Saturday, February 11, 2012

Burns and Scrapes

In early December I was driving home from work at the Bethesda Gallery along Wisconsin Avenue, since the weather was horrible (pouring rain) and I guessed that the beltway would be a mass of stalled, soggy traffic, interpolated with occasional accidents.  As I drew abreast of the cathedral, I glanced up to see whether the towers had been repaired from the summer earthquake.  I glanced back down at the road in time to see that the car immediately in front of me had stopped, and only a car-length remained between its rear bumper and my front one.  I hit the brakes, which would have been entirely effective had the road been dry¸ given that I was going less than 10 MPH.  Unfortunately, it was not, and with a light thump, my battle-scarred Honda slid disgracefully into the back of the brand-new black Lexus.  The two of us pulled over to the curb and exited our cars.  The driver of the other car was a round, tall middle-aged man who unfurled a gargantuan golf umbrella.  I was so nervous I couldn't find my purse, much less anything to protect me from the rain.  I couldn’t see any damage to my bug-infused bumper, and we both looked anxiously at his, where water beaded expensively on the otherwise spotless surface.  There was a single, tiny round mark, where one of the two bolts securing my front license plate had punched into the plastic. 

I wanted to call the police, but he objected to this, asking “What are you afraid of?”  Well, him, to be honest.  Anyone who can afford to drive a car of that make, model and year in DC might well be someone used to throwing his weight around legally, and I haven’t the financial or emotional resources to respond adequately.  I’d never left the scene of an accident having just exchanged contact information, without a police report.  In fact, all I could think in my shaky state was, “Daddy’s dead and I don’t have anyone to ask for advice!”  Even in the middle of rush-hour traffic in a large city, I felt profoundly alone and abandoned.  

God hadn’t left, me, though—the other driver was not ungracious, he didn’t call me any names or use abusive language, although I could tell he was not thrilled with the circumstances.  He took a photograph of the indignity with his iphone and emailed it to me on the spot, and then we got back into our vehicles and continued on our way (it occurred to me that the DC police aren't great about responding to real emergencies, much less traffic incidents where there were no injuries and little perceivable property damage)—I burst into tears the moment I was back in the car, and shook for the next half-hour, convinced that the Lexus dealer, or whatever body shop to which he took the car for an estimate would try to sell him an entirely new bumper, instead of simply patching the 8mm mark. 

When I got home, I noticed that the name of the fellow and the email address marked him as an upper-echelon employee of one of the largest DC area radio stations, which, ironically, has the tagline “Traffic and Weather together.”  I calmed down and wrote him a note thanking him (in a diplomatic way) for not being a jerk about the event, and he responded that he would see to the repair soon.

I waited six weeks, and then emailed him again, asking if he’d gotten around to seeing to the bumper repair.  He responded that he’d not had the time, and didn’t think he was going to, and that “this one was on him.”  I am so grateful to have run into him, rather than someone less forgiving!  And happy that he was kind, as I have since discovered that we have mutual acquaintances (DC does have a small-town feel sometimes), and the story makes for a more satisfactory ending when it’s a tale of unexpected introduction to a decent soul rather than of a notorious evening I encountered yet another DC powermonster.

Injuries great and small to others and their possessions aside, the last week I must have been subconsciously determined to wreak damage on myself alone.  I have a large burn mark where I somehow cooked a strip of my right arm on the edge of my iron, and this morning, while I was doing last-minute setup for Anita’s and my jewelry show (which turned out quite successfully), I executed one of the more boneheaded moves of my long and varied career of inadvertent self-damage.  I was melting a bowlful of semi-sweet chocolate in the microwave (I did have the foresight to set it on half power, but there my wits left me), and when I took it out, there was a little spot that was smoking.  Not wanting the burnt part to ruin the rest of the bowlful, I grabbed a spoon, and scooped the smoking lump out.  Into my hand.

There’s an old saying that goes, “There’s no smoke without fire,” and I can testify to the truth of this.  And burning chocolate is not something that should be carried in the palm of one’s hand.  Nor does dumping the stuff into the other hand help.  Lava-hot chocolate doesn’t “dump” well—part stays stuck to its former container, while the main fiery lump settles into the new.  I spent perhaps ten minutes cradling both my hands under cold running water, praying that I wouldn’t develop Aztec stigmata.  And thinking “How old am I?  And how stupid am I?”

There’s little superficial evidence of my burns—only some reddening between the calluses on my palms—but my hands are very tender, and I won’t be picking up anything hotter than room temperature for a while without feeling it acutely.  On the bright side, I’d already made several dozen cookies from scratch and an entire pan of baklava before I cooked my palms, so there is enough comfort food in the house.  And the strawberries tasted wonderful dipped in the chocolate...  I can’t use the full-body elliptical machine at the gym until I can stand the friction on the hand-grips, though, so it looks like I’ll be riding the exercise bike for the next week.  And ruminating on my lack of common sense.

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