At any rate, a long time ago when Wonko (a.k.a. Ryan) was much smaller than he is now (and his brain wasn’t fully developed), the kids and I were in our somewhat elderly Oldsmobile one day on our way home from Alamogordo, NM to Holloman AFB. In case you’re lousy at geography like I am (the only places I can reliably point to on a map are places where I’ve lived — fortunately I’ve lived in a lot of places), these are located 7 miles apart, somewhere in the middle of the southern New Mexican desert.
The air conditioning in the Olds left much to be desired, so to compensate we had mounted a small fan on the ceiling just behind the dome light to guide whatever coldish wisps of air the A/C did manage to sputter out in the general direction of the back seat.
On this particular day, the fan was adjusted so it would blow on Ryan, who was hot, and not on Risa, who somehow, in spite of the fact that it was 110°F in the shade, was cold. Rustin was sitting in the middle being his usual mellow self, and didn’t seem to have a preference.
As we entered the base and made the sharp left turn that would take us to the housing area, momentum caused the fan to swing toward the opposite side of the car. Chaos immediately ensued; Risa yelled because it was making her cold(er), Ryan yelled because he was hot, and Rusty yelled because everyone else was yelling, and when you’re eight months old, that’s a good enough reason.
Using my well-developed driving-Mom talents, I skillfully negotiated the next corner with one hand and a knee, while reaching back to adjust the fan with my other hand. Somehow (and I say that because I later attempted to reproduce this and was completely unable) my index finger went through the fan housing and was instantly pulverized by the spinning blades, one of which broke off from the force of the impact. I reflexively jerked my hand back, and the fan stopped.
I brought the injured digit around where I could see it, while my left hand and knee instinctively continued guiding the car toward our destination. (Moms are creatures with amazing abilities, when necessary.) As my stunned brain gradually began to register input from the real world again, I became aware of three things. The first was the knowledge that if I got blood on the upholstery, my then-husband was going to kill me. The second was that, in just a few nanoseconds, this was really gonna HURT. (I was right.) The third was Ryan’s exasperated voice emanating from the back seat:
“MOOOOOM!!! You BROKE the fan! Now we’re gonna be HOT!!!”
Somehow, in spite of the blinding pain, I managed to deposit the kids with a neighbor without wrecking the car or bleeding on its interior. I borrowed some paper towels from her to absorb the blood, and drove myself to the ER.
The airman at the desk, not noticing the blood-soaked wad around my right hand that was clutched in my left hand at chest level (because it hurt even worse when it was any lower), asked me why I was there. I pushed the bloody soggy mess of redness closer to his face and said, “I stuck my finger in a fan.” His eyebrows rose at the sight of all the blood, and he gave me a startled look. “Why?” he asked. I remember thinking that this was probably a golden opportunity for a snappy comeback, if only I weren’t in too much pain to think of one. Mentally excusing his stupidness (after all, he WAS just an airman) I allowed him to lead me to an examination room.
After a throbbing, pain-filled eternity, a doctor finally appeared. “Oh, my,” he said, looking at my bloody pseudo-bandage. (At least he was somewhat observant.) “What did you do to your hand?” “I stuck my finger in a fan,” I replied. He looked puzzled. “Why?” Somewhere inside of me, my sarcastic alter-ego curled up in total agony.
To this day, I have not been able to come up with a suitable retort. I think it’s the pain of the memory that blocks my creative sarcastic efforts. So there’s really not a dramatic finish to the story. I just like telling it because of the sheepish look it invariably brings to Ryan’s face.