the winter, I was even more afraid of falling. I got to the point where I wouldn't go anywhere that didn't require going. I would never go to the library or the supermarket unless I was at my main elementary across the road from them. When I got home, I wouldn't set a toe outside until work the following morning. If I discovered, on a weekend, that all I had in the house was eggs, then I would have an omelette-filled weekend.
I didn't fall again until the next winter. We live on an evil brute of a hill. I can avoid using it when I go to the office, to my junior high or to the tiny elementary, but it's a straight shot for my main elementary. Any other road would add 15 to 20 minutes to my route. After this second fall, a thought occurred to me.
I'd been as careful as I could be, and I'd still fallen.
From that day, I threw away the concept of not falling. It's not that I'm convinced I'll never fall again. This year's cartoonish, run-on-the-spot-then-fall fall proved that it still happens. It's not that I don't worry about falling. It's not that I don't care that I might. And I no longer worry that falling makes me look like an amateur snow-walker. Yesterday morning on my way to work, I saw one of my 7-year-old students leave his house. He took two steps and fell flat on his face.(He was fine. Got back up, and kept walking.)
Every winter, there exists a possibility that I might fall. Whatever I do, no matter how hard I try, I may fall. It's not in the realm of things I can control.
I've got two options.
I can lock my knees off, worrying at every slip. I can sequester myself in my house. I can take little Mini Me steps and spend twice as long tip-toeing around.
Or I can risk falling every now and then.