I'll make a quick comment on Facebook, or OS, or to a group and then, just as quickly, realize that I want to take it back. That it doesn't read like it was intended. That it sounds dismissive instead of funny. That it sounds smug instead of caring. I want to erase or edit or have a few minutes in a time machine that lets me go back and say something different.
In most cases, no one's paying all that much attention and it doesn't matter. But occassionally the words come back to haunt me.
Years ago, in my 30's at a girls night out, someone started a conversation about the traumas we had dealt with in our lives. One woman was thinking about a divorce at the time, one had just come out to her parents, one had flunked out of college, another no longer spoke to any of her siblings. I was quiet.
I didn't make the cheerleading squad one year in high school, and I had to take a summer school class before I could graduate from college and start law school because I had kept dropping French thinking they'd get rid of the language requirement. But, basically, my life had been a pretty even keel. When all eyes turned to me, I shrugged, felt a little guilty, and said something glib like,
"Smooth sailing here."
I really wish I hadn't said that because within a span of a few years, our dog ran away after I forgot to let him back in, I got cancer (okay, it was very treatable, but still), I had some outbreaks of late onset acne, I got divorced, and I found myself basically raising two daughters by myself (and, yes, they were good kids, but I still had to feed them every day, monitor homework and listen to them whine when I turned off TV). It was as if the universe was evening things out, wiping away any remnants of smugness from my life.
I was knocked down and yelling, "Enough, already! I take it all back! That cheerleading loss really was pretty truamatic."
Jump forward a few years and I was practicing law for a personal injury firm where we were quick to sue just about anyone for causing just about any injury. The bigger the verdict the better. High fives all around for spreading the wealth to the underdog.
Until I read about the multi-million dollar verdict a woman got for spilling her own cup of McDonald's coffee in her lap. It could have been because we hadn't thought of it, but I found the suit fairly outrageous.
"How can anyone think they deserve a couple million dollars for doing something stupid like spilling their own coffee?" I said, with little or no empathy.
And then there I was, just last month, at the Circle K gas station getting my daily newspapers, my morning cup of coffee and my bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream Chips for lunch. I handed the clerk a twenty, reached across the counter to get my change and knocked my full cup of coffee over, causing the lid off to pop off, and sending all twenty ounces of the scalding, freshly brewed coffee directly onto my mid-section where it was absorbed by my cotton dress, which stuck to my stomach, and burned like hell.
I was pulling at my dress, hopping up and down, trying to get the coffee and the dress away from my stomach, all the while apologizing for the mess I'd made and trying to look like it was no big deal and that it didn't hurt like hell, even though it did. The clerk was a little miffed at having to clean it up and I was trying hard not to cry.
With the dress pulled away from my stomach and still no relief, I realized that the coffee had also absorbed into my underpants, which were holding tight to my mid-section. I found myself wanting to rip those panties right off in the middle of the Circle K. But I couldn't remember what ones I was wearing. All of my mom's warnings about wearing nice underwear reflected in the eyes of the Ruffles delivery man watching my dilemma.
So, instead, I hopped to my car, calling back apologies and thanking Honda for tinted windows. Air conditioner vents directed at my mid-section provided some relief and I eventually headed to the store.
When I got there, I took a good look at my stomach and saw that there was a big red mark that still hurt a little, although not quite as much as knowing that I'd be spending the day without coffee, lunch or newspapers.
By that evening the red mark had turned into blisters and, as I'm prone to do, I got on the internet to see if I needed medical care.
It was pretty clear that I had a second degree burn, but not quite as clear whether I needed medical attention. If I was an infant, the answer was yes. Also yes if the burn was on my face or some other obvious place. Or if it was an electrical burn. But little was said about an adult burn on the panty line. I decided I could bypass the doctor if I kept an eye on the burn, wore loose dresses and big underwear, and watched for things like seepage.
A few days later the blisters looked like they were going away and the line where they had erupted started turning dark brown. A month post-burn, that brown line seems intent on staying as a reminder that coffee is hot.
I'm left with what appears to be a scar and a wish that I had never said anything about people suing for spilling their coffee.
I really could have used a couple million.