Problem-Solving
December 31, 2013

So over the weekend, Paul Graham unintentionally set off a shitstorm about women in tech. Once again, my Twitter feed was full of people debating whether women could hack it as hackers; whether women hacked at age 13; whether the best hackers even started at 13; what can we do to encourage more girls to hack; why women actively avoid code; blah blah blah.

And then @snipeyhead asked:

@snipeyhead: Do incubators have an obligation to actively seek out female hackers? http://snipe.ly/19XwBwy - what do you think?

@snipeyhead's link goes to Christina Farr's December 30, 2013, article in VentureBeat where she asks several folks in tech the same thing. And the answers are all fairly well considered. I think we all agree that this is a complex problem.

Nothing, of course, is solved in a short VentureBeat article which gives three men and two women a few paragraphs to respond.

A sort of vague-ish consensus appears across most answers to this question - not just in the VentureBeat article, but in tech discussions I've seen on Twitter as well. It follows the same type of pattern we use when solving a tech issue: find the failure point and fix it from there.

Which makes a hell of a lot of sense if you're fixing a program or a piece of hardware. It doesn't make nearly as much sense as we'd like since we're attempting a meatspace issue and I use the cyberpunk term quite deliberately here.

We have a tendency as hackers to live in our heads. We work things through systematically, even when we have our moments of inspiration and intuition. What we do to problem-solve for a living, however, doesn't fully work with messy humans.

I think that John Scalzi nailed the issues perfectly in May of 2012 when he wrote Straight, White, Male: The Lowest Difficult Setting There Is. If you haven't read his piece, please, take a moment now, because I think this metaphor captures the gist of the issue in a way nothing else does.

In short, this issue is larger than just women and it highlights a need to help out a lot of "character classes." I think groups like Girls Who Code are tremendously important, but it's only one piece of the puzzle. We need to encourage people from all groups to code as youngsters.

But we also need to encourage those same groups to pick up hacking in college. Or just out of college. Take a quick look at Ashley Baxter's article, in 24ways this year where she, someone who is not on the lowest difficult setting, someone who sells property insurance, didn't like the software she was giving clients because the vendor had neglected the app for years. It was cumbersome. It was incredibly ugly. It was embarrassing.

So she learned some Ruby on Rails and made her. Own. Damn. Program.

Is she ever going to be a hacker extraordinaire? Maybe not. Probably not as her passion seems to be in running her business. But maybe she's catching the bug and maybe she delve deeper.

I don't think the question should be "Do incubators have an obligation to actively seek out female hackers" - and I don't think the question should be "How do we get more women in tech."

I think we need to stop fooling ourselves that hackers are all of one mindset. Good gods, go look at someone else's code for a minute! You know that person is more than likely solving problems differently from you. Some of those solutions are better than yours. Some make trade-offs you don't agree with. Some only partially solve the issue and brute-force the results.

The more diverse sets of brains we get into hacking, the more ways we'll find to solve problems.

If you start encouraging more people on higher difficulty settings to join the hacking, you'll find them thinking in different ways and you'll find new solutions, some of them quite elegant.

So do incubators have an obligation to actively seek out female hackers?

If they want the best products, I think they are going to have to find ways to seek out more diverse hackers. And I think we're going to have to help that process by encouraging more people to play in our sandbox instead of putting up "Locals Only" signs everywhere.

It's a complex issue. But that's what we do: deal with complex problems. It's past time we do it.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:17 AM Blog | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

Google Maps API v3 and jQuery Dialog
July 7, 2013

I got a project the other day. Easy-peasy. All I had to do was add a map to the site, at the request of local customers who want to pick up their order rather than have it shipped. We don't really have a true brick and mortar store and we've been a catalog company for ages, so very few people outside our industry know we're in town, much less where in town.

No problem.

Well, I'm just a front-end developer and mostly just a designer. Our site is built in Visual Studio, in C# and I'm still learning where stuff if and how to manipulate it. So, I expected a little more difficulty than just throwing the map up ... but nothing like what I actually experienced.

