One thought ahead. Two sentences behind.

Oops!

“Nobles walked into the lobby, his head aching with
images of things to come, little details to remember,
Like – Jesus, the typewriter!”

Elmore Leonard
LaBrava

 

Surgeons should never be allowed to say, “Oops!” Who cares if they are made from the same faulty clay as TV meteorologist? The minute they slip on those pearly-white rubber mittens – Dang it! The minute they slip on those pearly-white rubber gloves they need to become scalpel-wielding angels. Never should a post-op conversation go:

 

SURGEON: Overall the heart transplant went well, but we had a slight snag fully connecting the aorta.

PATIENT: And that’s bad?

SURGEON: It’s not great. I thought I had it. Then… [SHRUGS]  I put some surgical tape on it for now, but I’d like to take another crack at it tomorrow.

PATIENT: And the tape will hold?

SURGEON: Let’s hope so. I’d stay late, but you know… league golf. You understand?

PATIENT: I do?

SURGEON: That’s the spirit!

 

It’s not just doctors. An unerring practice should extend to all members of the medical community. I say this for I once tried to donate blood.

It was a volunteer event through work. And no, I didn’t give blood in a sacrificial attempt to get into middle management. It was mostly altruistic, although I heard there were free snacks. So the blood mobile pulled into the parking lot and the driver honked the horn.  I stepped out of the building and slowly crept towards the converted RV that shone like a glorious chariot of goodwill and not a mobile torture chamber.

When I opened the door, I was met by a nurse who pulled me into a tight-fitting room. Then the interrogation began.

 

NURSE: Have you ever dated an orangutan?

ME: Not even online.

NURSE: Are you a heroin addict?

ME: Can’t afford it.

NURSE: Have you ever set up your own I.V.?

ME: Once for a cocktail party.

NURSE: Have you ever worked for the CIA in Burma?

ME: Even if I did, could I tell you?

NURSE: You’ve been trained well.

 

The questions kept coming as every inch of my personal life sizzled away. By the time it was done, I came to the realization I had lived a rather uneventful life, which made me a prime candidate to donate blood. So I was released into the cabin where another nurse grabbed me by the arm and strapped me to a lounge chair.

Overall it was a comfortable situation, a nice place to whittle away the afternoon with some free snacks if it wasn’t for the fact – No, I was not going to think about it.

The first thing I noticed about Nurse 2 was her appearance: frumpy uniform, askew name tag, bleary eyes, frizzled hair…

I turned away and closed my eyes. The nurse was a professional. She had probably done the procedure a thousand times before. So I took a deep breath and waited.

Then…………. nothing.

I looked back as the needle hovered in her hand like a tiny airplane looking for clearance to land.

 

NURSE 2: Hmm…

ME:  Hmm, what?

NURSE 2: I don’t see any veins.

 

I didn’t know what to say. I’m pretty sure I had them, but I didn’t know how to make a formal introduction.

The nurse tapped my arm; then again; then shrugged and plunged the needle into my arm.

It wasn’t a bad feeling, which I found rather surprising until…

 

NURSE 2:  Hmm…

ME:  Hmm, what?

NURSE 2:  I don’t think I tapped a vein.

 

Before I could respond, the nurse grabbed the needle like a joystick and started moving it around like she was playing a video game.  Instantly, a fireball burst through me. Any thought of weathering the procedure with heroic stoicism plummeted as I squirmed and contorted like I was being electrocuted by a cattle prod.

The nurse saw me try to levitate from my seat and pulled the needle from my arm. Then a geyser of blood followed. She capped it with gauze and we sat in silence.

After a few minutes the nurse lifted the gauze to see if the pumping had stopped.

It had not.

She laid down more gauze.

 

NURSE 2:  Huh…

ME:  Huh, what?

NURSE 2: First, I couldn’t find a vein. Now the blood won’t stop.

 

She meant it as a joke, but I was only thinking of escape. After all, I didn’t volunteer to be a human pincushion. My body wasn’t a rusted-out Buick Skylark in need of repair.

 

MECHANIC: I know you were supposed to pick up your car today, but we ran into a slight snag. It appears someone misplaced the motor.

CUSTOMER: My engine?

MECHANIC: Don’t worry. The rest of the car is still here.

CUSTOMER: But I only needed a new muffler.

MECHANIC: I know, that’s the crazy part. Your engine… Where did it go?

CUSTOMER: Well, I don’t have it.

MECHANIC: That’s good to know. I’d stay late to hunt it down, but you know… league bowling. You understand?

CUSTOMER: I do?

MECHANIC: That’s the spirit!

 

A college professor in a class I mostly forgot said our brain is like any other muscle in that it too gets tired and needs rest. But instead of waiting for the body to find a pillow, it will take brief moments throughout the day to shut off; micro moments like an overheated computer that kicks off in order prevent a complete meltdown. This is why we can find ourselves in the frozen aisle of our local grocery store thinking, “Why am I not wearing any pants?”

My brain tends to shut off more than most. Sometimes this genetic fault tends to manifest itself in unusual ways. Like when I moved into my first apartment. I would take out the garbage only to turn around and realize I needed keys to get back in.

