Bad decisions make good stories.
Have I got a story for you.
Dispatcher: Nine One One, what is your emergency?
Caller: A large piece of furniture has fallen over on top of my husband. He’s trapped underneath and it’s too big for me to move. Please send help.
Dispatcher: I need you to stay on the line, ma’am, and describe your husband’s condition. Is he conscious?
Caller: Yes, but he’s not making any sense when he talks.
Dispatcher: Do you see any broken bones?
Caller: The wall unit is across his legs and abdomen. No obvious broken bones, just a lot of blood. He has a cut on the top of his forehead and several cuts on the back of his left hand.
Dispatcher: We traced this call and have a unit on the way to your location right now. Stay on the line with me, ma’am.
Caller: Thank you, so much. Oh, God. There’s a hole in the wall where his head hit.
Dispatcher: Stay with me ma’am. Our team will be there soon.
Caller: So much blood. Everywhere.
Dispatcher: Are you injured ma’am?
Caller: I don’t think so. I was hit in the back and thrown into a closet.
Dispatcher: Do you have any cuts or broken bones, ma’am?
Caller: No. It’s my husband who is hurt the most. Oh, God, he’s bleeding and he can’t get out from under this thing.
Dispatch: Stay with me, ma’am. Don’t try to move it yourself.
Almost six weeks have passed since this domestic accident that injured my wife and nearly killed me. It was completely avoidable and totally my fault.
I have done my share of stupid things over my lifetime and paid the price with pain, cuts, scars and bruises. That is the price of Stupidity and one that I can accept on a personal level. What I find hard to accept is accidentally hurting someone else at the same time.
We just finished having hardwood floors installed in Casa Ohm on this fateful day. The flooring guys had packed their equipment, cleaned up, and left for the day. The house was one step closer to being ours. One without contractors and “Divorce Dust” everywhere.
The Lioness and I have been in this house for 33 years. That is the longest that either one of us has been in one place, anywhere, and also the length of time that we have been remodeling and making this into the home in which we want to spend the rest of our lives together.
All that was left to do was to install baseboards throughout the house, add some porcelain tile on the lower part of a wall in the living room and re-assemble a built-in double bookshelf/wall-bed unit in our guest room. And that is where the trouble began.
A memorial service for a former co-worker took up most of the morning and mid-day for me. I had the opportunity to meet his family and catch up with some of the men in the Electric Shop who were in attendance.
Glen was only 58 years old and gone. I never saw or heard him angry—ever. He was a beacon of serenity and calm for me. I wanted to be more like him in times of chaos and trouble.
I still do.
Why do the good ones have to go so soon? “Why?” is not a spiritual question and we will never know the answer to it.
I had a lot on my mind when I returned home. A few of the workers were putting the finishing touches on the Red Oak flooring while their co-workers packed up tools and cleaned up the house.
I have been a part of many scenes like this in the past. Residential units becoming houses. Houses, in turn, becoming homes for buyers. This phase of a job is also close to the time that my duties as an electrician are done and it is time to move on to the next job and start all over again. Somewhere with bare stud walls and no windows and doors.
In my mind, Cleanliness is next to “Goneliness”.
The Lioness and I walked through our home and marveled at the changes. The End was near. Our dreams and plans were finally a reality. We stood at our living room window and watched the floor installers drive away.
The house was quiet. I walked into our guest room and looked at the three pieces of a wall-unit that our contractor was going to re-assemble and trim out for us. A maple cabinet containing a queen-size memory foam mattress would be adjoined by bookcases on either side. All three pieces would fasten to the wall and comprise one large wall-to-wall unit. We have had it for about 4 years and it has come in handy when family and friends have spent the night.
Part of the work that I did during this remodel was to add Arc-fault Interrupting circuits to both bedrooms. I also installed some receptacles in the wall behind the bed compartment of the wall unit. Now, our guests could charge mobile devices and have power for anything else that they desired.
This was on my mind as I decided to check out my layout and also remove the protective plastic sheeting that I wrapped around the mattress. The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
I reached out, grabbed the handles on the front of the bed unit and pulled hard, throwing my weight backwards to tip the balance on the springs holding the door shut. The bed started down, but it was much heavier than it had ever been. In fact, it was so heavy that it was pushing me down. So heavy that I couldn’t support it, or stop its descent.
Nothing made any sense to me as my body tipped over backwards, crumbling beneath the weight of three hundred pounds of wood and mattress. The next thing I remember is hearing The Lioness on the phone with 911 Emergency Services. The conversation at the beginning of this story is an approximation of what we both recall.
