Box Code

This picture does not illustrate the story. It’s just as well. You’ll be okay with that.

Down at the Urgent Care clinic, nobody asked, “Did this all start because you took your annual personal holiday from work? Was it caused by your latest round of decluttering for the Goodwill store? Or, was it your latest bone broth project using a whole meaty chicken carcass donated by Angelina?” But really, it started with all three.

On Thursday night at bedtime I took a cardboard carton and filled it with books and clothes to donate to Goodwill. The box was full, so the flaps didn’t close. It took up a lot of space, so I slid it halfway into the closet partly out of the way. Then it was ready for me to take to the store first thing in the morning.

On Thursday night the whole chicken was in the freezer doing no harm to anyone. It dawned on me, “Say, since tomorrow is my annual personal holiday, why not make bone broth tonight? I can get up every couple of hours and check on the water level.” Now, checking the water level is not really needed because I always add extra quarts of boiling water before turning the stove temp to just above Low. There is no way all that water is going to steam away. But it’s good to be safe, I can fall asleep again really easily, and the kitchen is six steps away from bed. Not a problem.

So fine, at 10:00 pm the chicken went into the pot on Low-ish with quarts of boiling water and a dash of Bragg’s vinegar and a bay leaf and a piece of fresh rosemary. Then I went to bed, setting the alarm. I got up and checked the water at 12:00, 2:00, and 4:00. At 4:00 am Friday morning it was time to turn off the stove, strain out the bones, and let the broth cool. I keep rice milk cartons in the freezer full of ice, and set the containers into the sink to make a frozen layer. Then I set a shallow metal baking pan right on the cartons, and poured in the broth.

At 4:10 the broth was cooling nicely. It felt good to look forward to my holiday and three-day weekend, and nice to think that the broth gel would be a treat for the neighbors. I still had a couple of hours to rest in comfort before my morning walk. First I tidied up the kitchen. Then, primed by the forecast of sunny warm weather, I took the protective floor cloths off the carpet, and hung them over the window as a sun shade. Then I gathered some clothes from the drying rack to put away.

Zipping into the hall in dim light, I was startled by a sharp pain in one shin, and stood gaping at mysterious splashes of blood on the creme wall-to-wall carpet underfoot, which for once was not protected by the floor cloth. Apparently while rounding the corner with the big armful of clean laundry, I’d slammed right into a corner of that cardboard carton, against a top flap braced open in the closet door. The corrugated cardboard corner sliced right in with the equivalent of a sizeable paper cut. (“Did you utter swear words?” Angelina asked me later. “One swear word,” I confessed. “Then, I realized that Jesus Our Lord shed every single drop of blood for me. Do I get upset over that, or do I take that for granted? He didn’t do any swearing on that cross either.”)

I pressed the clean laundry against my shin, and hopped to the kitchen sink. Then I poured on Bronner’s soap, and for twenty minutes held the foot under running water interspersing soap with dashes of salt. I broke open a bottle of peroxide, and poured most of it on. Then I spread antibiotic ointment around the area, and dressed the shin with gauze and surgical tape. Then I sorted the laundry; some pieces needed to soak in more Bronner’s with baking soda. I sprinkled more baking soda on the carpet with dashes of peroxide.

The cool broth went in labeled containers in the freezer along with the rice milk cartons. I put the bones in the fridge. Then I wrapped the bandage in bath towels and got back into bed for a nap, elevating the leg up on a chair.

With lymphedema and a lower leg skin break, the first concern is infection. So I set an alarm for 6:45 to contact Urgent Care; their online appointment site opens at 7:00. I logged in at 7:03. In that three minutes all the morning slots were snapped up by speedier patients, but I got a slot for 12:30 on the same day. That meant leaving the house at 11:00. Of course a visit to the doctor means freshening up, and looking one’s best. To keep the bandage dry I washed with one foot outside the tub, then washed my hair in the sink before putting on my nicest slacks and blouse. Then I made the bed and hand washed the soaking laundry and hung it back on the rack.

