ATWELL: Accidents Will Happen…



Accidents Will Happen…

By JIM ATWELL • Special to

Well, of course they will, if you mean by accident a sudden, undesirable event – one that might have been prevented by closer attention.

“Damn, why didn’t I see that coming?” That’s our common reaction to a minor accident, a fender-bender, maybe. But if the accident’s a more serious one, our response may well be guilt, recriminations, fear of  consequences.

“You know kids play ball along this block! You’ve seen them run out from between parked cars! Why weren’t you on the watch for it?”

In some ways, the worst accidents are the ones we cause to ourselves – because of carelessness, laziness, distraction. Here’s an example from my own recent black-and-blue history:

I had been up in the night, as old men must, and was about to sit back down on my bed. Feeling dizzy, I reached out to stabilize myself and grabbed at the back of a chair. It was my desk chair, built to swivel in a full circle. It did, taking me with it, throwing me to floor. Then, in a further outrage, it threw its full weight, about 50 pounds, on top of me.

Mind you, my friendly, comfortable chair, on which I’d sat, seat to seat, for hundreds of hours writing!
I knew at once I was hurt. It turned out that three ribs on my right side had been cleanly broken and now were causing pain so acute that I was a half hour getting from under that traitor chair.

My dear Anne, I should add, was up in Toronto on an important family trip. The cat and dog were with me, but they could offer only moral support of licks and nuzzling.

There was, of course, my recently bought super watch, which could pinpoint the exact location of an inert body and summon help from all directions. But the super watch, though within my sight, was out of my reach on my desk. It was recharging itself for an impending crisis.

Accordingly, I ended up on the floor, asleep or otherwise unconscious, till morn’s first light awoke me. That’s when I phoned my treasured neighbor Ralph Snell, who called the emergency squad. And they hauled me off to Mother Bassett.

At the Emergency Room, they quickly decided that I needed to be admitted as a patient. The concern was that one of those broken ribs might snag the adjacent lung and cause fatal damage. Or, alternatively, that my shallow breathing because of pain might bring on pneumonia, “the old man’s friend.”

After a week in their care, the Bassett folks, bless them, were reluctant to let go of me. And so I was shunted down to Cooperstown Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing.

Now, listen to me carefully. Cooperstown Center has had a checkered history. But I want you to know that, under present management, they are operating firing smoothly on all cylinders. I can’t imagine finer care by a more attentive staff than I experienced there.

The place is squeaky clean, the food varied and delicious, the linen is changed and bathrooms cleaned daily. Hurray for everyone running the place, from top to bottom.

I’m back home now, as is my dear Anne. And I’m back to spending hours in my front porch’s breezy shadows. (Ceiling fan, you see.)

I’m not on the watch for accidents but certainly aware of sudden stops just out front when traffic backs up down at the stop sign just two doors below us.

So far, so good. But I know the need for constant attentiveness. I haven’t forgotten that ingrate swivel chair. Which, by the way, no longer lives here.

Jim Atwell, a Quaker minister and retired college administrator, lives in Cooperstown.

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