COLUMN: December 1, 2016

railings
Railings outside a supermarket
SOMETIMES it seems that I am engaged in a competition with myself to see if I can have an accident which is simultaneously unbelievable and unnecessary, and yet could only happen to me.

One contender is the time I bruised my coccyx while attempting to assist a fellow passenger’s exit from my bus. I stood up to let her out just as the bus went over a humpback bridge, was knocked off my feet, and sat down on the floor unexpectedly and forcefully.

Another is the time I attempted to ride a junior motorcycle at a fair in Welshpool. As I pulled back on the throttle, the bike sped out from between my legs. In a panic, I maintained my grip on the handlebars, increasing acceleration, until the bike pulled me through the air and into the crash barrier.

Up to now, the unquestioned leading contender is the occasion on which I was in Matalan and distracted by my phone, which meant that I did not see the oncoming woman in the mobility scooter, who crashed into me, knocking me into a spinner rack of bras.

However I was not physically injured in that altercation with an electric vehicle. I was a little scuffed, yes, and my sleeve became attached to a hook, and I now have an aversion to doilies, but the only thing that was hurt was the last few dregs of my pride.

You don’t have to have a PhD in narrative studies to realise that this is leading up to the news that I have a new contender for the top spot.

I was going to visit my brother in hospital, but I could not turn up empty handed. I needed to buy a get well soon card.

I should say at this point that I am not sure about get well soon cards as a concept. They seem like an added pressure on people who are already struggling. “Stop malingering, you lazy article. Get well soon. Don’t stretch it out, I’m on a clock.”

But the alternative was to look as if I were totally OK with him not being well, and so a get well soon card was the lesser of two evils.
I went to the big supermarket near the stop where I would catch the hospital bus. This supermarket has railings running around its car park, the official entrance was about 100 metres away, and I had six minutes to buy the card and catch the bus…

I went rogue, readers. I climbed the railings like a person who is not nearly halfway to 90 years old. I swung my leg over and…

Nothing bad happened. I can climb railings. I am not a complete imbecile. Not everything I do goes wrong.

I rushed across the car park and into the supermarket. There was a knot of people bimbling about the section of the card rack appropriate to my needs.

Every time I tried to grab a card, one of the people would move in front of me, as they pondered which of the mass-produced cards before them most accurately reflected their complex feelings and relationship histories.

It became infuriating. Time was ticking by. In the end I thrust my hand between a man’s legs – not intentionally, he moved at the last moment – and yanked a card from the rack. It would have to do.

I bought it and raced out of the supermarket. My bus was due in 90 seconds, and, knowing my luck, it would be on time for the first time ever. I rushed back across the car park towards the railings.

I clambered over them, practised, catlike even, dropped to the other side…

And I cut my face on the get well soon card.

I am not even sure how it happened. All I know is that paper cuts really hurt. I was actually bleeding.

It is not just that it hurt, but it was ridiculous. Paper is so unthreatening that the only reason “paperweight” isn’t the lowest weight in boxing is because stationers complained it would be confusing.

How can you be hurt by paper? It’s like being hurt by a bar of Milky Way, or the breath that curls from your mouth on a cold day.

And yet, there I was, bleeding from my actual face as I clambered onto the bus.

“Are you all right, lad,” said the bus driver. “What happened?”

“Cut myself shaving,” I said. The truth was too unbelievable.

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