The Google easy "embed" code didn't work at all. I've no idea why, but in IE7 and IE8, it was totally missing. So I hit Teh Googlez and found a confusing mess. After a day and a half of sifting through Stack Overflow, blog posts and forums, I finally had an answer for IE8 and up.

I abandoned the basic embed code and went to v3 of the API, assuming I'd have better control. Whilst I've been designing websites since 1996 or 1997, until recently I've allowed myself to be intimidated by "programming" - even javascript. I've kept up with what could be done with javascript, but was too intimidated to learn it. Luckily, my current employer is thrilled with anyone wanting to learn new things and has been supportive of my learning on the job. So. Here's my chance to put what I've been learning about javascript to the test, right?

First, I got it working on a dummy page on one of my domains, just to make sure I understood all the concepts. Easy-peasy.

Next, I went to work and threw it onto a dummy page on our site, making sure it would play nice with all of the javascript and myriad of scripts on our site.

Busted.

Seriously, irrevocably busted.

The problem, as I researched further, was that we were using jQuery dialog code to display the map. And as Daniel Llewellyn wrote in 2011, the real issue is that if you use the "simple map" version of code at Google Map's developer page, you're calling the script before the dialog box and the result is that the API is drawing the map in a space that doesn't yet exist.

What you wind up seeing when you do call the jQuery dialog box is perhaps 1/4 of the map at best and the rest of your dialog box is just blank or a grey square.

I've seen this on other sites and as I Googled the issue, I could see that many folks were having the same issue, but absolutely none of the convoluted fixes I saw on any forum, on Stack Overflow or on Daniel's site would work for me. Being a baby developer, it's quite possible that I simply wasn't understanding their code properly, but the fix I eventually pieced together was incredibly simple.

Example of the typical implementation (new window) of a simple Google Maps with jQuery dialog box. The code for this failed implementation is below:

<p>Google Map in a <a href="#" class="mappop" id="mappop">jQuery dialog</a>.</p> <div class="popmap" id="popmap" style="display:none;" title="Map"> <div id="map_container"><div id="map-canvas" style="background-color:#cccccc;height:450px;width:500px;"></div></div>
<script>
$(function(){
$("#mappop").click(function(){
$("#popmap").dialog({dialogClass:'popmap'});
return false;
});
});
</script>

<script src="https://maps.googleapis.com/maps/api/js?v=3.exp&sensor=false"></script>
<script>
  function initialize(){
   var mapOptions = {
   zoom:16,
   center: new google.maps.LatLng(38.858834, -77.33403),    mapTypeId: google.maps.MapTypeId.HYBRID
   }
   var map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById('map-canvas'), mapOptions);
   var contentString = '<div id="content">' +
   '<div id="siteNotice">' +
   '</div>' +
   '<h1 id="firstHeading" class="firstHeading" style="font-size:18px;">My Fav Dot Com - ThinkGeek HQ</h1>'+
   '<div id="bodyContent">' +
   '<p style="font-size:14px;">ThinkGeek HQ<br />11216 Waples Mill Rd. Suite 100<br />Fairfax, VA 22030</p>'
   '</div>' +
   '</div>';
   var infowindow = new google.maps.InfoWindow({
   content: contentString
   });
 

   var myLatLng = new google.maps.LatLng(38.858834, -77.33403);
   var marker = new google.maps.Marker({
   position: myLatLng,
   map: map,
   title: 'ThinkGeek HQ'
   });
   google.maps.event.addListener(marker, 'click', function(){
   infowindow.open(map,marker);
   });
  }
google.maps.event.addDomListener(window, 'load', initialize);
</script>

What. The. Hell. I used the code from Google's API directly! And of course, that's the downfall, isn't it?

As Daniel said, the code from Google calls the script and therefore the map before the dialog box is called, which means the API doesn't know where to draw the map!

While I saw tons of attempts to fix this, many of which had the original poster claiming thanks for helping out, I couldn't get any of these other solutions to work.

