Don’t Walk Distracted, Part Two

Who could have imagined I’d have fodder enough to write two columns about distracted walking, let alone two columns in a row? But strange things happen at unexpected times, and sometimes the only thing to do is write about them, especially when the newspaper you work for expects 650 words a week.

This column is about a fall. Not a waterfall. Not a particularly memorable autumn. Not the ridiculous half-wig I wore for a very short time in eleventh grade in an attempt to make my hair look longer than it actually was.

What you’re about to read is a story about falling down. It’s a story that began more than three years ago when I adopted a sweet but very high-energy rescue dog. I named her Kamala after our new Vice President-elect and immediately set about training her to walk on a leash without going nuts every time we encountered another dog. Not nuts as in “let’s fight,” but nuts as in “let’s play.” For the most part, she’s doing great. When we happen upon another dog, either on a leash or in someone’s yard, Kamala calmly moves in front of me, sits and looks me in the eye. She’s rewarded every time with a mini-Milk Bone dog biscuit.

Several months ago, new neighbors moved into a house on our walking route. These neighbors have an Australian Shepherd contained by an invisible fence in their large yard. The dog doesn’t seem mean or aggressive, but it tears around and barks loudly and incessantly every time Kamala and I walk past. Kamala sits, gets a treat and we go on our way.

But on January 8, some other stuff happened. It was dusk and we were walking fast so as to make it home before dark. While on a downhill slope peppered with gravel, I spotted a man coming toward us in the opposite lane. He was riding a lawnmower and moving along at an impressive clip.

Because I grew up in Nashville, my mind immediately hearkened back to a story from the 1970s about country music legend Tammy Wynette and her husband, country music legend George Jones. One night when—as was often the case—George had had too much to drink, Tammy hid the keys to all his vehicles before she went to bed. Undeterred, George hopped onto his riding lawn mower and drove it ten miles to the nearest bar.

So here I was again, just like in Denver a couple of weeks before, walking distracted. Clearly, this wasn’t George Jones, who passed away a decade ago, on the lawnmower. But the driver, whoever he was, obviously didn’t realize that the Aussie barreling toward him and yapping like crazy was behind an invisible fence. As I watched in horror, the mower swerved into my lane. I cried out.

And Kamala? She did exactly what I’d trained her to do. She moved calmly to face me and sat, waiting for her dog biscuit. I went tumbling, downhill, over her back. When my face hit the pavement, my eyeglasses split in two and went flying.

Blood gushed everywhere. So much blood I feared I might actually bleed out. The man on the lawnmower stopped and stared in horror. I pressed my coat sleeve against my nose and wondered how many parts of my body were broken. Luckily, my neighbor Tony was in his yard and noticed me crumpled in the road. He quickly came to the rescue and drove me home, where I eventually managed to staunch the bleeding and not die.

The rest of the story? My face was mashed and scraped and cut and bruised and very, very swollen for several days. By the time the swelling went down, it was obvious my nose was out of place. It has since been surgically repaired. I’m splinted, bandaged and on the mend.

And I’ve made a solemn vow to never, never, ever walk distracted again.

(February 3, 2024)