You know what I’m talking about. It happens to all of us. Something moves in a way that one never imagined it would move. A car door, a phone, some other inanimate object, or a part of one’s body, does something entirely unexpected and suddenly one finds oneself in the midst of the most improbable situation. Recently, these ridiculous accidents have been on my mind. I should get a bumper sticker that says ridiculous accidents happen.
Just last month, while picking alstroemeria flowers in my garden, I bent over and a dead dry flower stalk with a sharp end poked me just below my eye. (Luckily not IN my eye.) I then had the pleasure of walking around for a week with a peculiar stab-wound and shadow-bruise on my face. I think some of the plants in my garden develop premeditated attack plans. My ancient apple tree particularly likes to stab me, grab me, and throw me to the ground. That tree should have gone into professional wrestling. A few years ago, while pruning that apple tree, I scraped the top of my head on a sharp apple branch protuberance and bled profusely from a minor scalp wound. That stupid little wound produced so much blood that if I had sold it to a blood bank I would have made enough money to buy tickets to Hamilton on the black market. It frightened my husband so badly that he has demanded that I wear a bicycle helmet to prune the tree ever since. So now I look super bizarre during pruning season.
Remember the proverbial excuse for a black eye? “I walked into a door.” Hold that thought. Once, about ten years ago, Ron and I were running errands, with him driving and me sitting in the front passenger seat. I asked him to stop for a minute for me to drop a letter in the mailbox. He pulled over to the curb. I removed my seatbelt, threw the car door open, and hopped out of the car. Almost. My handbag was on the floor by my feet and my left foot became entangled in the strap from my handbag. With my left foot hog-tied by my handbag and my right foot on the ground halfway under the car, I fell over, landing unceremoniously in the street on my rear end. This happened (as if perfectly orchestrated) just in time for the car door, which I had flung open, to swing back and hit me on my cheekbone. To add insult to injury, it was raining, so my rear end became very wet while I was disentangling my left foot and seeing stars and bluebirds circling my head. Ron managed to find an ice pack for me at the office where we made our next stop. As I iced my shiner, I tried to think up a plausible explanation for the injury, because I doubted anyone would believe me if I said I got hit by a door.
One time my younger brother was not watching where he was going and he ran into a parked car and hurt his leg. He told people he got hit by a car, which was technically true. I’m sure that bizarre car accident stories are extremely common. I have a friend who is a poet, who once ran a red light because she was reading poetry while driving. This was in olden tymes, when we used typewriters and rotary-dial telephones. She was reading an actual poetry book (not a Kindle). Unfortunately, when she ran the light, she was hit by another car. She slammed her nose on the steering wheel, and broke it. Her nose I mean (not the steering wheel), and it instantly spouted blood like a geyser, making the whole accident seem much more surreal and serious than it was. She ruined her dress and upholstery, but otherwise was fine. She narrowly escaped death by poetry.
In the mid-90s, my mother organized a little reunion of some of her cousins and their children at Lake Tahoe. At that time, my parents lived near me in northern California. We planned to drive to Tahoe. My parents had two cars and my dad loaned one of them to one of my brothers (not the same one who ran into the parked car) and his girlfriend to drive to Tahoe from my parents’ house. The only stipulation Dad made was that he asked my brother not to eat food in the car. No problem. So my brother was driving over the mountains to Tahoe when a large bag of potato chips in the back seat spontaneously exploded because of the altitude (it was an air pressure thing I will never understand). Even though they pulled over and spent some time clearing chips out of the car, it still looked like they had been eating chips in there in zero-gravity when they arrived in Tahoe. Since no one could possibly be that messy, Dad believed them when they swore they had not been eating in his car.
In our youth, my husband and I were at a party one night and we both got a headache. I asked the hostess for aspirin. She fetched a bottle of aspirin and gave it to me. I started to unscrew the top on the bottle. This was a much less complicated procedure then because they didn’t put those childproof caps on medicine bottles like they do now. I have yet to figure out how to get a childproof cap off a bottle. I think those caps were invented by the same people who invented wet suits, because I can’t get into those things either. Anyway, you would have thought I could have managed to get the top off a simple bottle of aspirin without incident, but you would have thought wrong. The bottle flew out of my hands. Ron and I both lunged for the bottle at the same moment and smacked our heads together. I do not think this is the way aspirin is supposed to work to relieve a headache. Maybe we should have asked for Tylenol?
My children have managed to destroy their cell phones as a result of a variety of ridiculous accidents. One of them dropped a phone into a vat of boiling spaghetti, one of them yanked the phone charger out of the wall and it plopped in a dog’s water dish (destroyed the charger, not the whole phone—the dog was surprised), one of them put a phone in a back pocket with no bottom seam in it and went skateboarding and the phone fell out (duh) and disappeared into the wide universe, and one time the cord to the charger was chewed by cats while the phone was charging. One of my children lost a laptop computer because he got his leg tangled up in the power cord, tripped, pulled the laptop off the desk, and it hit the corner of a table just the wrong way so that the screen shattered.
My husband tells the story about his worst day at work ever. This happened a long time ago, but he was already an experienced carpenter by that time, and also convincingly intelligent most of the time. We worked as freelance theater carpenters at the time (building stage scenery). Ron was offered a short-term job on a house remodel and he took it since he was between theater jobs. In one day he managed to take a belt sander to sheetrock (he still has no idea what he was thinking), pull a rope through wet mortar on a windowsill, spill a gallon of white paint in the driveway, and lock himself into a half-finished bathroom that had no toilet (without a magazine handy). Fortunately the boss found him before the crew quit for the evening and let him out of the bathroom so he could fire him. My husband who did all this is the same man who singlehandedly built two extensive decks (one for my parents, one for us), installed an above-ground pool, built a perimeter fence around three acres, and replaced the clutch in my Honda (with only three parts leftover and we still don’t know where they belonged, but the car ran for another ten years without them). If he had been stranded on Gilligan’s Island, he would have built a helicopter out of palm fronds, coconuts, and Gilligan’s hat and rescued the lot of them – end of show. Everyone has an off day. And, as my point is here, ridiculous accidents happen.
When I was an undergraduate, I made the mistake of letting my friend Jack drive my car. Jack was a marginally well-known beat poet and a lousy driver. I think he slept with Allen Ginsburg once, which did not improve his driving ability, however. I notice a theme developing here about poets failing at driving. Jack and I went to a party on a country road. When we arrived at the party, there were no street lights and it was hard to figure out exactly where the road ended and the countryside began. Jack pulled my car off the road and drove it neatly into a deep ditch. The car twisted sideways and glided smoothly into a position perpendicular to the road as it came to a stop. My car door was flat on the ground. Jack put the car in park, turned it off, removed his seatbelt, and slid down the seat on top of me because our planet has gravity. We eventually managed to claw our way up the seat and opened the driver-side door like the escape hatch on top of a submarine so we could climb out. It took AAA six hours with a winch the size of Brazil to get the car out of the ditch the following day.
Ridiculous accidents actually make me more inclined to believe in a higher power because they imply that a higher power is laughing at us mortals and our predicaments. Ridiculous accidents seem highly attributable to a higher power with a sense of humor. Well, either that or gravity, I suppose. Take your pick.
Alstroemeria. Beautiful. But beware, sharp stems are closer than they appear in the mirror.