A [short] fall through darkness

There are dangerous and uncharted places in the world where we can get inextricably stuck.  They’re closer than you might imagine.

I did a conference call from my car yesterday and the cap from a pen I’ve come to appreciate fell between the driver’s seat and the center console.  Right in the middle of the gap, in the rut of the track for the seat itself, right where you don’t want it.  I reached in to get it but whatever bone in my wrist that folded to get my arm down there unfolded and refused to let me out.  It was such a stupid event, but there I was in remote part of a parking lot, prone over the driver’s seat, and stuck.

It does not take long for our brains to go primal levels of Stuck Animal.  The three minutes I spent manipulating the seat to try and free myself provided me with an acute insight into the mindset that can lead to someone cutting off their own arm to get free.  Inexplicably, a Simpson’s episode where Homer gets his arm caught in two vending machines flashed through my mind and I actually stopped to check whether I was stuck because I was holding on stubbornly to the pen cap.


Visions of having to call the cops, having the fire department walk me through the psychological process of breaking my own arm or- worse- removing the driver’s side seat flashed through my mind.

It hurt. But I got out.  I was exhilarated to be free. I was adrenal and so relieved that it was actually difficult to drive afterwards. Sitting in the driver’s seat trying to calm down I was reminded of something similar that happened years ago when my husband and I were still working on getting our sleep patterns in sync.

Getting to bed on time for me was about two hours later than his time.  As he was sensitive to both light and sound when asleep, this often meant I crept to bed from the den of our house in the pitch black.  Usually this was harmless enough, but one evening I fell sideways over a vacuum cleaner onto the bathroom floor.  For a brief second, probably an actual nanosecond- with no visual cues to convince me otherwise- I believe I felt what it must be like to sky dive.  I landed on the floor with my head nearly in the litter box, but the adrenaline released by the experience and the feeling of approaching terminal velocity stuck with me well into the next day.

Relaying the experience was nearly impossible.  “Oh?” people would say, “You briefly experienced free fall during a tumble over a vacuum cleaner?” but it was clearly lost on them that I had actually stepped through the looking glass.  My luck went only slightly better telling the story of getting stuck in the gap.

There’s a quote from the book Appointment in Samara which reads, “It is with the lose ends of life that men hang themselves.”  These mundane accidents – where we’re nowhere close to death but where our ordinary perceptions of safety have abandoned us – pull the wool from our eyes, revealing fears and thrills we had no idea were as close at hand as to be just to the right of the steering wheel.

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