When the doctor on call drew back the hospital curtain, he looked my way and said, “Injury to the face, huh? Nice.”
“Thanks,” I said. I would’ve rolled my eyes but it hurt too much. “Will I need stitches?”
“Not unless you want me to reopen the wound,” he said, reopening my wound as he poked my face. “I would recommend a tetanus shot.”
The real question is why was I in the hospital? That’s a good story. It all started the day I smashed my face at Circus World.
Around this time four years ago, I had just finished reading Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. I loved this book. Loved it.
While researching the author, I learned she did quite a bit of research on traveling circus shows in none other than Baraboo, WI at the Circus World Museum. Winter resting grounds of the legendary Ringling Brothers, Baraboo was just a two hour drive away.
I called up my bestie and invited her on a road trip.
Armed with licorice and mix cds, we headed for a place I was ecstatic to go.
The Circus World Museum contains the largest collection of vintage circus wagons, a room full of circus organs, and costumes, photographs and advertisement posters of the greatest trapeze artists, sideshow freaks, clowns, and their animal counterparts around.
I was engrossed. I needed to explore every inch.
And I wanted photographic evidence I had been there.
I was enamored with the magic of the circus. I took pictures with every cutout image I could stick my face in. I took shots of circus miniatures and mannequin sideshow freaks. The only thing I didn’t photograph was the cheeseburger I ate for lunch at the picnic table, and that’s because Instagram wasn’t a thing yet so I didn’t know the world would WANT to see my cheeseburger from the circus.
I got to feed an elephant, you guys. She was beautiful and her name was Tiny. The owner had an animal rescue plantation down in Florida. Tiny’s parents were killed by poachers and he took her in. As she grew up, she wandered in and out of their house – when she could fit – and when she was bigger, stuck her long trunk in through the windows to greet the family.
Tiny was just like Rosie in Water for Elephants. And I was pretending I was Reese Witherspoon, forming an unbreakable connection with this exotic beast.
I was in a bibliophile’s wet dream!
I was seriously having one of the best times of my life because I felt like I was walking through the world of this book that made me fall in love with the circus.
You could say I got a little carried away.
I was off snapping pictures again. Running both to and from my friend in a harried frenzy. Along the cement sidewalk was one of the old animal cages they used to hitch to a horse or truck for parades. It was open. We could go inside.
“Take my picture,” I told my friend, handing her the camera.
With the reckless abandon of an animal that’s been freed, I headed toward the cage, running at full force up the metal stairs and through the doorway.
Almost through the doorway…
In my blind enthusiasm, I failed to notice that the doorway was shorter than I was, and therefore ran smack into the metal frame which clanged in revolt and propelled my head backwards.
Down the path I heard someone’s father say, “OHMYGOD, are you ok?”
Not even a concussion could stop me from enjoying the circus. Without a single second’s delay, I ducked into the circus cage, grabbed a hold of the bars and feigned normality by bearing my teeth and shouting once more to my friend, “Take my picture!”
“No,” was all she said.
“Am I bleeding?”
I put my hand to my face, which yes, throbbed from its introduction to the doorframe moments ago, but I assumed I was fine.
When I pulled my hand back down it was full of blood.
My friend stood in the grass a few yards away. Speechless.
She ran to me in the cage, threw our stuff down on the floor and said she was going to get some paper towel.
Which left me, for the record, bleeding from the face – in no less than 3 places – from the inside of an animal cage in the middle of Circus World.
Children were running up with their parents to go inside and stopping midway up the stairs. They didn’t expect to see a demon inside.
After what seemed like hours, my friend returned with two handfuls of paper towel.
“I’m sorry! The first person I found, it was like her first day, so she didn’t know where the bathrooms were, and I had to run all the way to the front entrance to get these,” she explained out of breath. “But look at you! Not a drop of blood on your white shirt!”
Both my arms were covered in blood however because I’d used them to plug up all the holes on my face.
“Do I look like Carrie?” I asked, embarrassment settling in.
“Let’s get you to the ladies’ room.” And that’s the sign of true friend.
