Of all the numbers that make up our world, number thirteen probably has the worst reputation of them all. Whether you are superstitious or not, you more than likely avoid walking under ladders, or crossing paths with a black cat on any Friday that has the number thirteen (13) attached to it. I know I do.
But on the 13th August, 2013, I didn’t have time to think about superstition. My day started, as it usually did, at 7.30am. That’s the time I would put my cafe-bought coffee down on my desk, unpack my laptop, and start sifting through the hundreds of emails that greeted me each day. From then on, it was full-on. Classes to visit, students to attend to, paperwork to handle, and if I was lucky, it wasn’t a day that I had to drive an hour to another school. I was lucky that day.
And then it went pear-shaped, in a BIG way!
The bell had rung to signal the end of learning. I frantically put the finishing touches to a report that had to be written, and started gathering up the information I needed to take to the Staff Meeting. The one that usually started at about 3.10pm and finished anywhere between 4.45 and 5.00pm (if we were lucky).
Without warning, one of my favourite students came rushing in. He was obviously upset about something, and proceeded to unleash his pent-up frustrations on my office. It looked like a bomb had exploded, well, it sort of had, by the time he was finished. I managed to calm him down enough to get him onto his bus, headed for home, when the second attack arrived.
Another student, also having had a bad day, unleashed a verbal barrage in my direction, then stormed off. I could only hope that he had settled down by the time he walked home.
The first thing I had to do was phone the mother of the first student, and warn her that she may be collecting a tornado from the bus that afternoon. Given that the bus ride was an hour long, she may be lucky enough to have him arrive in a calm state – but I doubted it.
I made the call, gathered up my staff-meeting documents, and arrived late. What could I do? Some things take priority over meetings, and warning a parent of impending trouble was one of them.
The Paper Trail
At the end of the meeting, I trudged wearily back to my office. It was now time to face the paperwork that goes with any kind of student melt-down. Oh, and before I could sit down to do that, I had to put my office back together.
By the time the paperwork was done, reports written, parents called and plans put in place for the next day, it was after 7pm. And it was dark! I put my jacket and briefcase over my left shoulder, turned off the lights, and locked the office door.
Wow, it was dark!
It wasn’t the first time I had left school that late, but it just seemed darker than usual. As I turned the corner near the Administration office, I noticed that the sprinklers were still on. As I was wondering why Barb (our Groundsperson) had left them on, my foot stumbled across a hole in the cement. It all happened so fast, I can’t tell you much about the next bit, except that the weight of my briefcase and jacket, slung over my left shoulder, pushed me faster and more heavily towards the cement path. I put my right hand out to stop my fall and felt the weight of everything on my left side come crashing down on me.
There I was, sprawled out across the path, grateful that anyone with any sense was already home. My not-so-elegant departure had not been witnessed by anyone, therefore my dignity (what was left of it) was reasonably intact.
But First, a Milkshake…
Somehow, I managed to get myself back into a vertical position, gather up all my belongings, and wonder if my laptop had survived the fall. Everything seemed fine – except for my right wrist. I hadn’t ever had a broken bone before so I had no way of knowing if my wrist was broken, or just severely sprained. It looked odd, felt odd, and it hurt.
I managed to drive with my left hand only – very grateful for the automatic transmission – and made it to the local cafe that was still open. As you do in any crisis, you stop for a milkshake. But my right wrist was not ‘right’. Luckily, home was not far away, and I made it there with everything intact – with the exception of a bone in my wrist that was making its fractured state well-and-truly felt.
The Emergency Department
Figuring that I would have to sit in the emergency department at the local hospital for a few hours, I managed to put on some warmer clothes, and drive myself the short distance to our very small hospital. The first question that was asked, of course, was how did it happen? As I recounted the story of falling over in the dark as I was leaving school, the bewildered look on the faces of the medical team prompted another question. “Why were you leaving school in the dark?”. That question didn’t warrant a legitimate answer. It was too complicated. A simple ‘Paperwork’ sufficed.
And to this day, I remember the date that I broke my right wrist. It was 13th August, 2013. Am I superstitious? Nah. It just happened.