Imagine the sound of your alarm clock, but infinitely louder. That’s what the burglar alarms sound like in Eastern European book stores at two in the morning when someone falls through their plate glass windows.
A brief pause, then another crash.
This time, it’s the two-thirds of the plate glass above him, coming down on his legs while he sits in shock on the table right inside the window.
“If he had been leaning forward when that fell. No. Stop thinking like that.” I try to focus, but…
The guy in the window is actually one of three guys I’m with. I am the only one sober—always the good guy—and the other two are running scared. Separate directions, eyes wide.
My friend tries to stand up, presses his hands down on the broken edge of the glass he just fell through. He falls back onto the table. I notice it’s full of travel books on display—like a hook in the water, hoping to snag a passer-by.
“You caught one,” I think.
Now the table is full of glass. Glass and blood.
I help my friend to his feet. I can hear police sirens. Part of me wants to wait for them to arrive so we can explain that it was an accident—always the good guy. My friend wants no part of that.
So we move off the main street and onto side streets, winding our way back to our apartment. Not far behind us, I can feel activity. The alarm is still ringing. We make it back, avoiding eye-contact with the few people we pass.
He does not want to go to the hospital. So, instead, I do a little examination of the damage. His hands are cut up pretty bad, but nothing very deep. We get them washed, cuts cleaned out and a few steri-strips. Good to go.
Then he says, “My leg feels warm.” I notice that both jean legs are torn just above the knee, so I have him shimmy out of them. There are two, three-inch gashes in his right thigh. There is stuff (human stuff) sticking out. His leg is red with blood.
I tell him not to look and direct him onto the kitchen table. Spot light on for a better view and all I can think is that I’m gonna have to stitch it up. I grab my sewing kit—a last minute packing decision, but right now it feels like the best. A match, a candle, sterilize the needle. Two shots of vodka for my friend (not that he needs more) and I get started. Human skin is a lot tougher than you think. I have to use a thimble.
That was almost twenty years ago and today he is still one of my best friends. There’s something about these kinds of crazy situations that bonds people in a way you can’t explain.
This experience has taught me a few things.
Difficult situations are really opportunities to strengthen relationships. In the moment they are no fun. But focus on making it through, and you’ll experience a new level of connection. I’ve seen this happen with clients and employees as well as friends.
When tough stuff happens, your true self shows. The other two guys were gone before I could even turn around. They left our buddy sitting bloody in the window and they left me to help him. I’ll let you form your own opinions.
And perhaps most importantly, always pack a sewing kit. Hopefully, you’ll just need to stitch a button back on. But in the off chance there’s more to it, better to be prepared.