Monday, June 9, 2008

Murphy's Law was written by "Acme"

For Mr. Armstrong...because those who fall should never feel alone. :)

When I was a kid, Dad would often pause to watch Saturday morning cartoons with me, especially if it was a Roadrunner cartoon. At the time, I thought it was because Dad believed children were like roadrunners…moving at high speed and making annoying noises. Dad always pulled for the Coyote, even as his children gazed at him as if he were clueless. EVERYONE knew the Coyote wouldn’t just lose, he’d also get handed the old “Acme” TNT stick or find himself falling off a cliff. The always silent Coyote, [well, except for one episode where he was allowed to speak and it freaked kids out] was persistent nonetheless. As an adult, I finally got it. The Roadrunner was “Life” and the Coyote was “Every Man”, trying earnestly to avoid pitfalls only to find himself landing face first. I have a stone plaque in my office of Wile E. Coyote, perched on a cliff’s edge, huge boulder at the ready to flatten the Roadrunner. And yet I know the cliff beneath him will crumble, sending him whistling head first to a canyon floor to land with a “Poof!”. And as he sits up, dazed and confused, the boulder will land on him for good measure.

In everyone’s life comes a Wile E. Coyote moment. I had mine two weeks ago. There was no cliff, but there was a pratfall resulting in that familiar dazed expression of Coyote stupidity. Because when the stupidity is of your own creation, it hurts twice as much.

In a nutshell, a treadmill had been donated and it was my task to render it safe. Upon delivery, the man plugged it in, gasped and stepped back. The machine was set on “this speed too fast for Olympic Track Stars”. I thanked him and unplugged it while laughing at how something that fast would sling 5’1” me into the opposite wall.

When everyone was gone, I went back for a second look. Eyeballing the plug to ensure it hadn’t snuck back into the socket, I tried to examine a control panel which the delivery man had noted came sans batteries. Unfortunately at my height, on the floor inspections don’t work. The safety handlebars run from the front to most of the back and I couldn’t see over them. Glancing once more at the plug lying on the floor, I stepped on the treadmill and installed new batteries. Nothing. I tried again, thinking perhaps I’d put one in backwards. Same result. I stepped off the treadmill, deciding perhaps it was a combination of batteries and electricity which ran the controls. As soon as I plugged it in, the demon sped back to life. I eased past the unrelenting squeal of rubber moving too quickly and tried to peer over the handlebars. Couldn’t see a thing. I tried turning the speed control knob, only to discover it was stuck. With a sigh, I unplugged the demon again.

Somewhere in the process of all this plugging and unplugging, I had a cartoon moment. You know the kind…where you do something backwards, then pay for it dearly? I stepped on the treadmill…the better to see the control panel, My Dear. Messed with the batteries, then slammed the panel back in place in frustration. Frustration is a bad thing, boys and girls. It makes the other hand slide into the ON button.

If there is anything worse than being caught off guard in a non-walking to running-for-your-life position, it’s accidentally hitting the ON button when your feet are splayed at an awkward angle. As soon as my feeble brain realized what had happened, my feet were flying out from under me in separate directions. Instantly I discovered the element of surprise renders the rational portion of your brain useless. Well… that’s my story and I‘m sticking to it. Why else would my hands have reached out to grab the handlebars for dear life in an effort to hold on? Had I simply let go, I would’ve been embarrassed but hit the floor in a timely manner. Less bruising that way.

But no, not me. Some primal preservation instinct yelled at me to just hold on until things were under control. The side of my brain housing my sense of humor laughed hysterically, ”Never gonna happen!”. I tried to “help”. I only threw myself further off balance. Imagine if you will, a very short woman, one arm strangling the air in a fruitless attempt to hit the OFF button physically beyond her reach while the rest of her body goes south. It was just a matter of time before the Wile E. Coyote syndrome kicked in. Took about three seconds if I recall correctly. This is one of those times where you don’t want your world to slow down and enable you to recall each detail. Yet mine did. In living, cartoon color.

My feeble attempt to stand was utterly useless. In my new, really, really unbalanced state, my right foot lost all touch with the evil black tread beneath it. And yet my hands refused to let go. This internal wrestling match resulted in me being slammed, right shin first, into the back end of the handlebar…located in the rear to allow you to safely get on/off the treadmill. I actually saw stars for a moment before my right hand drew back in surprise. Yep. Left shin’s turn. I’d previously twisted that knee and had just gotten it back in working order. This was going to hurt. I tried to protect it. Wrong move.

My left hand slid down the handlebar until my elbow hit the treadmill. My left knee slammed sideways into the handlebar’s end. My feeble effort to push myself away only resulted in indoor road rash to my left arm before I fell backwards to the floor. Finally. There was no “poof!” No, in view of my Mom’s horror at her mother’s use of the word “shit”, instead I yelled “shite!” at the top of my lungs. No one was there. And besides, Mom’s the one who only counts her Irish genes. It appeared fitting.

I lay on the floor, parts of me throbbing that I was unaware could do so. As I slowly inventoried what worked and what might not, the devil machine kept screaming. It reminded me that a boulder always lands on the Coyote just when he thinks the worst is over. With my last ounce of strength, I reached out and jerked the cord out of the wall. Once it was silenced, I was able to think again. The first thing I did was look to see if the words “Acme” were written on the treadmill.

Unable to want defeat added to humiliation, I limped over and plugged the machine in. Hobbling to the other side I used my last ounce of self respect and wrestled the control down to the lowest possible speed. Then I unplugged it. I would’ve done a victory dance but limping and whimpering are not exactly festive.

The next morning I had the most colorful set of bruises known to mankind. So colorful, in fact, I could’ve been a cartoon. If I choose to walk for my health, I’ll do it on terra firma…and take my chance with boulders.

1 comment:

Ken Armstrong said...

Ha! :)

Very well told, I don't feel quite so alone now. We can console ourselves that we are two highly intelligent and capable people who had a singular moment of stupidity... or two.