Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Most Enjoyable Concussion Story

Since all my lunch buddies were laid off last year, I've gotten into the bad habit of eating lunch alone in my office because -- get this -- it's "less depressing." (Yes, I'm misquoting myself.) After an 11:00 meeting, I decided to venture out and ask a co-worker if he wanted to go to lunch. This co-worker -- let's call him Thigpen -- is a huge Sonics fan and he rides his bike to work, so we have something to talk about. Thigpen was telling me a story about how his wife had a nasty fall on her bike, and she kept repeating the same questions, so I tried to tell a quick concussion story of my own. I didn't want to spend the entire 45-minute lunch telling this story, but that's what happened. Thigpen kept interrupting me with questions.

Here's how I wanted to tell the quick and dirty story:

A bunch of friends and I were playing tackle football in the park. There was a new guy named Brad that I didn't like1, so I was looking for a way to clobber him. One of my friends got to him first. Elden2 tackled him so hard that Brad's head whiplashed against the frozen ground. Brad rolled around for a few seconds, muttered something, and went into convulsions. He was literally foaming at the mouth. Elden called the ambulance3 and we all went to the hospital. When we finally were able to see Brad4, he kept asking the same three questions: "What happened? Does my wife know where I am? Where are my keys?"5

1 I didn't like Brad for two reasons. First, I was dating a widow1A with four daughters1B at the time, and he was trying to convince her to break up with me.1C Second, we were supposed to be working together on an online tutorial, and this guy refused to accept editing changes1D. I can see why poets and novelists might get protective of their text, but a technical writer?

1A She was a widow because her husband was killed in a bicycling accident. He was riding hard to meet one of his friends, and he probably had his head down since he was going about 30mph on a flat road. A bus1Ai turned left in front of him, and he crashed into the side view mirror, breaking his neck.

1Ai It was the substitute bus driver's first and only day on the job. She hadn't been through the mandatory training course. A couple days after the accident, a state representative called to tell the widow that they were willing to give her the maximum compensation allowed by the law. Since the law was created in the late 60s, and since the law didn't include a provision for inflation, the widow had to choose whether to fight that law in a conservative Utah court or take the relatively small sum of money.

1B The oldest daughter was 9 and the youngest had just turned 1. Cute kids. The widow was the provider and the deceased had been the homemaker, which was an odd arrangement in Utah County.

1C Brad was a Mormon who was married to a woman he had fallen out of love with. He couldn't divorce her because she had a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. At least that's what he told the widow. He knew that I was no longer an active Mormon1Ci, so he urged her to break up with me1Cii.

1Ci I had just abandoned Mormonism for good around this time, but I was having a difficult time figuring out how I wanted to live. It wasn't easy to separate undesirable social programming from genuine personality traits. After crashing through several awful relationships, I started dating the widow. We saw each other for a year, and I think we helped each other through parallel dark periods. The fact that I wasn't a devout Mormon was a comforting barrier to both of us for a long time, but then it became a burden -- especially when people like Brad kept pointing out the futility.

1Cii I knew that he was saying bad stuff about me to the widow, but I didn't know hard he was pushing until after the concussion incident. He had fallen in love with the widow.

1D Here's one of the editing changes I wanted Brad to make. On the first screen of the tutorial, he wrote, "Click the right arrow button to proceed and continue." I told him to delete the sentence, because if users can't figure out how to click the right arrow, perhaps they deserve to stare at that screen for a couple of hours. No? Then if you're not going to delete the whole sentence, maybe you could just say "to continue" instead of "to proceed and continue." Brad then explained to me in painful detail why "proceed" and "continue" have two different meanings in this context, and why they are both relevant and necessary. I could have strangled and choked him.

2 Elden (aka, the Fat Cyclist) is a terrible football player, but strangely effective. He runs as fast as he can, most often in the wrong direction, and he hits people as hard as he can, even if they don't have the football.

3 Dug said the rule of thumb in cases like this is that the guy who wallops the victim has to call the ambulance, but Elden seemed too shaken up. This was before cell phones, so he had to knock on someone's door and ask to call 911. We also debated who should give CPR if it came to that. I'm afraid that conversation reflected poorly on me, but in my defense, I'll emphasize that Brad had a thick beard and he was foaming at the mouth and he was a lousy writer.

4 While we were sitting in the waiting room of the ER, someone mentioned that the game was going to get out of hand anyway, so it was a good thing we had to stop. Someone else took issue, so we went outside to finish our tackle football game on the field behind the hospital. If memory serves, my team was victorious.

5 His keys were in his pocket.


  1. Ah, footnote humor. It just doesn't get any better.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. i'm a terrible player? i am crushed.


  4. elden, brad was crushed, you are just wistful.

  5. I had no idea you could delete comments. Now I'm curious. Was it offensive? Substandard? Private?

  6. Bob, a few questions rise inherently from your story:

    Had you called his wife? If so, who called? Does the whacker have to both call the ambulance AND call the wife? That seems a little too harsh.

    Why were you playing football? Did you play football often, or was it like a Turkey Bowl?

    Was it Brad Keys?

    Did Elden whack 'em because Elden didn't like him either, or just because Elden has no rheostat?

