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Jack Smith

After the Fall, String Beans and Champagne

November 28, 1994|Jack Smith

There was quite a commotion at our house the other day.

Trying to reach something on the end table beside my bed, I slid off and bounced on the floor, knocking over a soup bowl, a glass of water and a plate of lunch leftovers.

Because of my instability I am supposed to wear an alarm cord around my neck. It has buttons for 911, police, fire department, a neighbor and nearby relatives. However, I often neglect to put it on when my wife leaves me alone. I'm afraid I will set it off accidentally.

One day a few weeks ago, I evidently pushed some of the buttons by accident just before my wife and I left the house together. When we got home our daughter-in-law Jackie was still there--the last of several visitors who had responded to the alarm, including a fire truck.

Needless to say, I am not eager to repeat that embarrassment. So when I found myself sprawled on the floor beside my bed, the alarm button was on my dresser, several feet away. I wasn't worried. I thought I could easily get to my knees and then to my feet. But my right leg is disabled by a stroke and my broken left wrist is in a cast, and the arm is useless. I struggled and struggled but couldn't get up, not even to crawl.

The television was on, but it was a junk program and I couldn't turn it off. I didn't expect my wife home for two or three hours. I couldn't bear the thought of lying on my haunches for two or three hours watching junk TV.

The telephone had been knocked off the table and lay on the floor in two pieces. I managed to reach it and put it back together and got a dial tone. Salvation.

I hated to do it but I decided to call my son Doug. My granddaughter Adriana answered the phone. Doug wasn't home. I described my plight, emphasizing that I wasn't hurt.

She said, "I'll be right over. I'm leaving right now." She lives in Linda Vista, about 20 minutes away. I lay on the floor like an overturned beetle, awaiting deliverance.

A few minutes later the phone rang. I answered. It was the fire department. The fireman asked me if I was Jack Smith at my address. I said "Yes," and he said, "We'll be there in a few minutes."

I yelled, "Use the back door!" and lay back wondering, "What hath God wrought?"

Several minutes later I heard a commotion at the back door and my granddaughter and three paramedics burst in simultaneously. One of them gave me a hand and raised me to my feet. I thanked him and he said, "We'll just take some Playboys."

He was referring to a column I wrote a month or two ago after the county had barred the magazine from all fire stations. I had a large hoard of old Playboys and offered them to any firemen who applied. I told him where I kept them and said, "Take all you want."

"No thanks," he said. "Just kidding."

It turned out my grandson Chris, recently discharged from the Army and now employed as a security officer, had called 911, which alerted the paramedics. My grandson goes by the book in an emergency.

Jackie soon arrived on the scene, saying she was going to make my dinner. Meanwhile my wife had called and been informed of developments. She said that she was going to pick up something for my dinner, evidently feeling guilty for leaving me alone.

But Jackie was not to be discouraged. She drove down to the market and came back with what she called "beautiful" string beans and broccoli, both of which I hate.

Jackie then went foraging and found a bottle of un-iced champagne in the bar and we agreed that we ought to toast the fact that I was uninjured, even if the champagne was warm.

My wife came home while we were drinking the champagne and we had to give her a glass, which she did not decline.

At least it wasn't as bad as the last time, when I accidentally set off the alarm. On that occasion one of the calls went to the office of my older son, Curt, who was not in. His assistant, not knowing what else to do, looked up Curt's relatives and called the first name. It happened to be a niece of mine who lives out of town. She was panicked but she didn't have the slightest idea what to do.

My wife got home in time to make me a vodka tonic fix. I needed it. She had brought me a dinner of pasta and string beans.

* Jack Smith's column is published Mondays.

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