And that's when I quit being an idiot who just follows everyone else's suggestions and started thinking for myself. There had to be something in Google's API for asynchronous loading. Once I found that, I had most of my answer. I knew how to load the map. I knew how to call the map. Now I needed to fire the whole thing and that, given the parameters of my users' needs, was a simple onclick.  

Working map (except IE7) example (new window).

And the code:

<p>Google Map in a <a href="#" class="mappop" id="mappop">jQuery dialog</a>.</p><div class="popmap" id="popmap" style="display:none;" title="Map"> <div id="map_container"><div id="map-canvas" style="background-color:#cccccc;height:450px;width:500px;"></div></div>
<script>
   $(function(){
   $("#mappop").click(function(){
   $("#popmap").dialog({dialogClass:'popmap'});
   return false;
   });
});
</script>
<script>
   function initialize(){
   var mapOptions = {
   zoom:16,
   center: new google.maps.LatLng(38.858834, -77.33403),
   mapTypeId: google.maps.MapTypeId.HYBRID
   }
   var map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById('map-canvas'), mapOptions);
   var contentString = '<div id="content">' +
   '<div id="siteNotice">' +
   '</div>' +
   '<h1 id="firstHeading" class="firstHeading" style="font-size:18px;">My Fav Dot Com - ThinkGeek HQ</h1>'+
   '<div id="bodyContent">' +
   '<p style="font-size:14px;">ThinkGeek HQ<br />11216 Waples Mill Rd. Suite 100<br />Fairfax, VA 22030</p>>'
   '</div>' +
   '</div>';
   var infowindow = new google.maps.InfoWindow({
   content: contentString
   });
  

   var myLatLng = new google.maps.LatLng(38.858834, -77.33403);
   var marker = new google.maps.Marker({
   position: myLatLng,
   map: map,
   title: 'ThinkGeek HQ'
   });
   google.maps.event.addListener(marker, 'click', function(){
   infowindow.open(map,marker);
   });
   }
function loadScript(){
   var script = document.createElement('script');
   script.type = 'text/javascript';
   script.src = 'https://maps.googleapis.com/maps/api/js?v=3.exp&sensor=false&' + 'callback=initialize';
   document.body.appendChild(script);
   }
  document.getElementById('mappop').onclick = loadScript;

And no, I don't work at ThinkGeek by a long shot. Truly, they're one of my favourite ecomm sites, so I thought I'd map them out.

Anyhow, hopefully this helps out some other neophyte who's having issues working with the Google Map API and jQuery.

Now, anyone wanna tell me how to fix it on IE7?

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:07 PM | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

Dear Tracy
July 1, 2013

Dear Tracy,

There are certain people from your childhood whom you never forget. You were one of those people. Bigger than life. Quick to laugh. Quick to anger. Slow to cool. That's my take, but then that's probably what you thought of me as well.

You got to Arlington a couple of years before I did. And when I got there, I was miserable. I was ahead of you guys in reading by a full book. Math, I don't remember so much, but I know I was ahead of where the teacher placed me. It took a couple of weeks before I met you while I grappled with the teachers. But when I moved into Language Arts with you and JS, we soon became a pretty tight little trio.

My first clear memory must have been late October, just before my birthday. My mom told me I could have ONE friend over. I had two friends. You and JS and I had no idea how to pick just one of you without the other getting their feelings hurt. I decided whoever lived closer would be the one to come over and presented that to you both. Tracy, you managed to convince me that you lived closest. JS was kind pissed about that, but I guess she was used to the way you worked and didn't fight it too much.

Soon after that, I remember your math teacher announcing to all of the third grade, "Everyone who belongs in the high math class, come over here."

I bristled, still in the second high class, where I didn't think I belonged. "I oughta go," I muttered.

You heard me and egged me on. "She said if you belong. You belong."

And so I went.

