Monday, June 25, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: J.H.'s Jukebox...

"Better you watch your head, a guy like you.
You're not near as tall as you're thinkin' - but then, this is a short man's room"
-Joe Henry

Kings Highway
The street on which I live is under re-construction. It has been for months, and will be for about another year or so. Thus, where there once was relatively smooth,yet pockmarked and pot-holed pavement - there is now a minuscule mountain range of dirt piles and mud puddles.

I walk just about everywhere I go. I must admit, since the construction started, the downsizing of traffic has been nice for a meandering pedestrian such as myself.

However; the lack of "through" traffic also means lead-foot heaven for drivers whom either live in the neighborhood, work in the neighborhood, or whom have just found a neighborhood in which to speed through and ignore signs (I'm looking at you, Sightseeing Vessel...).

Four wheeled, Six-wheeled, Eighteen-wheeled vehicles - all careen and speed down our road with no thoughts to self damage or the fact that other folks might want to, you know, "share" the space.

It's a desolate, destitute 'Mad Max' parkway with a 'Back To The Future' mindset:

"Roads? Where we're going, we don't NEED Roads."

I've found myself having to evade a random pickup truck every now and then - and almost always take a different route at night. The other evening however, I was walking back from a short sojourn, and found that  - for once, vehicles driving by were slowing as they passed, giving me several feet of air betwixt their vehicles and my person.

When I got home, I think I discovered why I had suddenly become such a beneficiary of common courtesy. I had been wearing a white and orange shirt,  the same color as the construction teams reflective warning signs. I had been a moving caution signal.

Sure, I may have looked like a six foot Creamsicle, but that resemblance might have saved my life.

When I was about 10 years old, I used to hang out a lot with a friend who lived down the street. His house had a tree in the front yard with a branch one could climb to an upstairs window. Also, the side yard had a run down, but huge, old wooden trawler that was unsuitable for water - but made a great fort, playhouse, or hideout.

We were fortunate during the summer because we lived so close to our elementary school. When school was out - we had the entire playground to ourselves. We could also pop over to the City tennis courts and softball fields which were just a couple blocks away. The large recreation spaces and sports fields (not to mentin the great dirt hills and "forest" trails behind teh local ampitheater a mile or so down the boulevard ) also provided great places to ride our bikes.

At this point in time, I rode a modified cruiser bike. It once had the sweeping U-shaped handlebars akin to the greatest motorcycle 'choppers' and a banana seat which could have doubled as a hammock. I'd converted it to a "BMX" style however, with knobby tires and short, dark, rough handlebars so I could look super cool when doing my jumps (on a really good day I could catch an astonishing 4 or 5 inches of air).

One day, my pal wanted to go riding. Alas, my bike was in mid-mod, the old seat gone, the new one yet to be purchased.
Heck, I was a BMX pro, I balanced on the pedals most rides as it was.
No seat? No Problem.
Thus, I decided that I would ride the bike nonetheless. I wasn't just another dumb kid. I was a smart and brave lad! I would just keep reminding myself -
"Do NOT sit down. Do NOT sit down."

We rode to the softball fields. Being the over-actively imaginative youngsters that we were, we decided to run the bases - on our bikes. A plan that was swift and splendid - we pedaled through the breeze, orange dust clouds kicked up by spinning tires.

Then, my gory mistake.

I opted to slide into home plate. My feet hard on the pedals as I rounded third -with the plate in sight, I slammed backwards on my "brakes."

The bike skidded across the dirt, a snakelike rut leading up to, and over, that small plastic pentagon which declares one to be "safe."
And I wasn't.

The sun in my eye, momentum dragging me toward the wood-plank and chain link wall behind the catchers spot.

I didn't even feel it when I hit. I felt no pain whatsoever. I only knew, seconds later, that I was bleeding. A lot.
Some would say gushing.

I grabbed my bike and ambled quick as possible 150 yards across roads and the fresh-mowed Elementary lawn towards my familiar front door. I had to run fast to be safe-at-home.

I remember standing on the porch, knocking on the door and waiting for my mom to answer. At my own house. In retrospect, I suspect a little bit of shock was beginning to set in. My mother had worked as a medical assistant, which to her 10 year old son meant that she knew at least the basics of traumatic injury repair.

She opened the door, I pointed to my leg.

"Can you fix that?" I asked, hoping to get a simple "Yes."

"Maybe you can put a butterfly bandage on it?" I inquired, using up the remainder of all medical knowledge I had ever accumulated.

"No," my mom uttered, without stutter - "you're gonna have to go to the hospital for this one."

It was true - I'd need stitches. Apparently, the unadorned metal seat post had continued it's forward push when the wall behind home plate had stopped the rest of my entity. The cut , two inches from my knee, on the inner thigh, happened so destructive and quick that - as stated, I didn't have time to feel it. Adoctor explained to me later that day - the post itself had pushed halfway through my thigh and bounced back out - severing all nerves for that part of my leg in a flash.

Hearing my Mom admit that she couldn't fix my clumsy mutilation, that's when it started to sink in that, maybe,  I was a dumb kid once in a while. I don't remember crying at all, but I was certainly freaked out.

My mom remained sedate, and made certain that I did as well. Politely, she sent my friend back home, explaining that we'd be in touch later. She cleaned up the wound as best she could with what we had at home.

