Friday, July 29, 2005

Laughter isn't always the best medicine

I feel like I might offer an apology to a friend of mine this evening. Have you ever heard someone's bad news and had a completely inappropriate reaction to it? I did that with a dear friend today (who I hope doesn't mind me talking about this). I'll call him "Bob" for purposes of this story.

OK, so Bob called and left a message that lighting had struck his home today, but I didn't have time to call him back midst the playgroup craziness. I assumed the strike might have blown out some appliances or the TV, at the most, but I was very wrong. Our conversation went something like this (I'll take the liberty to abbreviate it somewhat):

"Hey. Sorry I didn't call you back earlier. I got your message. What happened at your house?
My friend explains that while he was sitting inside he heard a huge thunderbolt and then the lightning struck his garage.

"What did it hit? How did you know it hit there?"
"It's hard not to see where it hit."
"What do you mean? Is there a burn mark or hole or something?"
"Oh, yeah. You could say there's a hole."
"Wow. Like a big hole? Can you see through to the sky or something?"
"Um. Yeah. It's about 15 x 6."
"Man., you do mean in INCHES don't you?"
"Uh, no... I mean in feet."
"WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? (laughter) Are you serious? Lightning struck your house and left a 15 FOOT by 6 FOOT hole in the roof above your garage?" (disbelievingly, more chuckling)
"Yes, I am serious. It is that big."
(more nervous laughing)
No, I just can't believe it. Really?"

This went on for several minutes...and I kept chuckling and even laughing in my shock and disbelief. This happens to be a good friend of mine
whose had a really rough go of it this year with a series of bad things happening. We are both formerly practicing pessimists who fight that tendency whenever we can. All this year, I have tried to remind him of the bright side of all these negative things going on, so he wouldn't get too caught up or depressed. I just couldn't this time.

"You know how I'm always trying to tell you the glass is half full and trying to get you to look on the bright side?"
"Um. I'm not going to do that this time, 'kay? I finally agree...2005 is really a bad year for you."'
"Yeah, sigh...I know."

Later on, my friend explained to me how odd the strike was and how it looked like the lightening had struck inward and then shot back out, shooting shingles up into his trees.
"Well what if you thought of it this way...what if you say that lightening hit your house and zapped all that negative energy right out of there and left you with only positive ions?"
"Let's hope." (sigh)

In all seriousness, I hung up the phone and felt incredibly guilty for my chuckling and later making light of this huge freak of nature that had destroyed part of his house. I just didn't know what to say at all to him. I was definitely glad to hear he wasn't hurt, his car wasn't even damaged (it wasn't in the garage) and very sorry to hear of the magnitude of what had really happened. But, I know it didn't come across that way.

It reminded me clearly of a really horrible day for me growing up, and how an inappropriate reaction from a close childhood friend/college roommate had stung, hurting my feelings at the time. Now, I look back and understand that reaction a lot more.

It was my glorious freshman year in college and a year I remember so fondly because it was my first taste being away from my very small town and my over-protective parents. I had joined a sorority and was loving making all those new friends. I was one of the few girls in my dorm who actually had a car their freshman year to drive around, so I ended up playing chauffeur a lot with the girls going to and from the dorms to our sorority house for meetings.

It had been raining heavily shortly before the drive. I picked up my friend and we got in the car and made our way to our meeting. We were laughing and joking and singing to the radio when I looked up and...there was a station wagon RIGHT in my face! I slammed on the brakes and they locked. My car skidded in the rain , slamming into into the station wagon. My friend, who was very petite, began gasping for air. I screamed. I watched glass chards fly through the air in slow motion.

Long story longer, a car in front of the car I hit had no brake lights and had come to a sudden stop. The station wagon had to slam on her breaks to avoid hitting it. Because I was travelling a little fast and too close (and not paying full attention to be honest), I couldn't stop in time.