Things weren't always that easy between us, though. Another day, probably not too long after that, I bucked your authority. You and JS had this agreement. You worked until number X on whatever worksheet, then waited for the other person to catch up. Then worked another 10 problems, etc, etc. That way you could both turn in your papers at the same time. Really, though, you were usually the last done and you didn't want to be the only one turning in your paper.

The problem was, I was a speed freak and easily bored. I wanted to be done so I could read a book. And one day ... I saw how far behind JS was. And then how far behind you were. And I just kept working. By the time you realized that not only had I gone past number ten (or whatever), but when JS noticed I'd worked ahead, she, too, left you behind.

I think about this particular situation a lot. We were what, 10? This was 30 fucking years ago, but to this day, Tracy, to this day, I feel badly about it. I wouldn't change it ... but I might try to explain it. I didn't realize then that you didn't want to be the last person to turn something in. I didn't realize you needed that feeling of "pack" when you turned in an assignment. I just knew I was bored already and I wanted to read my book. I was not prepared for you to burst into tears when you saw we'd both worked ahead. I hadn't intended to hurt you and I've always felt badly that I did.

It wasn't long after that we had our first fight. Well, fight by proxy. You "hired" one of the boys to beat me up at recess. Unfortunately, you picked a boy who fought like a girl, scratching rather than punching, and a girl who fought like a boy. Amazingly, no teachers seemed to notice. No crowd gathered.

Most of the time, though, we got along in third grade. And mostly in fourth. By then, it was Tracy, JS, Annette, Jenny and I. I often wonder why the four of you hung out with me. I was so different from the other kids. I like to think it was because of my imagination. But eventually, the differences between you and I became too much, Tracy. Despite the fact that you and I united darn near all of the third grade at the end of the year to re-enact an epic recess of Star Wars ... or an early version of Space Balls ... our big scene was Vader and Leia coming out of her cell, drunk and singing "How Dry I Am" ... we were both just too bull-headed to remain in a group together.

Tracy, I'm sorry. It wasn't until long after college and grad school that I learned what we had in common. For you it was your mom. For me, it was my dad. Those out-of-control parents shaped our childhoods and made us more alike than I realized. You wanted to control your situation. I get that now. I was a loose cannon, sowing dissent. It's no wonder you continued hiring boys to fight me until I finally got the point and drifted away from your group and "your" softball team.

I was tired of fighting. I gave you our friends. I gave you the pitcher's spot on the softball team. I just didn't see the point in everything being a personal battle.

Even still, you didn't make my life easy after that. There were the digs about my not being the stereotypical girl. Hints that I was crazy. And I admit, I was a very messed up little kid at that point. I hated Arlington. I hated my parents. I felt a connection to very little, so losing my friends, too? That was really, really hard. I get why you needed them. And I'm glad you had them. I mean, you guys were friends all the way through high school and into college and that, Tracy, that is something special.

We weren't done with our rivalry, though. We went to junior high and we both latched on to Mrs. Ward as a surrogate mom. I still didn't know that there were problems with your mom. I don't know that you realized how difficult my family situation was. Once more, though, we were competing for someone's attention. You were the first to call her Mom when she got pregnant, but I quickly followed suit.

I think we were both devastated when she lost the baby. October 27. I don't remember the year any more, but I've never forgotten the date.

And then, my mother transferred me to the other junior high and I lost track of you. Even after we were at the same high school, somehow we just never crossed paths again.

I never stopped thinking about you, though. I remember the day you invited me over and we played in the woods all afternoon. We found some Fisher Price Adventure People toys in the creek, abandoned. We took them back to your house, gleefully liberated. It was, all in all, a joyous day. One of the best I can ever remember in Arlington.

And every time over the years that I remembered you, I remembered that day as well. With all the personality clashes we as strong-willed kids had ... that day was awesome. Happy.

And I've never forgotten it.

I've thought about trying to find you a few times. I've talked with Annette off and on over the last few years. Never head back from JS or Jenny. But I never could find you.