The first and second time could be chalked up to oops. But when it kept happening, it started to border on ridiculous. It got so bad the caretaker of the building refused to let me in when I buzzed his unit. So I had to stand out in the lobby and wait for another tenant to let me in.

 

ME: Hey 207!

207: Hey 106!  Did you hear 305 is moving out?

ME: Man, I’m going to miss her. She always let me in.

 

It was on a particular cold day when I made a firm commitment to tether the apartment keys to my body.  I was hopping on the cold tiles of the lobby in a futile attempt to fight off approaching hypothermia. As a distraction, I read the bold note tacked to the message board. It said:

DO NOT START YOUR CAR AND LEAVE IT RUNNING UNATTENDED. IT WILL BE STOLEN LIKE MINE.

 

This is not an example of oops. This is blatant stupidity. Sure, it’s nice to jump into a warm car on a cold day. That’s why any passerby with a loose interpretation of the law will take advantage of the situation.

Still, what a terrifying feeling: to walk out of your apartment and no longer see your car where you left it. A sinking feeling will almost overwhelm you until you remember the snow emergency.

This also happened to me. I didn’t move my car quickly enough for the snow plows. So the city was nice enough to do it for me. Unfortunately, I was going to have to pick it up at the impound lot.

Surprisingly, there were not many people there. Only one person stood in front of me as he spoke to a clerk who was behind an impressive amount of glass. I assumed the glass to be bullet but not insult proof for a sign hung above the clerk’s station. It said:

 

PLEASE DO NOT GET UPSET AT OUR EMPLOYEES.  IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT THAT YOU ARE AN IDIOT.

 

Truer words have never been posted. Personally, I was not upset. I made an honest mistake. I just wanted to get my car, but there was a slight snag for the guy in front of me had a question.

 

GUY: What do you mean you don’t have my car?

CLERK: Your car isn’t here.

GUY: Why not?

CLERK: Because the city didn’t tow it.

GUY: Do you think I parked on 28th instead of DuPont?

CLERK: Why don’t you go find out?

 

Then the guy slowly collected his papers and shuffled out of the lobby doors only to return once he remembered he didn’t have his car. He then moved to a bank of pay phones until he remembered that he didn’t have any quarters. So, he migrated back to the clerk’s station and peeped over my shoulder to ask if the clerk could make change.

Like she had done a thousand times before, the clerk pointed to the second sign above her station:

 

WE DON’T MAKE CHANGE FOR IDIOTS.

 

So the guy turned to me.

How did this guy get to this point in his life? He had a full beard but he was acting like he was just born. Oops wasn’t his problem. Every detail of the day was.

The typewriter in Elmore Leonard’s novel LaBrava wasn’t any normal detail. It was used in the commission of a crime. It was a piece of evidence that could tie Nobles to an extortion letter. All the low-level Miami criminal had to do was drop the typewriter into the deep waters of Biscayne Bay. If only he could remember to do it. For oops tends to happen when we are rushed, overwhelmed and juggling too many things.

 

OFFICER: And when did you first notice that your son was missing?

PARENT: Disneyland. We were are the gate with 9 tickets but only 8 of us were there.

OFFICER: Are you saying that you didn’t realize that you left one of your children at a Kansas City truck stop until you were in Anaheim, California?

PARENT: I know! That’s the crazy part. Why not Nevada? It’s so much closer.

OFFICER: It’s been two days.

PARENT: Well, you have to admit with 7 kids there are a lot of moving parts. And don’t get me started on what happened at Nogales.

OFFICER: What were you doing at the Mexican border?

PARENT: Wishing I hadn’t let my 16 year-old daughter drive. Now is there any bill for food and lodging or citation for temporary abandonment?

OFFICER: Not that I’m aware of. It appears your son was quite resourceful and secured temporary employment stocking shelves at the truck stop.

PARENT: That’s the spirit!

 

If oops can be found in our genes, I lay complete fault on my dad. One time he got into my car with a ball-point pen in his back pocket. By the time he got out I noticed he signed his name on the passenger’s seat.

My mom would have never made such an error. Great care always went into her decisions with consideration for others. She was a person you would like on a long road trip like the time I was driving with Dad in the passenger’s seat and Mom and my brother,Chris, in the back.

We had been traveling for a few hours so we pulled into a truck stop to get some refreshments.

Since Chris has Down’s syndrome, he has shown over the years to have low impulse control, meaning if you were to place a can of Coke in front of him, he would down it in two seconds.

Mom didn’t want Chris to chug a can of soda only to upchuck it.  So she carefully poured the contents into a water bottle with a collapsible spout. From there Chris could sip on the cool beverage without fear of spilling any in the car.

What we were soon to find out is that agitated carbonation in the confines of a vacuum-sealed bottle is not a good idea unless you just won a major sporting championship.

When mom lifted the spout, a caramel spray spewed throughout the cabin.

Mom was mortified for she was absolutely sure such a careless act could only come from the hands of my dad.

I couldn’t stop laughing. For even amongst the most careful oops happens.

 

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