Fortunately, my friend had just had the wind knocked out of her by the seat belt. The police showed up, took our statements, proclaimed me at total fault, gave me a ticket and then told me I'd need to FIND A WAY to drive my car back to campus.

Well, my car hood and body was literally in the shape of an upside-down letter "V" in front. Parts of the front bumper and grill were hanging down. I hysterically called my roomate and told her what happened, asking her what I should do because I was so scared to drive the car. A good guy friend of ours was there and convinced me to drive it back to the closest dorm parking lot and they'd meet me and take a look at it and help me as best as they could.

I still remember that drive back. Parts of my car were flying off as I slowly crept back to campus. My friend and I cried the whole way back, crying harder as we'd hear the metal clangs behind us when another piece of the grill or bumper fell off. I was too shakey to have driven, but the cop had been very threatening with me that day. As I rounded the corner to my dorm, I could see my roommate and our friend standing there waiting. I was so relieved to have made it back and really just wanted someone to hug me, tell me "Thank GOD, you're all right" and let me cry on their shoulder. I was so terrified to call my parents and tell them the news.

And, as I got within sight, I stared at my roommate and my friend in disbelief--they were LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY at me pulling up in the car. I mean, they were practically rolling around in the parking lot in tears laughing at me.

And it deeply hurt. They weren't concerned for me at all? They thought this was a BIG JOKE? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Moments later, my roommate profusely apologized, but still with a smile on her face..forcing back more chuckles. She said she just didn't expect my car to have that level of damage and couldn't believe I had to drive it back. Later, we found out the car had $3,000 damage to it. I had very serious case whiplash that I never went to the doctor about, and my friend had bruises in the shape of the seatbelt on her chest and stomach. We were actually very lucky to not be hurt. My parents were furious that I'd been made to drive the car back. But, all I could remember was how my roommate and one of my closest friends had laughed during my darkest moment. I just couldn't forget that.

Hey, "Bob." I am really sorry for what happened. I am so glad you're OK and hope you understand my chuckling was more out of disbelief and not because I thought it was funny in the least.


Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Well, you've resolved the problem just by writing this blog. He'll read it, won't he?
One thing I'm learning slowly and painfully is that it's best to swallow my pride and just go to the person I'm afraid I've wronged and apologize and explain. Seems like you've learned that, too.
And your horrible college experience has resulted in making you a better friend. Good from bad. Cool.

12:36 AM, July 30, 2005  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

Thanks, Lucinda. I'm actually going to try to call him today if I don't hear from him via email. I'm hoping he doesn't mind I put this story on here!

Hope your winning the battle in your ant wars!

8:59 AM, July 30, 2005  
Blogger Babs said...

Wow, I can totally hear how your conversation went. You captured it well. And I can assure you that you had to see the damage to believe it! I'm hoping that he'll post some pictures soon...

You know what's weird? I had a very similar car accident experience around Easter of '99. For some reason, my boyfriend and I had taken separate cars to BFE to celebrate with his family. Long story short... I had to drive a mangled car back home, in tears, and he didn't really "get it" until he actually saw the car. Maybe we're able to sympathize more when we're in the presence of the other person? And able to SEE the cause of the pain? hmmm, deep thoughts...

3:33 PM, July 30, 2005  
Anonymous sarcastic journalist said...

I won't tell you about the time I called a friend to tell her about a death.

I said "Guess who died?"

I'm evil.

10:54 PM, July 31, 2005  
Blogger Dipu said...

I'm back online now, though I can't say the same for my entire house yet. I have electricity in the most crucial parts, at least.

As I told you on the phone, in many ways your reaction was better than the usual helpless I'm sorrys. Besides, it's not like I didn't have a maniacal laugh or two myself over this.

Just bear in mind that I am relapsing, hopefully temporarily, to at least some of those old pessimistic ways that we both left behind (or mostly did) years ago.

You're a great friend, CMC, and no perceived slipup (perceived on your end, that is ... I didn't take it as a bad thing) like this could change that...

3:47 PM, August 01, 2005  

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