Friday, May 05, 2017

A Writer's Mind

When I was thinking about what I would blog about today, I kept going back to something that happened on Monday. This incident was both scary and – in retrospect – a little embarrassing. But I've got to tell you about it, because I suspect this is another example of how a writer's mind functions.

Here's what happened (thank you, Adrian Monk, for that phrase). I had a great time at Malice Domestic last weekend (great seeing several of my fellow bloggers!). The only problem was I kept waking up during the night when my hotel room air conditioner came on and it was too hot to turn it off. So I was a little tired on Monday morning, and I arrived at school with just enough time to hurry over to the building next door to make sure the noise from the pipe in the ceiling last class meeting was not going to be a problem during Monday's team presentations. Relieved not to hear anything and that the media equipment was also working well, I dashed into the cafeteria and picked up the lunch special to go. Back at my desk, I realized I'd gotten napkins and a plastic fork but forgotten I needed a knife. But I didn't have time to rummage through what was in my drawer looking for one. I needed to print out a copy of my syllabus so that I could remind the class of end of semester due dates.

So there I was, pressing "print" with one hand while forking food into my mouth with the other. And swallowing fast. Until something didn't go down and I realized a large piece of steak had lodged in my throat. Luckily, I had taken the time to fill my mug with water. And I managed – with the help of the visitor's chair on the other side of my desk – to perform my own Heimlich Maneuver (see image for instructions):

It was an interesting experience – similar to the time I hydroplaned during a rainstorm. I had time to think about what was happening and consider what I should do. And hear my mother reminding me to "chew my food." But it was all over in a minute or so.

A friend once told me that her tire had blown out as she was driving home on the interstate in rush hour traffic. I said, "Did you panic?" and she, ever logical, said, "That wouldn't have helped." I'd also browsed the Army survival manual and some other books when I was doing research for a Lizzie Stuart mystery. So I had been lecturing myself about not panicking during the next emergency – keep your head and survive. Or, save your cat. My last almost emergency was a few weeks ago, when Harry seemed to be choking on a treat he had gobbled. He managed to cough it up and then swallow. But that reminded me that I didn't know how to do the Heimlich on a cat. And while Googling the instructions, I'd had occasion to review what to do for a human – including yourself. And I was hoping I had time to try that before I ran out into the hall to search for help before I passed out.

As I was dashing out the door to class – couldn't be late because all the teams had to present – I made a mental note that I needed to write down what had happened because now I knew how it felt and I might be able to use it in a book. And last night, having thought of what happened again, I realized – much to my delight – that I can use it in the book I'm working on right now. In fact, it will be perfect in the book I'm writing because I have an important secondary character who is a cook aboard a train, and what if…

My question – am I really too weird even for a writer? Or, are we all – even during scary moments – constantly making notes to ourselves? What doesn't kill us or leave us unable to write, gets filed away to find its way into a book or short story?


Rick Blechta said...

That's sort of scary. Glad to hear it all ended well.

Sybil Johnson said...

Very scary. Glad to here you're okay.

Donis Casey said...

I'm not going to complain about my super scrubber breaking my heart any more. Worse things can happen. I'm glad you are still alive, Frankie, and impressed by your talent to take a near-tragedy and make literature out of it.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Thanks, everyone! It was actually scarier thinking about it after than it was during because it happened so quickly. And the good news about almost doing yourself in while gobbling down lunch is that it does provide some perspective on your life at least for a few days. But, Donis, I'm sure by next week I'll be back to complaining about scrubbers when they don't work.

As for making literature, this is one of those moments when an experience happens at just the right time to solve a plot problem. But from now on, I'm going to listen to my mother's voice about eating slowly. That would have been such an embarrassing way to die. Not as bad as Chuckles the Clown on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but still bad.