Tonight I logged into my blog stats and there you were. There are a few iconic people from my childhood: Chris Balcezak was one. Tracy McGuire was another. People with whom I didn't always get along, but always felt a connection to.

As with Chris, after seeing your name in my stats, I googled you only to find out that you, too, had passed away.

Chris died near the end of 2003. I didn't learn about it until ... well ... just days after you died, Tracy. May of 2008.

In May of 2008, we should all three have been looking forward to turning 40.

I'm sorry I wasn't a better friend, Tracy. I'm sorry I didn't pick up on the things you and your dad tried so hard to hide about your mom. All I could see was how wonderful your dad was, probably because mine was such an ass.

I'm sorry I couldn't deal with your control issues any better than you coped with mine.

Most of all, I'm sorry you left the party so early, Tracy. You deserved better, more. I hope you made the most of it and enjoyed it all to the fullest.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:15 PM Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

Pulling the Plug
May 20, 2013

I started this blog in 2005.

It looks like I'm ending it 9 years later.

The last post I wrote was one of the best pieces of writing that I've done in years. And not only did I get no comments at all, I got just one person's response on Twitter. I've long since abandoned all the blog sites ... Cre8Buzz which will always remain in my heart, BlogAdvance, BlogThis, BlogMad, BlogCatalog, BlogTheOther.

I neglected, in my "heyday" if I really had such a thing, to join up with BlogHer. Maybe that was the fatal mistake.

Or, maybe, it was the lack of updates.

The lack of responses.

The exhaustion I felt when I realized promotion of the blog was far more effort than writing posts.

The fact remains that I wrote the most intense blog post in years and as far as the stats can tell me ... I got about 30 hits ... and zero comments. One mention on Twitter about being a good writer.

I'm pretty sure that all things told, I am the one who fucked up.

What I do know is ... it's really not worth the trouble of keeping up with blog software anymore. It's just as easy to do this as a webpage ... and fewer hackers ... for the lack of response.

It makes me sad, to be sure. But again ... I think it's my fault.

I'm sorry.

But this just isn't worth the trouble if I'm only talking to myself. And so ... Red Monkey blog ... I think it's time to say goodbye.

You've outlived your purpose. You've opened up vulnerabilities that are no longer worth my time.

Vaya con dios, mi amigo. Vaya con dios.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:09 PM Blog | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

The Bruising Will Come Later
May 17, 2013

The last few weeks had been difficult. Seemed like one thing after another was just not working. But today? Today had been a good day. The sun was shining - though, to be fair, the sun is almost always shining in New Mexico - work was good. When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the place I worked, I had only two things on my mind: the weekend, and my drive home.

My drive home because there was construction by the highway and people are afraid to merge in construction in New Mexico. Though that sentence shouldn't bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. It's a good day. I'm in a good mood. I don't want to fight people trying to merge, or worse, people feeling like they can zip to the front of the line and then force their way into the line. I don't want to have an accident.

On a whim, I decide to go by the volcanoes instead. It's a pretty day and no need to ruin it with traffic because people are such slaves to habit they won't leave the slopes of their home volcano even when it starts to smoke and rumble. I have to drive west for a while on old Route 66 and seeing those signs always makes me smile. I feel home here. My window is down. I'm taking the scenic route today, the weekend starting off right.

The speed limit quickly climbs to 55 because there's nothing out this way. Except, up ahead, there's a little strip mall area. The speed limit doesn't drop, but I ease off a bit. I'm in the right lane, I think, because I'm going to have to turn right up ahead a ways. While there's a bit of traffic now, it's light. Nothing like my usual route with the steady hum of traffic, the squealing of brakes and tires, the harsh changing of gears as the little sports cars shifted up and down, revving their engines loudly as they zipped around the bigger cars, jockeying for position.

And then, for a split second which did not, contrary to popular fancy, last any longer than a normal split second, there was another vehicle coming into the intersection, interrupting my perfectly green light. Someone else had already gone through the intersection. This light was not newly green. It had not turned yellow. It was green and that car, that car was not supposed—

The sounds were muffled, really. As if I were watching it on tv with the volume turned low. And it sounded like a movie, metal rending against metal, tires squealing, glass shattering. Something loud like a gunshot, both distant and immediate.

