You know that day in late summer when you wake up and sense a change in the air? You look at your clock and think it’s gaining time. Or maybe you wonder if you set your alarm too early. But then you have a moment of realization that, no, the sun’s just taking it’s dandy time to come up this morning. I noticed it a couple of weeks ago. And then this past Monday, just to bonk me over the head with it, the thermometer read 60 degrees. What a thoughtful thing for the thermometer to do. I absolutely love this weather! It’s my favorite time of the year.
It’s the kind of morning when I’m walking from the metro to the office and I don’t interpret pedestrian traffic laws liberally. Instead I wait patiently at the stoplight because, heck, I’m not in a rush to get inside my windowless cubicle. I’d rather be outside enjoying the crisp, cool (if slightly polluted urban) air. Passersby might see me smiling to myself on days like this.
Well, that’s where I was mentally when I stepped on the metro this morning. Then I opened up the most recent issue of Backpacker Magazine, which has the headline “The Survival Issue.” I thought it would provide some light – and educational – reading for my commute. I should have known better. Opening up to an x-ray of a woman with several screws and plates holding her shattered pelvis in place was enough to shock me out of my absent-minded stupor. And her harrowing account of survival was enough to make me question myself on so many levels.
I certainly have some triggers for queasiness. I won’t watch scary movies anymore, and I’ll even look away from a preview, ya know, as soon as they start playing that high-pitched screeching noise. But I’ve learned over the years that I can handle gore and stay calm in an emergency. For example, in July 2002 I got a call from my panicking mom saying she had fallen off of her bicycle a couple of miles away. When I arrived, thankfully there were several good samaritans that had come to her aid. The ensuing conversation went something like this,
Jor: What happened?
Mom: I slipped on wet grass and hurt my elbow (which she was hugging with her other arm at this point). This nice guy gave me a towel.
Good samaritan (with a pickup truck): I can drop off her bicycle at your house if you want.
Jor: Yes, we’d be very appreciative if you would. Mom, let me see your arm. (Upon seeing) We should go to the hospital.
Mom: I’m fine. I think I just need to go home and put a bandaid on it.
Jor: Mom, I can see the insides of your elbow. We’re going to the hospital.
In the emergency room, the woman at the triage desk took one look at my mom’s elbow and had her in x-ray within a half hour. The elbow ended up being shattered and requiring surgery, which was scheduled for the next day.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I was heading out of town three hours hence to move into a new apartment at school, and people were depending on me. I managed to get hold of several of my mom’s friends so that someone would be with her at all times, called neighbors so that my little sisters were taken care of, picked up and loaded a U-Haul, and got on my merry way just about on time. The U-Haul did start smoking on the highway, but that’s another story.
So, see, I can remain calm in stressful situations, but reading that woman’s story this morning, all I could think was:
- Don’t vomit all over your fellow commuters because then the conductor would stop the train for a “sick passenger” and everyone would stare at you and grumble over their late arrivals at work (like you always do when there are metro delays) and you don’t want to be “that girl” and
- If I fell down a rocky slope and hemorrhaged ⅓ of my body’s blood into my abdomen, I wouldn’t do hundreds of sit-ups to stave off hypothermia. Instead I’d make a terrible mess of my pants and promptly die. Crap.
I’m definitely going to have to work on survival skills. It seems like this month’s issue of Backpacker Magazine will be a good place to start.