"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Monday, February 21, 2005
maim Function: transitive verb Etymology: Middle English maynhen, maymen, from Old French maynier -- more at MAYHEM 1 : to mutilate, disfigure, or wound seriously 2 : something that can happen to you quickly and unexpectedly
It was sometime around Thanksgiving in 1980 that I had one of the most gruesome experiences in my life. It's the sort of thing that you would never wish on anyone, and especially not on yourself. But, hey, life happens. And sometimes it happens like a bomb.
It was my senior year at Furman University, and by that time I had climbed to the rank of First Lieutenant in the Pershing Rifles fraternity. One of the things I was responsible for was the pledge season each term, and particularly the last weekend of that season, one we referred to as "hell weekend."
Our fraternity didn't do things like other fraternities. Our pledge activities were designed to instill some core values, not to cause humiliation. We were looking for teamwork, honor, respect, things like that. Hell weekend was designed to encourage all of those qualities by making every effort to break the pledges.
The weekend always started off with a tactics exercise. We would take the pledges on a winding, confusing ride then let them off in the middle of nowhere with a certain objective to "capture." Capturing involved getting a brick we had placed at the site, on which would be tied the next objective. They would have to put the brick in a knapsack, which would only be handed in at the end of the night.
We also issued them rifles, which were real rifles with the firing mechanism disabled. These were not pretend drill rifles, we never used those. These were the real, solid, heavy McCoy.
At all times, they would have to have possession of the knapsack and all of the rifles. The only hope a group of pledges would have was to share the load among themselves.
Oh, and we made it harder. We would ambush them at each objective. We would use eggs for ammo, that way we would know who got hit. The rule was to pop the egg with your fingers right before you tossed it. Everyone got ponchos too. Oh, and the pledges would get some advance warning on what we were doing so they could get their own eggs.
The manuevers would end about breakfast time, and after the meal the pledges would have to go climb a nearby mountain and gather trash all day. They would return about 5pm for dinner, then have about two hours to prepare for a spit and polish officer's board where they would be formally quizzed on everything they were supposed to learn.
The idea was to get them to a point where they were physically exhausted, then see how they did under pressure. That is, after all, where the true man or woman comes to the surface.
Usually they did pretty good. Every so often someone would faint.
So, November 1980 we were near one of the last objectives of the first night of manuevers. We had placed the brick right in front of the back gate to the campus, which was closed and locked, with the note tied to the brick about the next step. By this time the pledges had walked maybe 20 miles and were pretty tired.
They swarmed the gate and we all jumped up from our hiding places and ambushed them, eggs flying everywhere. One of the pledges named Tom looked at me and said "There's Cliff, I haven't gotten Cliff yet!" and he let fly with an egg.
And here is where life takes a left turn.
The egg spun rapidly from Tom towards me like a football on a long bomb touchdown pass. In the confusion I lost track of it.
Until it smashed into my left eye like a sledgehammer, knocking me down.
It had hit me point first. And it had not been broken before he threw it.
The sound of impact, there is not really a word for it. It was kind of a wham mixed with a slushy swoosh. And very, very loud.
I reached up to my eye, and where my eye had been an instant before was only a hole.
I was stunned. "I'm hurt! Get me to a hospital!" I began to yell. Everything stopped after a moment when everyone realized I was serious. They packed me up in one of the cars and headed back to the main part of campus.
We found a campus policeman, who looked at me with a flashlight and determined I wasn't really hurt. But I was. Besides, he said, he couldn't help me because we were playing the Citadel the next day and he had to watch the stadium.
My eye had started filling the hole back in (where the heck did it go? I have no idea) by the time we got back in the car and headed into Greenville, SC looking for a hospital. None of us had a clue where one was.
Eventually, we saw an ambulance, who agreed to allow us to just follow them to the hospital.
So we arrived maybe 2am at the downtown inner city Greenville hospital.
I had never been anywhere like this before.
They took anyone who was there for injuries or treatment back into the treatment area. There, they sat us on a wooden pew. I was there for four and a half hours with broken eggshell and shattered contact lens in my eye.
To my left was a lady having a baby, sitting up in the pew.
To my right was a guy bleeding from a gunshot wound in his stomach, handcuffed to a policeman.
None of the staff seemed in any hurry. And from the curtains in front of me I could hear "Mr. Jones? Mr. Jones? Do you have any money Mr. Jones? Mr. Jones, give me your money, Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones, you need to give me your money..."
After four and a half hours, I had enough. For the entire time the occasional orderly or nurse would come up, look at what might have been my chart, look at me (dressed in army fatigues with greem camo, egg and who knows what all over my face) and decide that a green faced college kid with a supposed eye injury wasn't critical.
Eventually, I decided differently.
I stood up, and grabbed what I now know is one of those IV machines on a stand. The next nurse that walked by, I said "I've been sitting on this wooden pew for four and a half hours with broken glass and eggshell in my eye, which was just crushed. If you don't see me know, I'll smash this machine into the floor and keep doing it until you do see me."
They saw me. Immediately.
But all they did was to flush my eye out and say they had to call a specialist. Fine, I said, call him already. He could have been here hours ago. Morons.
An hour and a half later, he shows up. He's an old guy, nice enough. We head into the opthamology examination office.
First thing he does is to knock over a major piece of equipment. Then he examines me quickly and says I need surgery.
"You are not operating on me," I said.
(Continued in part two)
Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too. --Lawrence Bixby