I remember that brief interlude of there's a car where there shouldn't be and then white cloth in my face and my sunglasses being torn off my face, but my regular glasses staying put, just somewhat askew. I knew there'd been a wreck and that this was no little fender bender. I tried to open my door, but it wouldn't budge. It was locked. It wouldn't unlock. How do you get out of a car if your door won't... the passenger door. Crawl over - oh hey! Look, there's smoke coming out of the vents, yeah, I didn't turn the car off yet. I sag back into my seat and turn the engine off, then start, wow, the car's kind of a mess, I really should have cleaned it out last weekend.

Standing in the bright sunlight. My sunglasses are still in the car, but I don't want to grab them. There's something I'm supposed - oh I should call 911. I think I started to do that when I was in the car, but I forgot how and then the engine and I couldn't get out. It's bright. I need to turn the contrast up and it takes me three or four tries to remember how to call 911.

The instant before the collision there was a white car where there shouldn't have been. And then I saw white. I turn around for the first time and look for the other car. It's a silver Jeep Liberty. It will be days before I realize that the split second of time merged vehicle and air bags into one scene because that faint image has a cloth seam in it. White airbags, silver Jeep Liberty, seam.

And I am talking to 911 even though someone driving by said someone else has already called 911. But you're supposed to call after a wreck and so that is what I do. I do what you're supposed to do.

Wreck
And a man comes up behind me and raises up my left hand.

"You're bleeding," he says.

Oh. Huh. I didn't know. Doesn't look too bad. I twist up my arm so I can see it. Really, just a puncture. Another person driving by thrusts a wad of napkins out their passenger window. The man runs over to grab them and presses them to the puncture where blood is still dripping out onto the sidewalk. I blink at it. Someone's going to have to clean this up. It freaks people out when they see blood in public places. Ever since the 80s, people see a speck of blood and they just panic as if the HIV virus will leap through time and space and force its way down—

"Is anyone hurt?" the 911 operator is asking.

I realize I don't know which is not like me at all because I feel compelled to help people.

I look over at other car. The silver Jeep Liberty, not a white car at all. He is outside the silver Jeep Liberty and he won't look at me. But he is standing. He is walking, even with his cast on. So I guess he's hurt. No. He was hurt before. He's got a cast on, so he's better - geez, that must suck to be in a wreck when your left leg is already in a cast. Poor guy.

"I don't think so," I reply.

The nice man holding my arm above my head and pressing napkins into it so I stop bleeding all over the sidewalk and freaking everyone out says, "Tell them to send the paramedics anyway. Always tell them to send the paramedics."

"Oh. This man here says you should send them anyway."

The nice 911 operator continues talking and I'm really not sure what she's saying. I already told her where the wreck was and that this man in the silver Jeep Liberty must have turned left in front of me because I cannot think what else could have happened. It all happened so fast. Time did not slow down and come to a standstill. There was no moment of realization and then the molasses time where you know what to do and nothing is moving fast enough to avoid the inevitable and you just can't—

The police are here. The 911 operator says something and then I ask the officer if I can hang up on 911 now because they are here. I have to ask him twice and he just blinks at me and nods. "Yes. I'm here now."

He asks me something and the paramedics come up at the same time and the officer walks away before I can answer him. There are either a hundred or four paramedics and they are swarming around me like ants at a picnic. They keep asking me if I have diabetes or high blood pressure and I keep telling them no and then another one comes up and asks me the same damn thing do you have diabetes? What about high blood pressure? And I still say no and then one of them comes at me with the blood pressure cuff and the little pulse thing that goes on your finger and I wonder for a minute about why they didn't take my temperature, too.

