Dear readers, it may surprise you to learn that at times I can be stunningly useless at being a person. My epic tale begins at 5:20am on a Saturday.
Yes. On a Saturday, my brain likes to wake me an hour earlier than I would normally get up for work, refreshed and ready to go. Well, screw you, brain! I rolled over and resisted the urge to leap out of bed until my alarm went off at six.
Alright, I was still getting up earlier than I would for work, but that’s what you do when you’re having an ADVENTURE. The adventure prep was simple: shower, breakfast, dishes, check contents of bag, flail in a panic, make sure there’s no breakfast all over my face, DEPART.
I did all those things, readers, and also had time to stick a load of washing on and watch half of Britain’s Biggest Hoarders. So far, so high-functioning. The trouble is, I get massively paranoid about missing trains. I am happy to turn up to the station half an hour before my train is due to leave and sit on a cold, uncomfortable metal perch and wait. And still feel, even though I’m at the station and I can see the clock and it is telling me the time is still way before the departure time, that somehow I will fail to get on the train. I think it has to do with my need for a Plan (moreso, the need for said plan to actually unfold as planned).
Neatly dovetailed into this transport paranoia is a sudden inability to estimate how long it will take to get anywhere. I live a ten to fifteen minute walk from the station (time dependent on footwear, luggage, weather). I set out twenty five minutes before I the train time in the sunshine and flat shoes and carrying only a handbag. I didn’t even have a coat, hoping to minimise wind resistance. I was running late, actually; I’d planned to be out the door five to ten minutes earlier. I know how ridiculous this is, even as I’m writing it, but yes, I felt that I needed a good half an hour to do a ten minute journey.
This is because I needed to pick up my ticket from the machine and I am always terrified that there’ll be a huge queue, or some moron who is picking up tickets in advance for a journey he isn’t making for another week, and I’ll be hopping nervously in line behind them, watching the clock turn and turn and turn and get easily within eight minutes of the departure time. Just thinking about cutting it that close makes me feel anxious.
So, I’m on the way, and even though I do know that I will have plenty of time and that every time I have the same panic and still get to the station with ten to fifteen minutes to spare, I panicked. What does the body do in panic? Fight or flight reponse, readers, I hope you know where this is going.
I started to run. I was intending to Scout’s Pace for a bit, just to get a bit closer to my planned timeline (I was hoping to catch up to the parallel universe me who had set out on time). However, my graceful feline lope was cut off in its prime as I tripped and flew forwards. There was nothing to trip on. I’m just that feckless. So I flung my hands out and hadouken’ed the pavement. I actually slid, such was my momentum.
Well, that was embarrassing, I thought, pretending that I was not at all injured, and that tripping was somehow part of the plan. I got up, and immediately saw that I had a golf ball sized hole in the right knee of my jeans. Oh, and my palms were grazed and bleeding from where the heels of my hands had hit the ground first. But mainly I was annoyed at ripping my best jeans. Y’see, I was on my way to an ADVENTURE, by which I should explain I mean I was going to have lunch with my lovely friend. An epic quest, I’m sure you’ll agree.
So I dusted myself off and carried on running. Not only did I still have a train to catch, but now I’d delayed myself further by being so stupid as to fall down! I got into town and checked the time. I was two minutes from the station with fifteen minutes to spare. I allowed myself to use a cash machine and checked my hands. There was blood welling up in the main scrapes but I wasn’t dripping all over the place. Tell you what, though, they stung like hell.
In the station, to my horror, there were two foreign tourists using the ticket machine. One of them was consulting a piece of A4 paper. Oh, no, I thought, they’ve got a massive itinerary. I’ll never make it! (there were still twelve and a half whole minutes to spare at this point). Luckily they were already printing tickets and they were done within a minute of my starting a queue behind them. Now came the tricky part. I needed to reach into the pocket of my jeans to get my phone so I could see the reference number for the ticket, without brushing the harsh denim against my stinging, weeping palms.
Somehow, readers, I survived. I got my ticket and made it to the train. I found my seat and set about wondering how I was going to clean my wounds. I knew the conductor would be along fairly soon, and I wasn’t about to faint or bleed out, so I just found some tissue from my handbag and did a little recon swabbing. Only then did I think to check my knee. Obviously I knew my jeans had taken the brunt, but I assumed my knee was probably skinned or a little bit grazed. It didn’t hurt at all. I looked down. There was a stiff, dry patch of blood on my jeans. Not a spot or two, but a noticeable spread. Ah. I could see through the rip that my leg was a bit red.
