Many kind, regular readers are well aware of my affinity for riding my bicycle, affectionately nicknamed L’il Red, as I traverse across the great city of Chicago. These same readers also recognize a predilection toward illness, mishaps and other accidents. When these two characters traits, quite literally collide, the results yield equal parts humor and mayhem.
It was a chill and rainy Election Night, lo these three weeks ago, and yours truly was in a damned fine hurry to get back to her (then) boyfriend’s house to watch the voting returns. Through the twin effects of overestimating my own importance and a general pattern of running to every appointment as though my hair were on fire, I was convinced that President Obama could not possibly secure a second term without my physical support. Try and tell me a watched pot never boils, will you?
I approached the six-corner intersection of Belmont, Lincoln and Ashland in the city’s Lakeview neighborhood and as the once green light began to turn yellow, slick and dark road underneath, I made the poor decision (I can actually recall my final thought before the sickening thud: “This might not be a good idea.”) to gun it, as much as one can gun a single speed road bike.
The aftermath was fairly predictable. L’il Red and I crashed into the side of a westbound SUV in the far right lane of the street we almost made it across. I slammed my right leg into the driver side door before being thrown from the bike and bouncing off the street directly on my tailbone. The ensuing white hot, all-consuming pain was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I could not talk or speak for what seemed like an hour, but may have actually amounted to less than a minute. The confused driver asked me repeatedly if I was ok, but in the end I couldn’t manage more than the silent “thumbs up” signal an injured football players relays to stadium fans before they are carried off the field.
Kind, regular readers of this blog and those acquainted with me personally are also attuned to my strong aversion to medical treatment. Eventually I adjusted L’il Red’s twisted handlebars, hopped back on the bike and made the remainder of a four-mile trip back to JC’s apartment that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I cried the entire way. But lest you think that hellacious ride, the ensuing two days of work missed and the near-constant discomfort I felt led to a timely visit with my primary physician, not so. I waited a full two weeks before seeking x-ray services at a local urgent care clinic I was in the process of passing while, wait for it….riding my bike.
I never said I was smart. Turns out that I not only dislocated said tailbone inward, but I had also broken my sacrum, which is defined by Wikipedia as “a large, triangular bone at the base of the spine and at the upper and back part of the pelvic cavity, where it is inserted like a wedge between the two hip bones.” I didn’t even know it was possible to break that shit. I think you have to really want it. So I am looking at a minimum two to six month recovery, with the dangling of a possible surgery in front of me by a concerned doctor who (rightfully) suspects I may not hew closely enough to the treatment plan, which basically consists of rest and a lot of pain medication. I have no problem with the latter. It’s the former I don’t do very well and quite seriously, strenuous exercise has been my raison d’etre, an substitute antidepressant for the last decade. In order to learn something constructive from this highly destructive experience, I repeatedly query myself in a dry, sarcastic tone: “Was it worth it? What is the worst thing that could have happened if you’d waited through the red light?”
Certainly not the humiliation of trading standard bicycle and backpack accessories for a cane and an inflatable doughnut pillow upon which to rest my broken butt. Definitely not the indignity of senior citizens more than twice my age offering to help me board the commuter train, nor the shame experienced when young people graciously offer their CTA seat to the poor, unfortunate cripple. Ah! I do not warrant these kindnesses as the result of my own stupidity. But how to share this with the well-meaning without offending their altruistic sensibilities. The worst punishment of all is having to endure undeserved benevolence.
There is a lot more to say about all of this: the humorous outtakes of last weekend’s two-day Tramadol fog, the collapse of my relationship in the aftermath of the accident and the ongoing suspense regarding the prospect of non-surgical healing. Feel free to take the journey with me. I promise to proceed with caution. I have no other choice.