I was lying flat on my back with both legs and my left arm trapped under this piece of furniture. I could not sit up, or see the exact nature of my situation. I remember The Lioness putting some paper towels under my head. I was whoozy and almost sick to my stomach.
“Don’t move, the Paramedics are on the way.”
“I’ve gotta get out from under this thing.”
“It’s too heavy for me to lift. Hold still. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’ve gotta get out from under this thing.”
Looking back, I have a greater appreciation of the condition of the guy in that 127 Hours movie. The one where he is in the desert and the big rock falls on his arm, trapping him in a slot canyon until he cuts off his own arm in order to escape.
I yanked my left hand out from under the cabinet. Bad move. I tore cuts into the back of my hand in four or five places.
I took the paper towels from behind my head to absorb the blood on the back of my hand. Another bad move. The towels were already soaked full of blood from my head wound. This was rapidly turning into a scene from Carrie, plus I was getting blood ALL OVER OUR BRAND NEW HARDWOOD FLOOR.
I struggled to raise the corner of the cabinet. Perhaps I could slither out from under it.
“What are you doing?”
“I’ve gotta get out from under this thing.”
“Hold still. The Paramedics are on the way.”
“I need to get out. NOW.”
“I’m going to see if any of the neighbors are outside. I’ll be right back.”
The Lioness headed for the front door with our mobile phone in her hand. As it turned out, T was outside his house and he came running when The Lioness beckoned him for help. He raised the corner of the cabinet high enough that The Lioness was able to help me squirm out from under the “drawbridge” that had fallen on top of me.
I was in a state of shock at this point. I had a dull ache over my lower extremities, my ears were ringing, and my head felt like I had used it for a hammer. Wile E. Coyote has got nothing on me.
Now free from my trap, I got more fresh paper towels and started cleaning up my blood from the floor.
“Thank you, T. Thank you so much.”
“Are you crazy? Just sit and rest.”
“T’s right, stop cleaning the floor. Wait for the Paramedics to get here.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve got to get this blood cleaned up while it is still fresh.”
My wife was reaching the end of her patience and I was turning into Lady Macbeth. The Lioness took the paper towels away from me and I wandered out of the room and down the hallway, eventually sitting down on the floor in the living room. Moments later the Paramedics arrived and examined both of us. We ended up in the Emergency ward of our local hospital.
My wife had massive bruises on her back, hip, leg, and arm. At the time of the accident I did not realize that she was even in the room with me. Fortunately she was not trapped along with me or we would still be there today. X-rays showed that she suffered no damages to her spine.
I ended up with a concussion, 4 stitches in my head and a host of bruises, sprains, cuts, and contusions. The most sensitive injury that I sustained was a purple-striped bruise from hip-to-hip across my pubic bone where the curved top of the cabinet landed on me, pinning me to the floor.
A week later it took three of us to stand up the cabinet. As for the new floor, no damage. The bed in the wall-unit was a skosh out of alignment, and that was easily remedied.
I have had a lot of time to think about this accident and the state of my mind leading up to it. Simply stated: I was not paying attention to my actions. I was making present decisions based on past actions.
I spent a great deal of my 46 years in the Electrical Trade moving furniture so that I could do my job. I have moved file cabinets, bookcases, dressers, tables, hutches, couches, chairs, and appliances without any problems. Nothing ever tipped over, fell or suffered damages.
Why would there be a problem now? Well for one thing, the wall-unit that I was opening was not fastened to the wall at this particular time. For four years it had been, but it wasn’t now and I knew that for a fact. I failed to put that knowledge to use in real-time.
I made a decision, based on past performance, to take an action that had new parameters that needed to be considered. Opening that wall-bed was something that I have done on numerous occasions. Opening that wall-bed when it was not attached to the wall was something that I had never done before and a crucial fact that I overlooked as I went into an automatic behavior.
As I sat on the living room floor watching the Paramedics preparing to examine us I had a thought: I’m not the man that I think I used to be.
Since I retired two years ago my mind is full of enjoyable moments and fun times that I never had time for when I was working. Six weeks ago I learned the hard way that I have to pay more attention to what I am doing in the here-and-now, and not rely on what I used to do so easily back-in the-day.
Bad decisions may make good stories, but good decisions will result in a longer life. The ER doctor told me that if the wall-unit had landed about two inches to the side from where it did I would have severed an artery and bled to death right there on the floor.
Personally, I can do without anymore good stories. I have an entire catalog of past behaviors that I can use for research, if needed.