February 2010 Archives

            I've never had much patience with folks who spent most of their time monitoring every little physical and emotional twinge or fluctuation they felt. However, there must be something about having your long- and short-term plans abruptly cancelled and your previously fixed (some might say "rigid") routine completely shattered that inclines you to introspection. Since my February 1 lesson in what even a relatively slow-moving motor vehicle can do to flesh, bone and sinew, I have become far more acutely aware of how complicated and demanding many of the supposedly simple things in life really are. For example, when a man is in the bathroom, neither his razor, nor his toothbrush, nor his nose-hair pluckers, nor any anything else he's holding works nearly as reliably when he's standing on one foot.

Likewise, even when you're reasonably fit, a staircase that normally presents no challenge at all is suddenly transformed into Pike's Peak if you're trying to slide up it backward on your butt. Beyond that, even if you do most of your work seated on said fundament, keeping your foot elevated at all times is damn hard, especially if even your normal flexibility makes putting your feet higher than your knees--much less your heart--a monumental achievement.

In general, being even partially incapacitated shifts every aspect of your daily regimen into ultra-slow motion. Distressed at the prospect of a protracted bout with the shower, I became an especially impatient patient yesterday morning until the longsuffering Ms. O.B. (who makes Mother Theresa seem quite self-centered by comparison) finally got fed up and advised me to "STFU or I'll take your walker away!" Needless to say, this was a bit unnerving for a guy who had at least hoped to be immune to such a threat until "assisted living" was his only alternative. Given what she's had to put up with, Ms. O.B. was more than justified in talking a little trash to her old man. I cleaned up my act immediately. I promise you that my recent misfortune serves only to remind me how lucky I am to have spent two-thirds of my life with Ms. O.B. and to have the opportunity to see that arrangement continue, provided I can get a little better at dodging distracted motorists.

Meanwhile, I have been extremely impressed not only by the skill of the professional caregivers I have encountered to date but by their compassion and patience. When you're about to take a painful and humiliating tumble in the course of demonstrating to a large, crowded waiting room that you have not yet mastered the fine art of crutch management--and, from the looks of it,  like as not never will--there's something really special about hearing, "You just sit right there till I can get you a wheelchair, Baby!" While I truly believe that dedicated health professionals are bonafide candidates for sainthood, I can't help but think back to the days of my youth when most of the care anyone in the aged or infirm demographic ever got was provided by their own families. When our grandparents reached that stage, "rest homes" were simply beyond the pale, if not financially, then morally, for most members of my parents' generation. The sacrifices of career, leisure, privacy, and plain old body and spirit that my folks and many others made in order to take their folks into their own homes and care for them for extended periods are disturbing enough for members of my generation to recall, and I feel distressingly certain, that kind of sacrifice is well beyond anything that most of today's children could imagine or might be willing to entertain.

Although I'm extremely fortunate to receive such first-rate professional and private attention, an item in today's paper definitely tells me where we dog-ass old profs stand in the grand scheme of things. While there has been no progress whatsoever in tracking down the person whose vehicle crushed my ankle and cracked my noggin just two weeks ago, without even a second glance and from a mile away, the local authorities could identify a guy who nicked somebody's fender two years ago. Realistically, the best shot at nabbing my assailant might be to put the entirely plausible word out that although she didn't quite get the job done, she's up for a public service award based on a damn fine effort.

All seriousness aside, I have been blessed with many expressions of concern as well as numerous get-well gifts. I'm grateful for them, of course, but if the gifts you receive reflect perceptions of what you're about; then I guess it says something that most of my bounty has been in the form of beverages not available for legal purchase on the Sabbath in these parts. If there's an upside here, it's that all of this firewater has been extremely high end. No "Natty Light" or "Mad Dog" for the ol' Bloviator. Nossiree! Come to think of it, trying to do justice to the generosity of my friends may be partly responsible for my recent lapses into introspection. Don't worry though, if you are in these parts and stop by, I'll pour you the best I've got left, and I promise not to talk about myself, once I've shown you my X-rays, of course.

"I just can't wait to get on the road again."

The Ol' Bloviator has been running for thirty-five years. (Here, "running" refers to the literal act of physically dragging one's body over several miles of the earth's surface and not to the figurative flight from reality, responsibility, and reason that has engaged the tormented O.B. ever since he was knee-high to the proverbial duck.) He actually  began running in an effort to hold down his weight, and by golly, he has. The scale currently shows our hero's displacement at about sixty pounds lower than it was when he was handed a diploma an unceremoniously shown the door of his high school back  in 1965.

For roughly ten years of his running career, the O.B. actually participated in road races of various lengths.  Built neither for comfort or speed, he tended to show up better in longer races, such as half and full marathons, where durability and a willingness to tolerate all manner of physical suffering counted for more than one's capacity for acceleration over the first 100 meters. In the course of training for and actually completing marathons, the O.B. has gotten at least a couple of sub-zero twenty milers (from his Iowa period) under his belt as well as a great many monsoonal runs of equal length. Once upon a time, when trained to his absolute prime, the O.B. managed to complete a marathon along the shores of Lake Superior in just a few seconds under three hours. Though they represented the only even marginally  noteworthy athletic achievement of his life, these were not exactly world class numbers, to be sure. Yet if the O.B represented no great threat to break the sound barrier, he at  managed to log  thousands of  miles of training and racing without inflicting major musculo-skeletal mayhem on himself. He has encountered numerous threats to his physical well being in all these years on the road, of course, including a couple of plugs excised from his rear end by unsupervised canines who clearly saw something they didn't like in the way he moved himself from point A to point B. There were also near-misses with lightning, rednecks in pick-up trucks, coeds in Beamers, and Hell's Angels wannabes. A couple of incidents actually required the O.B. to execute some desperate dodging maneuvers or fling himself into the ditch, etc. However, for all these years of pounding the pavement in all kinds of places under all kinds of conditions, there had never been a direct fender-meets-flesh-with-predictable-results encounter. Until this past Monday morning that is, when the driver of  a standing vehicle suddenly decided to make it  a moving vehicle just as the O.B. and one of his running buddies concluded that the operator of said motorcar had espied us and made a conscious decision to allow us to pass unmolested in our folly . (This is a cardinal rule for runners who plan to survive the potentially mean streets of any city. Try to make eye contact with a driver who is about to have you in his or her sights and if you can't or have any doubts whatsoever about the driver's intent, slam on your own brakes so hard that your sneakers smoke.)