Right after seeing the condition of the carpeting, my first thought was to walk to the computer and search for “removing blood from carpet.” But it dawned on me that it’s a work computer; it didn’t seem a great idea to request a personal holiday, then take a sudden interest at 4:00 am researching blood removal techniques. Besides, it was probably too late for home remedies.

I texted Angelina: Say, would she have a little minute before work, to loan me her portable rug shampoo gizmo? I was careful to not tell her why; this was a workday for her, and she’d have her nurse hat on for people all day as it was. She texted right back, to say that she’d filled up the machine with rug shampoo and set it outside her back door. I walked the chicken bones to the compost bin and ran right over to her place, picked up the machine straight up instead of flat, and so spilled blue cleanser all down my best pants. But I got the machine home, sponged off my pants, and studied the user manual on line. After poring over the diagrams and arrows and directions, with anticipation I turned on the machine to spray the carpet to pre-treat, set a timer for 5 minutes, and started cleaning the rug. When I got all finished, and when all the blue cleanser was used up, the carpet still looked the same. Oh gosh. Well, at any rate the important next step was to clean all the parts and bring the machine right back to Angelina’s.

I carried it into the kitchen, and was troubled to find that apparently the machine made some headway after all, since the clear canister for rinsewater was now full of foamy blood. Oh no! I’d filled my neighbor’s machine with a biohazard! I spent 20 minutes fiddling all different ways to get the open tab to open. An hour before I was upset about my leg and carpet. Now I might lose a friendship too.

I rushed back to the computer to peruse the instructions. They didn’t mention anything comprehensible about taking the machine apart. A search for the brand and model turned up lots of demonstration videos. None was filmed by the company. All were made by sociable people who endorse products and can chat all day about their feelings toward one brand over another, with entertaining stories about carpet mishaps. I fast forwarded through a half dozen, but no one mentioned how to take the machine apart.

It was after 10:00 by now, almost time to get ready to go. But it wouldn’t do, to let this blood congeal up inside the machine. Finally in a state of high anxiety I wrapped the machine in a bath towel to keep from spilling blood around, and ran over to the management office. When I burst in the door, our dear building manager was sitting in a meeting with a couple of other men. He seemed struck by my urgent woebegone manner and the mystery bundle cradled in my arms. He interrupted his meeting to ask what was wrong. When I pointed out the sheer complexity of the apparatus, he reached over and twink unlocked the canister. “You’re the man!” I cried, and rushed off again.

Upstairs at home, I took apart the machine, rinsed and cleaned the parts, then watched some more videos for a hint on how to put it back together. Finally I just kept turning and fitting stuff over and over until things clicked into place. Then I wiped the baking soda film off the exterior of the machine and shined it up. I unpacked the Goodwill donations out of the cardboard carton, placed them in a nice safe smooth plastic bin up off the floor and out of the way, and placed the machine inside the box. Then with scissors I cut off all 8 corners of the box flaps, trimming the edges into gentle smooth curves, and ran the box to Angelina’s house.

At home I packed the antibiotic ointment to show the doctor, grabbed my sunhat and a good waiting room book (The Scent of Holiness, by Mother Constantina Palmer), and headed for the bus. At Urgent Care I checked in, and took a seat. At times there are so many patients in this waiting room that the hardworking staff have to break the news that everyone will have to come back tomorrow. But on this stellar spring day, the waiting room was empty and quiet. It was a good place to rest and calm down. Though the skin tear was the most trivial injury imaginable, it was surprising how anxious it had made me feel. Thank God that clumsiness hadn’t hurt anybody else instead! In my seat I fell in to a deep reverie of prayer, with my heart reaching out to all the many people who experience accidents of all kinds, true afflictions and tragedies that in a flash can change their world. It drove the lesson home how important it was each day all day to be very thoughtful with safety, and gentle with others.

