Friday morning, I rolled out of bed a couple of minutes before the alarm was scheduled to go off and hied myself to the bathroom for the morning ablutions. This is less simple than it sounds, if only because my bedroom and the single bathroom are fairly far apart, a condition not uncommon in small mid-century houses. Then again, it presents no particular problems otherwise, and after years of practice, I can get myself from still snoring to backing out of the driveway in no more than 30 minutes.

Usually. This day would start out differently. I knew things were going to be happening around the house in my absence: I'd spoken with a tree tech the day before — the chap you'll remember as Chainsaw Guy from the day of that ice storm — and he and a crew of two were going to convert my back yard from a resting place for random pieces of dead wood (I've had three trees perish in the last few years) to something more closely resembling what a back yard ought to look like. (Four weeks from now, he has offered to come in and disassemble my old metal shed, having been reassured that its continued existence is of no interest to me; I'd have had it done simultaneously with the yard work, but that was more of a budget-stretcher than I could comfortably afford that day.) I'm pretty sure I wasn't thinking about that, though, when the porcelain seemed to give way under me and I found myself flat on my back in the bathtub.

Let's see. Nothing hurting, particularly; at least, no more so than usual. Nothing bleeding, nothing noticeably dislocated. (There is, perhaps, an advantage to carrying a few extra pounds.) Still, a problem presented itself: how do I get out of here? Pretty much every available surface is wet and slippery, and I need all the leverage I can get. Tugging on the shower curtain is out: at best, I'd pull the bar on which it's mounted out of one wall, maybe two. The saving grace here: the tub is enclosed on only two sides. The far end has its own wall and a row of tiles atop it.

And so it was that I managed to grab hold of the far end, spin a very slow 90 degrees, and pull myself up to a sitting position on the side; I then grabbed at the base of the painted-metal windowsill, and got myself standing again. No harm, no foul.

Period of relief: approximately four seconds. Because my next thought was "Suppose I'd come down on my head? I'd be lying here for days before anyone noticed." I seem to be pretty adept at protecting the ol' brain pan — growing up in the Duck and Cover days had its redeeming social value — but I can't always count on myself to have this much presence of mind, especially as I get older and the operating system starts to act up on a regular basis. Are there precautionary steps I can take? Let's see: bring a cell phone with me into the bathroom? Not practical, and it likely wouldn't survive a fall. Get one of those damn warning-alert pendants? I'd probably strangle on the cord. Eventually I decided I would go look for some sort of bathtub mat with less of a slippery surface.

The first door south of the bathroom has a full-length mirror attached. I usually don't pay much attention to it, because — well, hell, I know what I look like. But somehow I seemed smaller, as though this incident had knocked more than the breath out of me. I winced. I remembered Christmas night in 2006, the night before my father died, the night he looked so small and frail, shivering in a cold nobody else could feel. And I remembered how my brother had lost about 160 pounds in the last two years of his life, as one disease after another laid waste to what was once a linebacker body.

I spun around, slowly, looking for telltale bruises and such. Didn't find any. However, my left shoulder was starting to hurt a bit. And that feeling of smallness returned, a little less fraught with fear this time; I am, after all, 89 pounds lighter than I was when I had a knee operation a decade ago. Taking all that weight off the knees arguably hasn't made them feel much better, though it may be that they just don't feel as bad as they would have had I continued to carry it around. It's all in one's frame of reference.

The furnace, right behind me, began to whir, reminding me that it was still winter. I looked at my feet, obviously bare and slightly damp, and a weird sensation came over me. Most of the time at home alone I wear a pair of sport sandals and my watch, and nothing else. I'll pass by that mirror several times a day and I won't think anything of it. But just then, lacking either of those accessories, I felt, well, naked. It was an odd sensation for someone who'd been pantless for the last thirteen hours. Maybe I could wear old shoes in the shower? Not a good idea.

Routine has its ways of forcing you to comply, and I duly went through the rest of the morning ritual. Elapsed time from turning off alarm one minute early to backing out of the driveway: 31 minutes. The rest of the day would not be so bad, though writing a large check to Chainsaw Guy took a lot out of me, so to speak.

The Vent

  1 February 2016

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 Copyright © 2016 by Charles G. Hill