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Southern Rail: Wardrobe malfunction

By Robert Filla

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It’s been said that confession is good for the soul, being able to tell on yourself, a sign of maturity. And although I’ve been in enough courtroom settings and stood before enough judges to have learned better than to confess to anything, I’ll give it a shot.

It was a typical early November day in Texas, almost 80 degrees, a light breeze and not a cloud in the sky. I decided to take advantage of the great afternoon and conduct a product install for a future review. Due to the fantastic weather, I rolled the bike outside the shop onto the drive, allowing for extra working space and the opportunity to soak up a little sunshine. Of course I was appropriately attired for wrenching: sleeveless T-shirt, a pair of cargo shorts and flip-flops. Sitting astride the bike as I duckwalked it out, my right foot encountered a number of acorns that littered the area due to the bumper crop from the large oak in front of the office. And while quite attractive, flip-flops are not well noted for their traction or stability. I went down—hard.

Now, I’ve endured some classic motorcycle accidents during my almost 50 years in the saddle. I’ve broadsided a Cadillac at 40 mph, sailing over the roof like a cartoon superhero. One time I lost control due to an inattentive driver and watched as my bike did a series of pirouettes down the tarmac while under full power. I even hit a stop sign at 65, bending the post, the bike and my body severely. But this accident—this accident was very different since when it occurred I was rolling backwards. Yes, I was traveling at -1 mph. It doesn’t get much more embarrassing than that.

When I dropped the bike, it happened fast, much faster than my reflexes could be compelled to respond with any satisfaction. After the initial slip on the acorns, my guilty right leg continued to slide on the concrete like I was dancing on marbles and was stretched to its limit behind me, near the rear tire, as the bike pinned me to the ground. My right elbow skidded along the drive resulting in multiple raspberry patches of raw flesh. And then, on the way down, my head bounced off my wife’s car that was parked in the driveway. Soon the darkness took over as my concussed cranium decided to take a little nap.

Eventually the fog began to clear as I realized was trapped, firmly wedged between Milwaukee iron and Portland cement. And every move I made to extract my bruised carcass only amplified the pain. And since it was the middle of the day (a very beautiful 80-degree day without a cloud in the sky), no one was in sight. My only lifeline was my cell phone, which I could clearly see—sitting on my workbench in the shop. That 10-foot distance between me and help might as well have been 10 miles. As I felt the life slowly draining from my body, I thought how embarrassing this was to play out, famed editor crushed by motorcycle. And then I heard a faint voice. I replied, “God? Yes, God, I’m coming.”

But it wasn’t God or even an archangel. Instead aid came in the form of an exterminator spraying a nearby rental house. But by that time, Frank the Bug Guy was God and my savior as he asked, “Hey, bud, you need some help?”

After receiving a weak affirmation from me, he pulled the bike off my mangled mass with one hand (Frank was a big Bug Guy) and pushed it back into the shop. And then, at my request, Frank lifted me to a standing position. I immediately offered him a beer, which he politely declined. So I immediately drank his and mine in anticipation of the increasing pain. And in short order, my thigh took on the appearance of some biblical coat of many colors. What followed were weeks of hobbling about, restless sleep and the total inability to even consider riding a bike.

After a month, the pain backed off to an almost tolerable level as the hues of blue, green and yellow slowly increased in size from my hip to my butt cheek and finally to my knee. Self-diagnosing myself on the internet, I determined I had pulled a hamstring. By this time I was toying with the possibility of riding a motorcycle again, which I did a few days later when going in for a routine visit to the doctor.

Upon seeing my limp, he inquired about the injury. So I dropped my laundry for his inspection. Upon viewing my leg, his first response was, “Well, that’s quite spectacular.” And then he informed me that my initial diagnosis had been wrong. It was not a pulled hamstring—it was a torn hamstring. His commands included no physical exertion until after the New Year and absolutely no motorcycles for at least three months. (At that point I swear I could hear the bike cooling down in his parking lot.)

So I’m better now, riding on a daily basis and even kickstarting the old Shovel without too much discomfort. And although the physical pain of such a stupid accident has dimmed, the embarrassment remains—especially when I feel compelled to don helmet, boots, jacket and gloves just to roll a bike across the shop.

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