Last week we said that there are three kinds of rare events that leave behind unforgettable memories. The second kind leaves no doubt that we either just did something very smart or very dumb.
A long while back I shared when as a young teen I took a shortcut across the end of a narrow canyon, crabbing my way across a narrow ledge and holding onto a second one just above eye level. Suddenly a snake was staring me in the face. With no thought as to if I was getting across the canyon I let go. I remember telling myself as I fell that letting go was not clever. Luckily I landed on the grassy edge of the side slope, not on the rocks 50 feet below.
One night in Karachi, Lolly, Aunt Mary and I were watching a film in the balcony of a theater when somebody yelled FIRE in Urdu and 1,100 fear-crazed people went screaming out. I couldn’t see any fire or smell any smoke; so, remembering the curving marble steps we had climbed on the way up, I refused to move until the balcony cleared. As we went down those same steps minutes later we passed several injured people, some lying motionless and perhaps even dead.
I think one of the most revealing moments of my life is when Lolly and I were on Hill AFB, Utah in our second Air Force apartment. It was a cozy apartment, but the WWII era kitchen only had one wall plug. So when I wanted to bake a cake for Lolly’s birthday I ran an extension cord out into the living room while she was busy upstairs, and plugged a hand mixer into it.
Everything was going fine until I tried blending the sugar with some very cold butter and it bent the blades on the mixer. Not wanting to try straightening the blades while the mixer was plugged in, I went to the living room and unplugged the extension cord. Then, just as I grabbed the blades with my hands Lolly came downstairs, saw the unplugged cord, and plugged it in, so the blades ran up my left hand and jammed.
There was no way I could release my hand. I realized what must have happened, and what would happen if I walked out into the living room for help. So I unplugged the mixer from the cord, which is what I should have done in the first place, and off I went.
Lolly was seated in a chair with some sewing. She looked up as I walked over to her.
“Do me a favor,” I said in the calmest voice I could manage. “Grab one side of these mixer blades as I grab the other side.”
She did, and then I said, “Now hold on as I pull against you, OK?”
She did just as I asked without saying a word. With her pulling in one direction and me pulling in the other I managed to extract my hand.
As I wrapped a dishtowel around my hand to catch the blood dripping from where the blades had cut in, Lolly asked a question in the sweetest, calmest, most innocent voice I have ever heard.
“Didn’t that hurt?”
The next few minutes, as we talked and bandaged up three fingers, which luckily weren’t cut too deeply, I enjoyed some of the happiest moments of my life.
Because I didn’t tell her what she had inadvertently done. I never have.