I don't remember the exact number. It was something insane like 196 over 120, numbers I have never ever heard in my life in reference to my blood pressure. I'm not sure this paramedic, who suddenly looks like he's barely 18 has seen these numbers before because his eyes widen as if he's looking at a ghost and he blurts them out to another paramedic. The two on my left are hovering even more intensely although they don't step any closer. I think they're waiting for me to fall over.

Thank god for the older paramedic. "Do you have high blood pressure?" he asks for the 18th time.

"No!"

He just looks at the young guy. "Check it again in a little bit." He meets my eyes, then looks at the boy again. Nods toward my car, the implied conversation seems to be "Look at the car, you moron. Your blood pressure would spike if you'd been in that, too." And he walks away.

Another paramedic comes over and I show her my left hand because I have just noticed it's about twice its normal size and already impressively purple. "Hey, my pinky is kind of cold."

She seems disinterested. "Do you have high blood pressure? Diabetes?"

I am bored of this question and quickly look down at my phone. I should probably call someone. But my partner is likely driving home right now and I don't want to call her when she's driving. And she'll probably freak out. It's not good to make someone freak out when they're driving. I text a coworker.

"Can u come pick me up?? Central and 98th"

"Sure. Everything ok?"

I look at my car and back to the phone. "Car totaled"

"Shit be right there. You ok?"

I suddenly realize that I haven't talked to the cops yet, really. I'm not sure if I can leave yet and I don't want my coworker to have to stand around and wait. "Mostly. Don't know if I can leave yet"

"On my way"

And I feel bad for asking her to leave work early. I look around. There's the cop. I fish around in my back pocket for my wallet. Pull out the driver's license and insurance card. What the HELL? I know the insurance is up-to-date, but the card's not. Dammit. Fuck.

I hand them to him, "I can't find the right insurance card. I know it's valid, but this is the last one, but all the information is correct and I always have the right card and I don't know why it's not in my wallet—"

He just smiles and nods and takes my information and heads over to his car.

The paramedic boy checks my blood pressure again. It's been maybe five minutes, but it's coming down. 160 over something stupid now. I officially refuse going to the hospital and have to sign the little computer saying I refused to come in. I am appalled at how crappy the signature is and wonder if the handwriting software is that bad or if the screen just isn't very sensitive. I hold out my hand. Rock steady.

I look around. The nice man who had held the napkins to my arm until the paramedics arrived walks back up and hands me his business card.

"Did you see the wreck?" I ask suddenly realizing I had no witnesses and this was not my fault.

"No. But here's my card. If the police give you any trouble, you give me a call anyway."

I thank him and he walks off.

I look at my car. Walk around to the driver's side. The tire is shredded. And the car is sagging. I bet the axle is broken. Definitely not drivable. And the driver's side door is crinkled and ... kind of pushed back. No wonder I couldn't get it open. The mirror is gone. Sitting inside the car. That's probably what hit my hand.

Wreck

I look over at the silver Jeep Liberty. The wheel well is messed up on the driver's side, but it looks like it might be drivable. The driver is on the sidewalk. Staring at the ground. He won't look at me. The cop calls him over. A woman is standing next to me.

"Someone rear-ended him last week on his motorcycle," she says quietly.

"I wondered why he was in a cast. Is he okay?"

She nods.

I begin getting the most important things out of my car so I'm ready when my coworker gets here. I don't want to make her wait. It's a beautiful day out now, but it was cold this morning and I hope I didn't drip any blood on my coat. It's a tan corduroy coat that I love and I'd be really pissed if there was blood on it. I drop it on the sidewalk next to my bag. I'm hoping there's still an empty bag in my trunk to get the rest of the stuff out. If the car is totaled, I need to get everything out.

There is a bag. The bag I made fun of a few months ago, a freebie from work. I shove everything from the glovebox in there. Clear out the arm rest container, the trunk. Pull out the two six-packs of Diet Pepsi I'd bought this morning. The kitty litter. I make a pile on the sidewalk and feel bad about taking up room on the sidewalk. And that I can't move my car further over. It's in the right lane, all the way through to the west side of the intersection, so at least the road is kind of clear.

