Posted by Jenn Thorson at 7:45 AM Labels: being a klutz, hydroplaning, jenn gets injured, slip-n-slide
Cats and dogs... The rain was coming down like cats, dogs and guinea pigs for good measure. (Nothing can output liquid like a guinea pig with an ambition.)
It was spring, in college, and I was on my way to an evening screenwriting class with a friend we'll call "Annie."
We leapt through the poodles and Persians, Annie and I-- umbrella-less and carefree. Proving once more that higher education and good sense don't necessarily go hand-in-hand. Or even live in the same neighborhood.
In fact, most of the time, good sense lived a few miles away and had to take the bus to catch up.
And it didn't have exact change.
The dorm lights this night reflected gold on the slick sidewalks of the campus. And in spite of Pittsburgh's reputation as one of the U.S.'s most rainy cities, Annie and I were still somehow surprised by the Noah-like flood conditions. (The cats and dogs were now coming down in twos.)
We were drenched in an instant.
Hair streaming in our faces, jackets plastered to our arms, the light at the corner was about to go green. And that's when I figured, if I gave it some effort, I could make it.
In my black flat shoes, I put on a burst of speed, leaving Annie soaked and blinking behind me. Yes, I sprinted, laughing as the rain slapped me in the face, and I made one great enthusiastic leap over the flowing gutters onto the sidewalk and...
That's when the world went sideways.
Physics experts would undoubtedly speak of things like speed and weight and slope and energy and friction.
I can only speak about the great whooshing sound as my feet sought traction-- and found none-- sending a shoe up and left, my bag off and right, and toes liberated from their confines and skyward.
That's when I began to make some serious distance. Because as the rain coursed off the curb and into the street, I shot up the incline in the entirely opposite direction, along with a roaring a gush of water. Warm and frothing in my wake, I body-surfed clear to the steps of Warner Hall in my own impromptu Slip-n-Slide.
By this time, the light had changed and from Annie's vantage point on the other side of the street, I was roadkill. Which would probably bum my parents out a little when she told them.
Later, she would recount tales of the sight of me, running, gliding, and accessories flying like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.
But when she got to me, I was apparently still laughing. It had been like the best water-flue ride our amusement parks had to offer. I didn't even mind giving the blooper reel moment to all the cars driving by.
Once you've publicly hydroplaned, one does not speak of pride.
I do remember Annie's face peering down on me, pale, drawn, her glasses speckled with rain. "Are you all right?" she asked, breathlessly.
"That was fun!" I told her, in fits of hysterics.
Annie wasn't finding the fun herself this moment. But then she'd just made memorial service plans for me a moment or so earlier. So it was hard to switch gears.
Well, Annie grabbed my bag, and I peeled myself off the sidewalk and tracked down my shoe. The current had swept it into the gutter and was making good time toward the drain.
That's when I noticed I'd taken a large chunk out of the side of my foot.
Annie and I went to class, anyway, because, well-- I grew up with a father who felt any injury or illness could be cured by "doing a few squat thrusts." Pulled your back out? Do some squat thrusts. Have pneumonia? Do some squat thrusts.
I have no barometer for personal mercy.
And so we sat there in class and dripped, and I bled, and the professor-- having not seen anything so grotesque since we'd watched the torture scene in Marathon Man only the class before-- sent one of my classmates for some Band-Aids for me.
Funny, but I still recall the moment fondly. My foot hurt for weeks and seeped, and there was a big knob on the side of it for several years.
But the sound of the roaring water, the rush, the exhilaration...There's just nothing like the little surprises that step in, pants you, tickle your sides, and remind you you're alive.