Road Trip Europe-22/12/19-20 A Careless Moment and a Narrow Escape from Tragedy

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The first change in weather since I got to Berlin is occurring. It’s raining today and slightly above freezing. To save energy, I’ve had the apartment heat turned off since arrival, relying on thermal underwear and the ubiquitous German featherbed for comfort. Today, I open some windows to air the place out.

Tomorrow is my meeting with the lawyer to start resolving the preliminaries to marketing my Berlin property. However… around noon I receive an email from her husband and law partner that she is ill and won’t be working the rest of the month — and is fully booked through January. Not what I expected since she was eager to go just 4 days earlier, but there’s no point in speculating whether she’s dissembling. I ask the husband for a referral to another lawyer, which he supplies. I send my analysis to this attorney and within hours he responds that my problem is complex, he has upcoming surgery, and is not interested in handling it. My skeptical hope of progress by Christmas is now dashed. Since I’m leaving Berlin soon, any further work will have to wait until my return in several months. I’ve waited 10 years, so this is just a minor additional delay.

Since there’s no hope of further progress — hope may die last, but it does die — it’s time to start socializing. I begin sending out emails to various Berlin Servas hosts asking if they want to get together before I head for Frankfurt during the night of 26 December.

Mid-afternoon, I need to get something out of the car, which is within feet of the door. Leaving my house slippers on, I go outside. Failing to realize how the rain and cold ground have conspired to create a frictionless layer of slick ice, within a couple of steps my feet go out from under me and I free fall 3 feet onto my back. As I lay there cursing, moaning, and evaluating whether my traveling is at an end, I gradually conclude the pain is all superficial and nothing has been broken or displaced. Blaming my smooth soled slippers for the fall, I reach down and pull them off, figuring my wet socks will have a better grip on the ice.

Slowly and painfully, I get back on my feet and work my way to the rear car door to retrieve what I need. Feeling a little less slammed and surer on my feet, I head back to the house. Just as I’m thinking about bending down to pick up my abandoned slippers, it happens again! My stocking feet shoot forward and I again free fall onto my back. This time my elbows and the back of my head make a secondary impact. I can hardly imagine getting through two such falls without a serious injury and my head certainly hurts where it hit. Miraculously, I realize my pain-wracked body is nonetheless functional. I make it through the front door.

My head didn’t hit hard enough to even raise a lump but there is a neurological effect. My thoughts are quite confused. It’s strange, though, because I know I’m confused and am simultaneously monitoring it. I have to suspect concussion, of course, so my first decision is not to lie down and fall asleep. I unlock the doors in case I take a turn for the worse and have to dial for an ambulance. The layout of the small apartment seems unfamiliar to me. I wander from room to room trying to make sense of it. At one point I walk into the adjacent apartment to see if I “belong” there. I’m also staring at the computer trying to remember what I had been working on 20 minutes earlier, to no avail. Very fortunately, my thinking gets steadily better and in 30 minutes I feel perfectly clearheaded.

As a precaution, I stay awake in a chair for several hours. By evening, my concussion concerns dissipate and I stay mostly horizontal for the next 48 hours to let some of the bruising and aching abate. I am a very lucky guy.

It’s a good reminder, though, of something I already know — one’s life can be permanently altered in 5 seconds of carelessness or bad luck.

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