As an only child, I spent most of my life asserting my independence. That was most apparent when I graduated from high school and moved from Southern California to the seacoast of New Hampshire for college.
Up until that point my winter experiences were the occasional trip to Frazier Park or Big Bear after a big storm to play in the snow. In my lifetime, we have had actual snow at my house 3 times. It was a lot for us, but just to give you an idea of how much there was…we built a small snowman in the front yard and used all the snow to do so.
Needless to say, I was new to a “real” winter my first year at college. I spent most of the first three or four months wondering why everyone shuffled everywhere. Walking to class I would, in my head, call out, “Pick up your feet.” Once winter came, I knew the reason for all the shuffling.
Walking to class one very cold morning after an evening storm I found myself in the middle of a frozen puddle. It was a very large frozen puddle. I didn’t realize I was in it until about five, non-shuffling steps. At that point, not having both feet planted on the ground, I slipped and slid like a cartoon character, flapping my arms, saying “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” and fell on my butt.
So, there I was, in the middle of this small pond sitting on my butt. After two attempts to stand back up, I fell back down. In order to remove myself from this predicament I had to crawl on hands and knees to the edge of the frozen puddle. As if this weren’t bad enough, it was in front of one of the main buildings on campus so needless to say my “trick” didn’t go unnoticed. That was when I learned to shuffle.
Later that winter a friend and I walked to class on another cold, frozen morning. The building we were headed to happen to be set further back into the woods. There was a great short cut we often took that sent us down a hill and across a little bridge to the building. For whatever reason, which later turned out to be a bad idea, we took the short cut to class that morning. The hill was a bit frozen, and I must have stepped on some untreated ice. As I started to slip, I said, “Whoaaaaa,” and grabbed onto my friend’s arm on the way down. That sent a chain reaction as he, who had been shuffling very carefully, lost his balance and fell to the ground. Remember, we were on a hill, so our fall didn’t end there. We continued sliding down the hill, taking students out with us like bowling pins on the way. By the time the human landslide stopped, there were ten or twelve of us piled in a heap at the bottom of the hill. Luckily, no one was hurt. Winter lesson #2 – don’t grab a hold of another person while slipping on the ice; they won’t be too happy about it afterwards.
My first winter was quite a learning experience. I got much better at if after that. To this day, I am shuffler, snow or not.