A week ago today, I was driving south on Hwy 84 from Lubbock holding a bag of ice against my temple with my left hand and the steering wheel with my right. From time to time, I would steady the wheel with my right knee and reach down for a handful of Corn Nuts, my favorite stay-awake-while-driving snack. I was bound and determined to reach my destination no matter how much blood was shed.
An hour before.
I dressed carefully and thoughtfully before hauling my luggage, hanging clothes and show-and-tell items to the car. Yes. This was, indeed, the perfect long-time-no-see outfit. My Steinmart Lily Pulitzer Look Alike sweater with a Brooks Brothers crisp white shirt worn beneath - collar popped up - looked great with my pale yellow Chico's jeans. The time I spent searching YouTube for an adorable way to tie my pink and yellow scarf was well spent. The pearl necklace and studs added that "devil may care/preppy" touch that served as the icing on my I'm-so-happy-to-see-you-and-you-haven't-aged-a-bit-either ensemble.
I jumped in the car with a light and breezy heart. A GIRLS' WEEKEND awaited! After situating my phone and tuning in to my audiobook, I was off! But first, I made the ill-fated stop at the corner gas station. I only needed a half a tank. More importantly, I needed a large bag of stay-awake-while-driving Corn Nuts. I already had a large bag of Jolly Ranchers. Sweet. Salty. Sweet. Salty. For 5 hours of highway driving.
At the gas station I hopped out of my car and popped the gas nozzle into the Altima's gas tank. Then, I proceeded to take a giant step over the hose that separated me from the "payment method" side of the pump. From this point, I will switch over to the conversation I had with myself within the privacy of my own mind.
Ahhhh! The fresh morning air of Spring! Look at that sunshine!
I think that I'll get the gas pumping and then run in to get my Corn Nuts! I can pay for both inside!
I am an efficiency freak. I save steps, miles, and minutes using "strategery" that comes from a constant flow of situation analysis in my brain. Some people cure cancer. Some people save people from burning buildings. I busy myself by plotting the most efficient route to travel from my house to Hobby Lobby via the post office.
Oh, wait. It says here that I have to pay inside before pumping! How will I know how much gas I'm going to need? I'll have to walk all the way inside, give the attendant my card, come back to the pump, start the pump, and then go back in to get my Corn Nuts and pay. Well now, there's got to be a better way. Let. Me. See. Oh! I'll pay AT the pump! Then, I'll go in and get my Corn Nuts. Brilliant! I won't have to go in-out-in-out! Just in-out!
Turning back towards my car, I commenced to taking another giant step over the knee high gas hose. One foot over. Then, it happened. My left foot didn't quite make the leap. The toe of my left Skecher caught on the hose that was dangling like a knee high jump rope. I tried to steady myself by hopping on my right foot to regain my balance.
Yikes! I'm falling! I NEVER fall down! This must be what it feels like to be Mother. She's 87! I'm only 56! I'm too young to start having falls! Quick, grab the side of the car and try to save yourself!
I began to flail my arms in the general direction of the car.
This is really happening! I'm hopping and flailing and STILL FALLING! This is so embarrassing! I wonder who's driving by right now. Dang this flashy Steinmart Lily Pulitzer Look Alike sweater! I'm sure that every woman driving by is admiring my sweater and laughing at my hopping and flailing. WHOOOOOOOOOOOA! I'm going down! OOOOOOH NOOOOOO!
I toppled to the pavement landing first on my left knee, then on my left arm and finally came to rest by bonking my head on the gas pump cement platform.
Oh no! Oh no! I hit my head! Am I seeing double? [took a quick glance at the bottom of my car] Oh, good! There's just one of everything. Quick, get up! Get up!! People are watching! OK. Now, I'm standing. Nothing seems to be broken. Oh, man! I got my pale yellow Chico's jeans all dirty. I wonder how my head looks. I wonder if there's a knot. [felt around on my forehead] Feels OK, but oh, no! My hand is covered with blood! Quick get in the car! Get in the car! Don't cause a time-wasting ruckus! Grab a Kleenex to stop the bleeding!
I sat in the car assessing the situation as tears began to stream down my face.
I've looked forward to this Girls' Weekend for so long! Now, I can't go! I'm probably going to need stitches. I'm going to need stitches AND a CT scan. If the attendant sees me sitting here with blood running down my face, he's going to have to make me fill out some corporate documents explaining how I'm not tall enough to leap over a knee high gas hose. What if he's duty-bound to call 911?
I quickly started the car and eased towards home holding a Kleenex against the gash on my forehead.
Should I drive straight to the ER? I may be bleeding internally!! Nah! I'd have to wait for hours. I wonder if my doctor does stitches in his office. Calm down, Carolyn!! Just go home and survey the damage.
I began to cry in earnest. My ugly cry. My woe-is-me cry. I had left the house not 10 minutes before heading out of town towards a fun-filled weekend. Now I was pulling back into my garage and closing the door quickly so that no neighbor would see my war wounds.
Once inside, I studied the gash on my forehead with a magnifying mirror and then glanced up at the bathroom mirror and saw that my crisp, white collar was covered with blood. Oh, no! There were drops of blood on my Steinmart Lily Pulitzer Look Alike sweater! My tears flowed faster, and I began to hiccup. Then, I looked down and saw that there was a patch of blood seeping through the knee of my jeans. I began to wail.
I'm covered in blood, AND my I'm-so-happy-to-see-you-and-you-haven't-aged-a-bit-either ensemble had been compromised! My absolute most darling casual clothes are hanging in the car!
I had outfits for the 2 days we were to spend in Granberry accompanied by some contingency clothing. I couldn't dip into those clothes. That would have totally disrupted my weekend apparel plan. I hurried into my closet and came up with a suitable Plan B. Thirty minutes later, I had dried my tears, blown my nose, fixed my makeup and washed the blood out of my hair.
Back on the road, I checked my forehead in the vanity mirror on the visor of my car. My eyes sprung open wide with terror. The knot that had formed on my temple had shrunk. But, the veins in my forehead were bulging out blue and ropy like the top of an old woman's hand.
I'm having a stroke! There's a clot!! I'm going to black out and swerve into oncoming traffic!
I pulled off of the road and called one of my besties who also happens to be my doctor's wife. She talked me through a roadside "neuro exam" which greatly resembles a roadside sobriety test. I only thought that my Steinmart Lily Pulitzer Look Alike sweater called attention to my plight. No, standing on one foot with my eyes closed and my arms held out from my sides all alone on Hwy 84 - THAT will get passersby looking. With Lisa on speaker phone, it totally looked like I was also having a nice chat with myself.
Soon, sweet Lisa helped me calm down. "You sound pretty lucid, and you're standing on one foot OK. Put some ice on it. I'll bet you'll be fine."
So, I stopped at the next convenience store and explained to the clerk that I had fallen down at a gas station just a while ago and I needed some ice for my head. Without a word, she gathered up a plastic sack, held it under the ice dispenser on the coke machine until it had just enough ice in it and handed the sack back to me. "Have a good day," she said. "I'm trying. I'm really, really trying," I said.
The weekend was a blast! Sorority sisters with fun stories, shopping, games, and sweet memories. They made me forget all about the episode that I now refer to as "Falling Down at the Gas Station." I still haven't told my 87 year old mother, Meems, about my fall. She would definitely call 911 on my behalf. With her sweet little voice she would remind me of the time that she fell down, bumped her head, and had to have brain surgery. Apparently, she did not pass the "roadside neuro exam."