Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Starbucks exchange

People often say, when musing how they should stop procrastinating and write their book, or quit that job they are unhappy in, or leave that destructive relationship etc, 'You never know what can happen, tomorrow you could get hit by a bus!' Basically that life is unpredictable and short, and that one should make the most of every moment, because you just never know what's going to happen.

Well, this evening Roberto and I actually met a woman this happened to. Only it wasn't a bus. Rather, two and a half weeks ago in Hampstead, she was hit by a car and thrown 15 feet, while stepping out from between parked cars. She spent two weeks in hospital, and is in a wheelchair awaiting test results to see what the damage is.

We met when Julia crawled up to her wheelchair in Starbucks and used one of the wheels to lift herself up into a standing position. The woman apologised to us, for some bizarre reason, and we were like, "No, no, it's us that should apologise to you." Anyway, the short end of it is that we got talking and without us even asking she came out and said, "You know on the 8th of September, after dropping some clothes off at Oxfam, I was hit by a car and that's why I'm in this wheelchair." She was very eager to talk about what happened and moved between almost non-stop talking and quietly tearing up. She was clearly, and quite understandably, anxious.

She told me the weird thing is that at the time it happened, her biggest concern was the fact that she had booked a cab to pick her up from home at 11.15 that morning to take her to a meeting, and that it would be waiting. It made me think of that line from the John Lennon song, 'Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans.'

We tried to be upbeat and said that the fact that she could wiggle her toes and that she had some feeling in her legs was a good sign, but what the hell do we know right? I asked her what it was like sleeping at night, and she said it was terrible, "I'm unable to move from lying on my back, and I hate being in that position." She was incredibly hard on herself and kept looking over at her sister, over to help from America, saying, "I just feel sorry for Deborah here, having to do everything for me. I don't know what I would do without her." Her sister, a warm generous woman, didn't look as though she minded at all.

I imagine going from being a completely independent person in all senses of the word to being dependent on other people is hard for anyone. The whole thing was an incredibly vivid reminder of just how random these things are. I mean, the one minute she's running some chores in town, and the next, well, she's facing a possible future in a wheelchair. "I used to run marathons," she told us, "and now I don't know if I will ever walk again."


Happy Snapper said...

That brought tears to my eyes :o( how terribly sad, and what a reminder of the importance of living your life whilst you've still got the chance...

jane said...

omg i feel sick to the bone reading that. how scary and how many times do i do that and even witrh the baby. my g-d that is so sad and makes you think xxx