Living in Champaign, Illinois, in November 1984, after two years of steady pain, I had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee to remove shards of torn cartilage. All this resulted from an injury in a volleyball game with neighbors that we stupidly played in a pouring rain. Someone hit the ball out of bounds down a little slope and as I ran to grab it my left foot slipped on the wet grass. I heard and felt the grinding in my knee, knowing instantly that it would mean trouble.
A few days after the surgery, walking with the aid of crutches, I was participating in a professional conference in New Orleans. A session adjourned in early evening in a French Quarter hotel and I walked with some friends down a crowded Bourbon Street toward a favorite restaurant. The evening was warm and balmy, the smell of food was in the air, and the mood was jovial and celebratory as usual there. The crowd posed some problems with my crutches, but I was winding my way among the celebrants quite skillfully, I thought. Then a female voice to my immediate left simultaneously shouted and screamed at the top of her lungs,
“Son of a bitch!”
I looked around and saw a group of about five well dressed, good-looking young adults standing together in a circle. They were all looking at me as the guy next to the young woman placed his hand on her shoulder and said to her,
“He didn’t mean to do it.”
Then I looked down and saw that the woman who screamed was barefoot on the street. It became immediately apparent that I had placed the hard rubber tip of my left crutch on the toes of her right foot and crunched them as I hobbled by. The look on her face was murderous. I immediately apologized. But while she was immobilized in pain, I meekly and deftly escaped into the crowd in an involuntary act of self preservation. The thought occurred to me,
“Where is Preservation Hall when I need it?”
A quarter century later in Austin, Texas, another injury in my first-ever Pilates class resulted in torn ligaments in a toe on my left foot. Most likely that class will remain as my only experience with Pilates.
After more modest treatments failed, another orthopedic surgery on my injured toe had me back on crutches. At the appointed time, I went back to the surgeon to have a nearly two-inch long steel pin removed from the repaired toe. The doctor’s advice included a recommendation that I stash my crutches in the back of a closet, just in case I need them for some future injury. Given my history of injuries, this seemed like good advice.
Those crutches are visible behind some of the clothes in my closet and I see them nearly every day. The sight of them often makes me wonder how that lady in New Orleans got along after I crunched her toes with my crutch in 1984. Did I break any of her toes? Did she lose any toenails? Did she suffer any injury that required a doctor’s care? Does she remember me and shy away a bit when she sees someone on crutches coming toward her on a crowded street? Does she still shudder at the memory?
I’ll never know the answers to these questions, but it appears that I’ll always wonder.