So the emergency room. I awoke the next morning with two black eyes, a baseball size lump on my forehead, and a chunk – one might say a divot – of skin missing from the bridge of my nose.
Oh, and because I’m not athletic in the slightest, I didn’t know I should’ve iced. *sigh*
You know what? I still enjoyed the circus. After cleaning myself up, frightening more families in the process, I put on some sunglasses and headed into the hippodrome with my bestie.
Damn that was a good time!
Tell me about a time you faced disasters
and still managed to come out smiling.
Or, I’m still in the market for a good scar minimizer.
Got any suggestions?
This blog was originally published as The Devil Made Me Do It in June 2013 as a guest post for Renee Schuls-Jacobson‘s So Wrong blog series. It’s an embarrassing and true tale from my past that I think really portrays the finer details of true love and underpants. Some edits have been made to update the post.
I am a picture-perfect citizen.
I pay my bills on time. I vote. I use hand signals while driving if one of my lights has burned out. One would assume I have control over my bowels.
Let me backup. My husband and I take a vacation together each summer. We’ve traveled to Portland, Oregon and eaten Voodoo Donuts; we’ve visited Toronto, Ontario and viewed the skyline from the CN Tower. Two summers ago, we decided to take a road trip out west. Starting in the Badlands, we made our way to Yellowstone National Park. It was a fabulous trip.
Except for the day we toured Devil’s Tower.
That August day, the temperatures climbed into the 90’s. Being a mature adult, I was prepared. I packed and wore sunscreen. I drank water all morning. I used the bathroom before we left!
It didn’t matter.
We started our hike around the base of the tower. We weren’t too far in when I felt a rumbling in my gut. I asked to sit on a bench for a minute, pretending to enjoy the view. There was a fleeting moment when I thought to myself, “I should turn back… I COULD turn back… The smart thing to do would be to turn back.”
But alas, that’s not the way this story goes.
It became crystal clear, halfway around the tower, that my mind and body were not at peace. In fact, they were in deep negotiation. And things were getting heated.
When the cramping got so bad that I had to sit down again, I started weighing my options.
1.) I could try to skulk off somewhere. I had every intention of doing just that if it wasn’t for the unsuspecting family giving their children piggy back rides nearby. There was nowhere far enough out of eyesight for me to go.
2.) I could stay on the bench and breathe. This wasn’t really working all that well so far, but a girl can pray. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the cramping is with me…”
3.) I could jump off the cliff’s edge and end my misery once and for all.
In retrospect, I wish I’d chosen the cliff.
Because that’s when I shit my pants.
“Sweet Virgin Mother, what the hell just happened?!”
The worst part was telling my husband (who was my boyfriend at that time) what had occurred. How would he ever look at me with any sense of romance or mystery again? I considered myself a dignified person. But I had just shit my pants! In public! And we were only halfway around Devil’s Tower!
Nothing – and I mean nothing – will ever compare to the cold, wet, mall-walker sprint that I made during my descent from Devil’s Tower. And my husband-then-boyfriend, wonderful man that he is, tried to cheer me up on our journey.
“You’re almost there! You got this! On the bright side, I don’t smell anything!” he shouted from a few yards behind me.
Making my way to the crowded public bathroom, I took note of the collateral damage. The underwear was a goner. I was just lucky I wore full coverage undies that day and not a thong.
I shimmied out of my underwear, wrapped my soiled mess in TP, and dumped everything in the plastic bin where women leave their feminine hygiene products. Then I said a little prayer for the park custodian, cleaned myself up, and walked back to the car no longer feeling feminine or hygienic.
So the moral of the story is sometimes even the best of adults crap their pants. But if you’re lucky, you’ll have someone by your side cheering you on with an upbeat, “You got this!” and “I don’t smell anything!” And when you find that special someone…
Ask them to buy you new underwear.
There you have it, my dirty little secret. Has this ever happened to you?
Sweet Mother Mary, tell me I’m not alone!
Post Script… I thought it’d be a fun fact to share with you all that the desktop image on my laptop is a picture of Devil’s Tower. It reminds me to have a sense of humor about life…and to pack extra undies when traveling.