"What happened?" the cop asks quietly.

"I was driving west," I said. "And then he turned left in front of me. But I had a green light. Other people had already gone through."

He nods.

"Are there any witnesses?"

He shrugs and I pale. "He said the same thing."

I am incredibly relieved. What a rarity for someone to own their mistake. He still won't look at me. The top of his head seems attached to a string pulling his head down to the sidewalk. Waiting for the ground to swallow him whole.

I see my coworker and wave. I pick up some of the lighter things, my bag, the hiking sticks, my coat and she grabs the other bag, the Pepsi and the litter. I feel bad for making her carry heavy things and as I try to protest, she insists with a look at my left hand, swollen and purple.

I ask another officer if I can go. He's surprised, but amenable. He hands me the paperwork for the towing of my car. I walk away.

We pass the other driver. He cannot raise his head.

I put my arm gently on his shoulder and say softly, "I know we've both had a shitty day, but I want to thank you for telling the police the truth. That means a lot."

I walk away. I don't look back.

We put my things in my coworker's trunk. I check my arm. I don't want to bleed on her car, in her car. She's got a damn nice car. It's stopped bleeding. But I have dry blood all over my left arm. Huh. Didn't realize I bled that much. I mean there were drops on both airbags from where I climbed out and everything. And some on the sidewalk, big drops.

And the paramedics didn't even give me any gauze or anything. They didn't even just run some water over it. Huh. I thought they did that kind of thing.

We begin the drive north to the little 'burb where we live. Neither of us quite knows how to get there from this particular road, but she soon gets us back to the road we both normally take home. She drives the speed limit so carefully. She's a lot like me and knows when to talk a little and when to just let the silence sit comfortably around us. She offers me her water and even though I'm really thirsty all of a sudden, I tell her I'm fine. We talk a bit. I don't want to talk much about the wreck because I know she's had a few traumatic ones and I don't want to make her think about them. Except I can't really think of much else to talk about. There wasn't supposed to be a car there. And then there was and I'm okay. I mean, really, not all that much damage for being in a 55mph zone, if you think about it.

My poor car.

Everyone walked away, though.

At some point, I realize my partner is probably home by now and I call her. "I'm okay," I say. "But Y is bringing me home."

"Why?"

"I'm okay," I repeat and she interrupts with "I heard that, what happened?"

"The car is probably totaled. Someone hit me."

We eventually pull up to the last major intersection and I realize I am probably going to faint if I don't get some water. I really don't want—

"Actually, would you mind if I have a sip of water after all?" I'm pretty sure if I pass out in her car, she will freak and take me to the hospital.

"Of course, go ahead."

I take a long drink. And then another. I don't feel so much like I'm going to faint any more. It's kind of a near thing, but I'm good now. I give her plenty of warning for each turn in my twisty little neighbourhood. And then I apologize because I'm quite sure the dogs are going to be loud, obnoxious little brats. They get cranky when I get home late plus they won't be expecting company.

And they are just incredibly loud. You'd think they were German Shepherds instead of miniature dachshunds. We get everything inside, I apologize for the state of the house, for the dogs' behaviour and then she's leaving. I feel bad. Damn dogs are so obnoxious, ruining the one time she's come over. My partner scurries me into the bathroom to look at my wounds, ready with the implements of cleaning, disinfecting and bandaging.

I look in the mirror. No black eyes from the airbag. My face looks fine. It's just my left arm, I think.

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things that you get ashamed of because words diminish them—words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size they they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it?

The bruising will come later.

 

 

 

The first four paragraphs each have a quote or near quote from a different book. The next-to-last paragraph is a quote from a fifth book. The quote in the first paragraph came to me out of the blue and I just went with it. Then I thought it was a kind of fun thing and kept it up for the next couple of paragraphs ... and then I got into the piece I was writing and went with the flow until the last quote also popped into my head. Sometimes life just works that way. Be shocked if anyone can guess which five books.... :)

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:01 PM Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

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