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It's just us against the elements

I know it’s hardly appropriate to complain in Ottawa, where we’ve beenspared floods, highways of snowbound motorists and the assortedtorments visited on other areas of the country so far this winter.

I know it’s hardly appropriate to complain in Ottawa, where we’ve been spared floods, highways of snowbound motorists and the assorted torments visited on other areas of the country so far this winter.


See if that stops me.


Winter robs us annually of certainty, wrecks our plans. Bus schedules cease to be even educated guesses. I called OC Transpo’s info line at a dreary, dark bus stop last week. The automated voice informed me significant delays had pretty much voided any schedule –and then helpfully listed the obsolete arrival times anyway.


The very ground under your feet can no longer be relied upon, and every step becomes a gamble. We’ve been slipping, flailing, surfing and crashing for weeks now. This is the time of year you suddenly notice the slope of your local sidewalks.


The ice and slush are coldly, slickly impersonal. They do not care who you are. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae wiped out and injured his shoulder last week. Earlier this month, my friend John was consigned to weeks of plaster and Percocet after slipping and snapping his ankle properly enough to require surgery.


My own turn came one morning as I blearily hauled my recycling out the front door, took a step too close to the icy edge of the porch and went airborne. I was in the air long enough, bottles and cans and blue box scattering, to wonder just where I’d ultimately land. Hospital? Physio? Morgue?


I managed a painful but clean ass-and-elbow landing on the walk a few feet beneath my porch, uttered some awful words, and lay there for a minute listening to my tailbone complain.


I’m reasonably young and reasonably lucky, and I walked stiffly away from my pratfall, but nobody stays young and lucky, and as my neighbour warns, winter doesn’t get any easier as you get older.


The city gets a few dozen injury claims every year from slips and falls, but isn’t generally liable unless gross negligence can be demonstrated.


The local proliferation of governments does little to help, either. The civil servants were dropping in front of one federal office building last week in such numbers that one of them complained and was told it was the city’s responsibility to maintain the area.


City hall can only do so much about the laws of physics. It’s just us against winter, so watch your step.

 
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