So this is how it happens.
It's the third or fourth day of your ski vacation. It's been fantastic. Superb conditions, long runs, no crashes. This particular morning, had the snow not been so perfect, you might have rested your weary bones in bed and gone out for a late brunch.
Instead, you are on the slopes by 8, dodging the snowboarders and practically skiing up to the chairlift. Again and again. By 12 noon your stomach is growling but the lines are so long at the restaurant below that you just keep skiing, ignoring the burning thighs and desperately cold little toe.
Finally, at 1:30, you come off the mountain and head for lunch. Feeling great. You are king of the mountain. You are Jean-Claude Killy.
And because of that, today is the day you finally go for the fries. And the chocolate chip cookie. And the hot chocolate, which courses through your veins like sap in spring. (Whoa.)
And you think. . .Perfect day. Time to head back, jump in the hot tub, take a nap, and have a great dinner. Except someone, usually an offspring, begs to go back on the mountain. "Just a few more runs."
So, you stick your feet back in the hell that is your ski boots, bundle back up, and head for the lift. Up you go. Down the slope you start.
But this time the sun is low and your old eyes can't see the terrain so well anymore. Those damnable skiboarders have scraped the hillside to ice in little patches everywhere. And that old hot chocolate is now coursing through your veins more like molasses in the dead of winter. Your legs are so tired. Your feet hurt. Your tummy is pushing against your ski pants in a way that it didn't in the morning. So you relax.
And that's when it happens.
That's when you catch an edge.
That's when, with one boot now above your shoulders, your life flashes before your steamed-up goggles and you find yourself--if you are lucky--in four feet of soft snow, ten feet left of and twelve feet below the ski run (that you mastered so handily this morning). Among but not a part of the aspen and pine.
I used to have a Chief Operating Officer who would wonder, whenever we were in a bind, if we were on the verge or on the edge.
This question has, at least for now, been decided for you. Indeed, if you really are lucky, both skis are still visible and within crawling distance.
And that's when you know, beyond a doubt, the most profound of life's few essential truths: You should be in a hot tub somewhere.
From now on, you swear, you will "know thyself" and never catch an edge again--on the ski slope, at home or at work. Tired is tired. Done is done. Retreat is not dishonor. Men and women must have their cave and their cot and their mental-health day and their long weekend and even their occasional sabbatical.
Because, as Groucho might have said, a cold toe is a cold toe, but a great hot chocolate is still just a drink.