The clinic reception staff and medical assistant were caring tactful people. They all asked the history of my presenting complaint. I was careful to clarify that the cause was not losing my balance, feeling faint, or loss of lower peripheral vision; it was really just jaunting around a doorway in dim light and smacking into a cardboard flap. Hearing the cause of injury (“Patient walked into a cardboard box top.”), their eyes went blank a moment, and they seemed at a loss for words. Later I realized what they may have been thinking: How are we gonna CODE this for insurance? After all, the Wall Street Journal from 9/13/2011 ran an article “Walked Into a Lamppost? Hurt While Crocheting? Help Is on the Way.” They reported a federal mandate raising the number of ICD-10 medical injury codes from 18,000 to 140,000, all to elaborate upon potential sources of harm. Example: the new system specifies 72 codes for injuries due to bird encounters — with 9 codes apiece for most high-offending birds (macaw, turkey, chicken…). The word “box” might have its own ICD-10 family of fracas: box cutter, box stall, box privet hedge, box on the ear, box tortoise, box jellyfish from Australia, box o’Whitman sampler chocolates, Box Flower Remedies (ok, that “Bach” is really pronounced “Batch,” but it’s a pretty good pun), or impact with a Box Car Willy album cover. (Did you know that Box Car Willy sold more record albums than The Beatles and Elvis combined? No you did not. But my housemate Sean did. He told me that in 1991. Then he explained the punch line — that The Beatles and Elvis didn’t sell their own records.)

A very warm and supportive medical doctor came in to the exam room. Her presence and energy were so positive that they immediately calmed and cheered me. But she shook her head at sight of the cut. “You should always come in right away! If you come right away, we can close it!” I asked,”You mean stitches?” She exclaimed, “Yes, stitches! We had to close that right away. Now it’s late, it happened eight hours ago. This will take a long time to heal.” She treated it with sterile saline rinse and a clear bandage with advice on followup care. After tuning in to her voice and glancing at her name badge, I said in Farsi, “I am glad to meet you. Many thanks for your help today.” She beamed and gave me a warm Farsi goodbye. She walked me out toward reception, and we wished each other a Khoda hafez.

It was a great relief to have a medical opinion and reassurance. For good circulation in the leg I took a nice 40 block uphill walk home. After a bit of lunch and rest with the feet up, it was off to Goodwill for some fortunate bargains. That included a large plush bath towel to cover the dismaying splashes in the entryway, so they wouldn’t upset the guests or for that matter me. The lady at the cash register and I exchanged cheerful remarks. Then she leaned closer with some news. “I was in the very first Goodwill job training class! It’s been 25 years!” It was a touching moment, to imagine how hard she must have worked at this job all those years. She told me how proud she was of her work, and we shared a little minute of congratulations and good feeling about it. She reached out and clasped my hands and said “God bless you!” and I blessed her back.

At home I spread the new bath towel on the rug. That was a big decor improvement. It was sad to think that building management trusted me to rent their studio, and now I’d wrecked the carpeting. This would call for some better cleaning resolution. I sighed and put away the clean laundry.

Later there was a text from Angelina. She was following up on the machine loan: If I was interested in a clean carpet, how about if she went and rented one of those big machines, and we could both use it on Sunday for both our apartments? Would I like that?

I said yes.

About maryangelis

Hello Readers! (= Здравствуйте, Читатели!) The writer lives in the Catholic and Orthodox faiths and the English and Russian languages, working in an archive by day and writing at night. Her walk in the world is normally one human being and one small detail after another. Then she goes home and types about it all until the soup is done.
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2 Responses to Box Code

  1. Ely Shemer says:

    Nice one!.
    This is what I think of it
    What an eventful day and a positive attitude towards it all! From chicken bone broth to a cardboard cut to a Goodwill donation, this story is full of surprises and kind neighbors. Thank you for sharing your experience and outlook.
    Ely Shemer

    • maryangelis says:

      Dear Ely, hello and welcome to you! Yes, as annual holidays go it was a bewildering day of bumbling around, but in the end there was really a lot to be grateful for — medical care, and such kind people. Thank you for the very kind words; it cheered my evening.

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