Pride cometh before the fall

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

In the parade of the Seven Deadly Sins, it is often said that pride leads the procession. They also say “pride cometh before the fall” and that, too, is generally true. In a world of so many illusions, pride is the biggest, falsest illusion of all — so big, that it causes most other problems in one form or another. This was what I thought about as the icy pavement of the gas station parking lot approached.

I had some time to think. Anyone who has spent time in northern Minnesota knows what it’s like to slip on the ice. It’s a daily risk, a daily reality. Everyone wipes out sometimes and only occasionally does it kill or maim us. So we know that the half-second it takes for an adult to slip, splay out like a rag doll and return to Earth is actually a great time to think. Time slows down. The mind sharpens. Memories flow like air past your ear.

The common advice for avoiding slips on the ice in cold climates like ours is to “walk like a penguin.” Set aside the notion that you are cool, confident or polychromatic, and accept that surviving winter requires penguin logic. Lean forward. Waddle. Maintain your center of gravity out in front of you, so you can control it if it gets away from you. You know, when your enormous clodhopper boots touch the slick ice of a gas station parking lot.

That works great for penguins. The worst thing that could happen is for the penguin to fall forward, landing on his or her white belly, padded by inches of blubber and densely packed feathers, a stomach that literally functions as a sled. And that is exactly what happened to me. And while my winter jacket is pretty thick, my belly is more like a pillow than a sled. Humans just aren’t built to go feet to floor, penguin-style.

I visit this particular Holiday gas station every week. I’ve previously discussed my relationship with Holiday gas station cookies, which I got fat eating and crazy quitting. I’ve been off the cookies for almost a year, and lost some of the stomach padding that might have helped this particular situation.

Losing weight can restore a person’s pride, but you have to be careful not to get too cocky. For instance, maybe you don’t need to buy a king size candy bar to celebrate the fact that you ended your holiday food relapse. Maybe you don’t need to be protecting this candy bar as you continue falling toward the ground. Your giant warm boots are no use now that they’ve slid out from under you. What was your hurry?

I can see the sparkle of the ice crystals on the tiny indentations of the pavement now. Instinct has kicked in and I’m holding my head up now, arms straight out. I am Temporary Superman. And suddenly … impact.

The next hour seems faster in my mind than the fall itself. I feel no pain initially; only a deep pang of embarrassment which causes me to get up far faster than I should, far faster than I ever have before. A guy a couple pumps down saw the whole thing. I know it must have looked bad, because he came running over.

“You OK, Buddy?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”


“I might have broken my ribs. Ha ha! Ouch.” Laughter is the best medicine.

Well, later than night some friends brought me in to the hospital for X-Rays when I couldn’t get up out of my chair. My ribs weren’t broken; just bruised. My torso would go on to hurt for a couple weeks, ample time to consider some realities: I’m mortal. I’m fragile. I’ve seen a doctor who is noticeably younger than me.

That’s a lot to chew on: indeed, a king size bar of humility. Don’t worry, I’ll walk it off.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This post first appeared in the Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.



  1. Falling at a gas station is tough. My friend just did that and banged her leg, hip, and her head, which hit the pump. When I did it once, I didn’t have the excuse of ice, so I probably looked drunk. No one came to my aid; they just stared. My true excuse was arthritis. Recently, I tripped when getting wood from the wood shed and putting it in the sled. I went flying over the sled and landed on my face in that very cold deep snow. I’ve never done a face plant before. Good thing there was that snow, because no other part of me hit anything. But it sure is hard to get up. My first concern was: would the lenses still be in my glasses? There was so much snow on my face that I could see. Since I wasn’t hurt, I had a good laugh, once I struggled to my feet.

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