It was still gross and bloody, and I got nervous just looking at it. The more I saw it, the more I wanted to get to a hospital.

Irony being what it is, my Dad was out running errands with my sister in tow. One of the tasks they had set out to complete - buying a new seat for my bicycle.  Dad being unreachable, we called my Grandparents who lived a couple miles away, a quick trip over the river to our home. My Dad's Dad (whom my entire family - despite actual relation or lineage - called "Dad") raced across the Nickel Bridge and took my mom and I to the hospital.

[Editors point of interest: This marked the second time I'd been taken to a hospital with a leg injury via the back seat of a Grandparents car. The first occurred was when I was all of 3.  Take Heed, Toddlers - no matter how much your cousin goads you: Do NOT jump on that bed. I repeat, DO NOT jump on that bed.]

Because of the instantaneous nerve damage, I didn't feel the numbing agent for stitching, nor the humongous needle used to apply it to the gaping hole in my leg. Gleefully and luckily painless, I took a curious interest in the procedure. Thirteen stitches closing the gash in my skin, which followed the 5 put on my interior muscle. I watched the staff insert every single one.

A few weeks later, I watched them all come out. I felt more of my injury then, when it was all over, than when I first got injured.

To this day, I still have that mark. I'm not ashamed of it, nor am I apt to show it off. It hasn't changed much over the years,  looks a bit like a "greater than" sign. A tiny check mark to remind me of the sometime consequence of foolishness.

I've tried to be safe in regards to almost everything in the decades since, safe to a fault at times. So, I guess something wore off on me. The tiny "V" that embellishes my leg is a reminder that life can get quickly out of hand, uncertain, and a bit scary.  Trying our best to remain calm we remember that most of the time, damages ARE going to hurt - but eventually, may be a cherished souvenir; albeit survived by a distinguishing scar.

As stated earlier, my neighborhood is being invaded by road improvement crews. They are generally nice guys, but intercede on all of our lives, at all hours of the day. This is frequently inconvenient. Such was the case when, a couple weeks ago, I returned from my mid-day errands, hoping to catch a shower before heading off to work. As I pulled up toward my house, I caught the attention of one of the contracted workers.

"Since y'all are still right in front of where I live, is it safe to assume that I don't have any water right now?"

"Oh, yeah," was the bored response, "but we should have it back on in about 20 minutes."

Nodding my acceptance, I walked past him, onto my porch, and then into my home.

After pouring myself a cup of water from the reserve I keep in my refrigerator, I did a few errands around the house, then took a 45 minute nap.

I awoke an hour after I had initially returned home. 20 minutes -  times three.

Alas, no water.

I peeked outside. All the workers were about six feet into a ditch and I thought it best not to pester them.  They work no more than 15 feet from where I sleep - and have access to backhoes. So, I made a quick,  informative call to our city's Department Of Utilities.

I was put on the line with a receptionist and explained my concerns. To what will be the the absolute shock of no one, the Receptionist (whose name will not be revealed to protect their innocence - and because I forgot) put me on hold for a few minutes.

A few minutes later - the Receptionist came back on the line. Having asked office co-workers for the correct procedure, the Receptionist would now be taking my phone number, with a promise to look into matters further and get back in touch with me soon.

"Uh-huh." says my sarcastic initiative...

A few minutes later - I get a call from the Receptionist. The Receptionist is contacting the Contracting Company which does the work for our section of town. Then, the Receptionist, in league with the Contractor's Receptionist will determine which crew is working on my street. Then the Receptionist(s) will contact the Foreman of the particular group of men working in front of my house. Together, they will assess what to do to get the water turned back on in a timely manner.

Just explaining the process made the Receptionist sound exhausted.

I gave my thanks, and assumed I should continue with my day - expecting no result whatsoever. Even if the Receptionist gave it 115%, there seemed to be way too much tape to untangle, and too many contacts to make just to find out how to get in touch with any- "Ding-Dong. Ding- Dong."

Two minutes.

Two minutes after I hung up the phone, my doorbell rings. It's the foreman.

He graciously apologized for any confusion and intelligently explained how the miscommunication happened. He and I had a pleasant 5 minute conversation about the progress of the work at hand and how everyone seemed to be fairly easygoing and cool about the whole thing, which the workers understood and appreciated. We shook hands and parted ways, even though I would still have to wait a bit for water.

I had to go to work without taking a shower, but it was a short shift - and I don't think I offended anyone too badly. I can always fake 'presentable.'

A couple days later, I headed out to work again, but early in the morning. I'd strolled a block away from the house when a truck sped up from behind to greet me. It was the foreman again.

"Good Morning! I just wanted to check and see what time you'll be returning to home today?"

A bit taken aback, I told him that I wouldn't be out of work until around 5:30 in the evening.

"Oh, alright, we'll be done long before then..."

He then pulled off, leaving me with the odd thrill that can come from the occasionally awesome power of one, politely concerned, phone call.

At that point, my brain started a vainglorious inner monologue with a 100-voice choir chanting "I AM VICTORIOUS" - so I had to calm myself down a little bit.

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively: Proprietor, Etc... for favorite Jukebox numbers (I like G17, myself)

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