Upon rolling up my jeans leg, I was greeted with slightly more than a graze. A wet papertowel would not soothe this savage beast. To be fair, it looked a lot worse than it was. The actual gouge is about the size of a thumbnail (I was going to say ‘was’, but I’m not Wolverine!) but the area of blood was a lot wider, where it had seeped out during my run. The centre was the colour of jam in a doughnut; thick, crimson and gently oozing. The dried and drying bloodstain around the edge was a delicate pink. I did what any sane person would do. I took pictures of my injuries on my phone, already thinking about writing this post.
Then I found more tissue and did the old spit-and-scrub to try and clean the edges as best I could. A lovely lady passenger asked if I was alright and I recounted my fall in the style of an Anglo-Saxon saga poem, just to make it sound a bit less embarrassing. The best part was, it still wasn’t even nine in the morning. I kept my jeans rolled up and kept dabbing.
The train moved off and after the usual announcements, the conductor came through. I asked if there was a first aid kit I could use, or even just a couple of wet wipes and a plaster, or something. The conductor asked if I had fallen in the station and I said no. With hindsight I could have lied and maybe got a bit more urgency from the rail staff, but a. that didn’t occur to me, b. even if it had, I’m far too honest about this sort of thing and c. I wasn’t really that injured.
My knee was really starting to hurt. I guess it’s true that you don’t always feel pain if you don’t notice you’re injured. I mean, losing a limb or something I think you wouldn’t be able to ignore, but a graze like mine that I hadn’t even thought about, that’s fairly standard. As the journey went on and I bumped my elbow on the window, I discovered that was grazed, too. Just a scrape. I got a wet wipe and a big plaster from the conductor and steeled myself to lift the thick lump of wrinkled skin on my knee to check for trapped grit etc. That part was actually pretty painless. I was expecting the agony of having an amputation stump cauterised, but on that score I was disappointed.
More passengers got on and expressed concern, and their own shame at not having wet wipes or plasters to give me. Faith in humanity (and British self-deprecation) restored. With my knee safely protected from prying eyes and jeans fluff, I settled in for the rest of my journey.
Now, I had been planning (if you saw my Tweet) to work on a WIP on the train. This story (Murder Express) is currently in hand-written form. Not only was I now jammed in on the train next to a nice old man (who didn’t have any tissue to offer me and he was very apologetic about it) with two still open wounds – I felt like I’d bothered the conductor enough and really it was my knee that was the problem – but holding a pen and writing while scuffing my palms on the paper did not appeal.
So I listened to Under Milk Wood instead.
I texted my lovely friend and asked him to bring medical supplies to the station, explaining my idiocy. I felt like I had ruined the whole day. Gone were all attempts at looking like I’d made an effort and like a real person. I stepped off the train feeling like a schoolchild who’d fallen in the playground. We fixed up my hands and went in search of better dressing for my knee, eventually settling for some of those massive square pads with sticky edges.
It was a nice day, once I’d been triaged. The sun was shining and we had coffee, then lunch, then spent half an hour in the SciFi-Fantasy section (they aren’t the same thing, dammit!) at Waterstone’s loudly discussing, recommending, denouncing and holding forth about various books and series until we thought we’d better either buy something or leave. So we bought, and we decided to go sit in the sun and read for a bit. Maybe get ice cream.
A lazy afternoon followed, with tea and cake, and then beer, and dinner, and then I got back on the train.
I then had another mini-adventure. I know! What more could happen in one day?! This one was a battle of wits. A nice man opposite me saw me poking my knee and changing the dressing (yes, in public on the train) and inquired after my injury. He, unfortunately for me, was speaking Doric, the Scots dialect of the North-East. We had a lovely conversation, I think, as I tried my best to understand what the hell he was saying. I caught one or two words per sentence and filled in what I could based on his facial expression and most likely question/response. Before things could go beyond polite passenger chit chat, he got off. If he’d started discussing the philosophy of Descartes or something, I’d have been in trouble.
I made it home without further incident, I’m sure you’ll be glad to know. My knee dried out nicely overnight and is now mostly brown and scabby. My palms are still stinging, because I can’t stop using my hands, but they’re scabbing up, too. Do you think I can get a day off, tomorrow? (We don’t get the end of May Bank Hol). I am hideously injured, after all.