    Can Elden be a terrible football player if he’s strangely effective? Doesn’t that just make him strangely effective?

    Was it the field behind American Fork Hospital? You know that field isn’t there anymore.

    So who's brining a football to Fall Moab '07 at Gooseberry? I’m thinking slickrock ledges make a perfect surface on which to play tackle football.

  7. I'm glad you weren't there when I was telling the story, Botched, or we would have been there all afternoon. In the spirit of the post, I'll answer all your questions:

    * I don't remember who called the wife. That happened at the hospital, most likely without my knowledge. His wife was bed-ridden, so she stayed home.

    * We did play football often, especially when it snowed. We were all in our 20s back then so we could heal within a couple of days, and most of us knew how to tackle without doing serious damage. We tackled more like rugby players. Elden was a noted exception. After football, we'd go buy drinks at a 7/11 and boast. During Fall Moab, you may hear one of us say something like, "Where should we go boast?"

    * It was not Brad Keyes. I like Brad Keyes. I seriously, honestly, genuinely disliked this other Brad. I can say that of only about a handful of people I've ever known.

    * Elden whacked him because Elden tackled everyone as hard as he possibly could on every single play. I don't think he wanted to hurt him.

    * I forgot to say why Elden was strangely effective. If he was on the other team, he drove you to distraction. But have no illusions, for his terribleness more than offset his effectiveness. He caught passes like a 2-year-old; he'd swipe his arms after the ball hit him in the face, and then he'd dive on the ground to get the ball because he didn't know the difference between a fumble and an incomplete pass. I'm glad he made the transition from football to cycling.

    * It was the field behind the Provo hospital on 500 West. I'm not sure what the name of the hospital is. Utah Valley Medical Center?

    * Rick M will bring his football again. And Paul will do his flawless impersonation of Robbie Bosco.

  8. So, did she settle or did she fight? Isn't that the most obvious 1a unanswered question?

    1a Obvious if you are warped by practice of law.1b

    1b Unless you are purposely trying to tease the audience by withholding titillating story of legal wrangling?

    Hilarious posting, Bob. Like the blog. Hi to all.

    Kari aka "Schmari".

  9. Another question rises inherently from your response to Botched's very understandable questions:

    Am I among the handful of people you seriously, honestly, genuinely dislike? C'mon, you can tell us who we are.

  10. What happened with Brad? Did he ditch his bedridden wife? Hook up with the widow? After his head injury, did he suddenly gain the ability to speak Mandarin or see auras? Or did he change his name to Ian?

  11. i embrace my terribleness. i am able to do this without pain, for i know, deep in my heart of hearts, that i am beloved by thousands.


  12. hahaha! "He caught passes like a 2-year-old; he'd swipe his arms after the ball hit him in the face, and then he'd dive on the ground to get the ball because he didn't know the difference between a fumble and an incomplete pass."

    that's some seriously funny stuff!!!

    but you do realize that many of your readers are here because you were highly recommended by the formerly fat one, don't you? and to speak ill of him jeopardizes your readership. fatty only has to snag his fingers and your readers will....do something. couldn't think of a good way to end that sentence.

    btw, what DID happen to the widow and the settlement?


  13. * She settled ($300 K). That allowed her to "work" part time. She became the trainer of writers and editors, which was silly because we weren't hiring new people -- except Brad. That's why Brad spent so much time with the widow -- he sought training advice. "Question: Do you think I should say, 'To proceed and continue in an ongoing fashion' or should I strip it down to its bare essence and simply say "To proceed and continue'?"

    * I'm trying to think of 5 people I know that I genuinely dislike, and it's just not coming. I actually like my incompetent nose-picking manager. Oh, there's a guy across the street that I don't like. When they moved in last year, we went to introduce ourselves while we were out on a walk, and he showed up and the door with two huge barking dogs. He seemed happy to let them bark. Dog lover. I guess we were bugging him. Plus, he puts up a huge Notre Dame flag in his window. So that's 2 people I don't like. And there's David from junior high school. Even after we fought, I still didn't like him. That's 3. And there's Ian/Jan, who refused to tell me how he spelled his name (g'night Ian Jan). I'll try to think of a fifth.

    * After the concussion, Brad never really looked the same. It was as if he'd become addicted to Lithium. My theory is that Elden's tackle destroyed some frontal lobe tissue. The widow and I soon broke up amicably a month or so later, and she married a guy (she'd referred to him as a "friend" to me) a couple months later. Brad didn't last long at WordPerfect/Novell. I think he moved "back east." (I originally wrote "out east," but anyone who lives on the east coast will flash you a stink eye if you don't say BACK east.)

    * Fatty knows I'm exaggerating about his atrocious football playing abilities, but to his credit, he also knows I'm exaggerating only a little bit. He'd just never played football before. I'm sure if I took up an unfamiliar sport, like lacrosse, someone would whip the ball to me and I'd flail as the ball struck me between the eyes, and then I'd wobble out of bounds and knock over a trash can. Or maybe not.

  14. Bob, lets just say that Elden has an aspect of unweildiness about him and leave it at that. Shall we?

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