Saturday afternoon in Bangkok, Thailand: hot and humid, on a crowded ferry bringing us back to the mainland city from a small community still on the mainland but feeling like an island along the contorted path of the Chao Phraya River.
We were feeling tired and hungry, despite the aisles of food stalls we had passed during a visit to one of the city’s seemingly countless food markets. Too much oil and too many unnamed animal parts for our Western stomachs to handle less than 48 hours after arriving from the States.
The ferry was jam packed, not just with riders on foot, but with dozens of motor bikes, all revving their engines and maneuvering to exit first once the ferry docked.
That didn’t stop my wife, who was in dire need of a pit stop. She weaved her way through the motorcycles and walkers, sped off the pier and headed down a road that she hoped would lead to public facilities.
I was some paces behind, hemmed in by the bikes, and walking a bit gingerly in a pair of sandals that threatened to fall apart on me.
So my bride impatiently marched on ahead of the mob, her head in the air instead of looking ahead. And that’s when it happened. Suddenly, as if stuck by a sniper’s bullet, down she went, arms flailing, body flipping over.
But I was not witnessing a news headline in this age of fear. There was no sniper, no shot, no American tourist brought down. Instead, what there was was a poor dog, who had been lying peacefully in the broiling sun (why it was doing so I didn’t get to ask), suddenly to become an unexpected speedbump my wife hadn’t noticed.
Even as my wife tumbled to the ground, I heard the surprised yelp of the mangy creature, who beat a hasty exit. Of more immediate concern, of course, was my wife’s condition. It had been quite a fall. She was slightly bleeding from a scrape of the knee, and her eyeglasses were flung off from the sudden collision of the side of her head with the concrete road.
She was in some pain, in a little shock, and sporting a nasty mark on her left eye. But the local Thais were quick to the rescue, helping me get her upright and seated. An elderly woman at the adjacent Buddhist temple ran off and quickly returned with some iodine for the cut on the knee. A vendor of sweetened, flavored shaved ice filled a plastic envelope with ice, which we applied to her knee and then left eye. A cabdriver pulled up and we were able to get her into his cab. This was all done with a level of concern and kindness to strangers that was truly endearing.
After awhile, the suddeness of the mishap began to wear off, replaced by a black eye. And as the immediate shock wore off, my wife began to focus on the culprit. At first, it was the mangy mutt, who I guess should have seen an inattentive tourist headed its way and moved to avoid a collision, much like driverless cars are said to be able to do.
But the dog was just the low-lying fruit, and not a sufficiently culpable culprit. And it didn’t take long to find one, someone who was close at hand–me.
Somehow, I should have been there, my wife’s seeing eye dog, who could have led her around the sleeping hazard. But where was I? Yards to the rear, yet again failing my husbandly duty.
But had I failed? I think not. After all, had I not provided her once more with her Easy Button, that go-to mate who gets to play the fall guy for any misadventure?
In fact, I think I’d played my part rather well–not around in time to actually help, but there in enough time to provide some TLC after the fall, and then to absorb the slings and arrows of her misfortune.
And, I get to be reminded of the entire sequence every day, looking at that prominent shiner. Eventually, that will go away, as no serious damage was done. But I will be able to live for the next time I get to play her Jimmy Olsen, rather than her Superman…