In this case, since the vehicle in question had stayed put despite having both a clean shot at turning into the main thoroughfare and an unobstructed view of our approach, we determined that we might proceed with caution in front of the car. Just as we reached the point of no return, however, to our great dismay, the driver suddenly opted to get a move on. My running partner was about a stride ahead of me ( Yeah,I know, "Who ain't?") but positioned about midway back, and he threw out his arms to sort of bounce off the vehicle even as he was starting to yell like all getout. At that point, I thought--and damned sure hoped--the driver would stop because, try as I did so desperately, I knew there was no way that I could.  Yet, like a homicidal maniac on a grisly mission of death, she plowed right ahead, turning ever toward me as she ran squarely over my right ankle. I actually didn't have time to interpret the ensuing "CRUNCH!!" because the combination of my own momentum and her acceleration toward me produced a most unfortunate collision with her left front fender , which, with my ankle still pinned under her tire, propelled the rest of me  almost horizontally in the direction whence I came and left me  lying flat on my back on the pavement, where, luckily, the major force of impact was absorbed by the relatively non-critical zone that is the back of my head. Veteran runners will understand immediately  that even in that period of seemingly decelerated motion that always accompanies such traumatic events, on my way down, I was less worried about my brain  getting its first direct exposure to  daylight (or at least dawn) than about the chilling prospect that I might be forbidden to run the next morning.

            No one willing to make such a disclosure would ever dare dispute the old contention that "the Good Lord looks after fools and children." Assuming that no indication of the category where I belong is necessary, let's just say that the fact that my running companions include two world-class physicians certainly affirms the general contention that somebody or something was definitely looking out for me that day. Having somebody there with the credentials to run polite interference with very well-intentioned good Samaritans (of whom a gratifying number actually materialized) until the meat wagon made it to the scene was very important. The crew of said wagon were likewise surely God-sent, and I sensed I  was in good hands from there on out, as I, in fact,  I most assuredly was.

            The most disturbing occurence at the scene by far was the behavior of the driver who had knocked me cranium over keister in the first place. After apologizing and offering to drive me to the hospital--an offer that my physician buddies said I must decline because I needed services only an ambulance crew could provide--she headed off for parts unknown before the local constabulary had made it to the scene. This is my first and hopefully my last experience with this sort of thing, but I always thought hit-and-run drivers generally hit and, well, ran, without fooling with the niceties of an apology and the proffer of a ride to the hospital. Whether this is a new M.O. for hit'n runners remains to be seen, but according to the guardians of the law, stopping long enough to show your mama raised you to be polite even if she didn't teach you how to drive worth a damn counts for naught. Leaving the scene of an accident, especially where injuries have been sustained, is an offense not mitigated by a show of good manners.

            Meanwhile, after a couple of stiff shots of Dilaudid in the ER, I didn't particularly care that my ankle had been fractured in three places and that my convalescence in a cast and off the streets was likely to be a six-week process. When the Dilaudid euphoria began to fade, the Percocet kept the throbbing from my swollen leg at least partially at bay, but nothing took up the slack in making the prospect of six weeks of sedentary confinement seem any less bleak. There has been much discussion and debate over the last three decades or so about the nature or even the existence of the proverbial "runner's high." I'm not talking about the huge endorphin rush that I know for a fact follows a crisp twenty-miler. I'm more concerned about the much less dramatic but still addictive feeling of reaffirmation and confidence that I always take away my daily run. It may well be all downhill from there, but at least I'll know that I registered at least one solid accomplishment that day.

In  addition to this subtle little emotional buzz, I have to admit that I'll also miss the camaraderie that binds me to the fellow obessives who convene each weekday morning at 6:30 a.m. and Saturdays at 7:30 a.m.  for yet another session of merciless jibes, shameless gossip, out-and-out lies, oft-recycled anecdotes, and utterly juvenile attempts at humor which, by the way, begins either at the start or end or somewhere in the middle of a brisk run.

            All of the guys had checked on me within a couple of hours of my admission to the emergency room on Monday, but one of them made it a point to remind  me that, technically, I hadn't actually completed the morning run. In another couple of days, there will be emails and phone calls suggesting that the word is out that I've really started "porking-up" since I "quit" running. I wouldn't have it any other way, of course. People are often eager to attribute an individual's troubles to "running with the wrong crowd." In this case, although I didn't really need additional affirmation, my recent misfortune simply reminded me that I've definitely been running with the right one.

P.S. It's always frightening when someone else is relating your experience to a broad audience with only second-hand information at their disposal. Please note, however, the confidence exuded by those who are energetically interpreting it third hand. 


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