When I worked as the Jail Matron, my parking place was next to the Jail Commander’s.
My relationship as the Jail Matron (appointed by the Sheriff, my husband) with the Jail Commander (also appointed by the Sheriff) was occasionally a little rocky, because sometimes our responsibilities overlapped but our priorities differed. So we had what I would describe as a polite but cool relationship. It made it easier that I spent very little time in my office that was just two doors down from his. Most of the time I was in the Jail Commissary on another floor, where Marie and I also had an office area and where we supervised a crew of part-time workers who filled orders for snacks, clothing and hygiene products purchased by the inmates. So, the Commander and I seldom saw each other unless one sought the other out because there was something we needed to discuss.
I tell you all of that to set the stage for the following incident.
One cold, freezing-rain-on-top-of-snow winter day I went out to my car to leave for the day. I had my keys in my left hand (because I’m left-handed) and was tip-toeing over choppy, uneven ice that was between the Commander’s car and mine.
All of a sudden my feet started to slip. You know that awful feeling — the instant when you know you are going to fall but all of your reflexes are working hard against that inevitable? So, I automatically reached out with my left hand to steady myself on the nearest solid object — the Commander’s car, but it wasn’t enough and I continued to go down … with my hand against the Commander’s car … with my keys in my hand. Can you see what’s coming?
As I went down, my keys dragged along the side of the Commander’s car. Yikes! I had keyed the Commander’s car! At that exact moment, I ardently wished that the Commander and I had had a close, warm, forgiving friendship.
I had twisted my ankle, probably because I was wearing high heeled boots, and my knees both hurt under the wet knees of my slacks, but I was able to get up and get into my car without falling again. (On the one hand, I felt fortunate that there wasn’t anyone else in the parking lot at the time, so that they didn’t witness my very undignified fall, but, on the other hand, it would have been nice if some young officer had been around to help me drag myself up!)
After I picked myself up and managed to get into the car, there was no way I was going to get out again to scrape my windows OR go back into the building to tell the Commander what I had done to his car. So, I turned the car on with the defroster on full blast and decided to just sit there for however long it took for the defrost to clear the windows. While I waited, I made some calls on my cell.
First, I called Jerry the Maintenance Manager and told him how slippery the parking lot had become so that he could have someone come out and scrape, plow, sand, whatever, before someone else took a spill and really got hurt.
Then I called the Commander and told him my sad little story, including the part about me keying his car! I guess it helped that the car was his county-owned car so it would be repaired by the county, because he was very understanding about the car and seemed much more concerned about whether I was all right. And, in fact, we ended the call by even joking a little about the story that was without a doubt going to get around about what I had done to his car! What a relief.
The next day, I filled out an accident report and sent a copy to the Commander so that he could see what I had reported. After he received it, he gave me a call and we again joked about what had happened and how embarrassing it was for me.
That was when I realized … the incident hadn’t been a completely bad thing. It had actually given the Commander and me something to share a laugh about (albeit, at my pride’s expense!). I’m sure at least part of the reason he was so forgiving about it was that he was enjoying my obvious embarrassment at what I had done. But, in the end, it was worth it for me. It had given us something to joke about whenever we saw each other (for quite a while!), which ended up making our relationship a little more cordial.
An awkward and embarrassing situation for me that had actually had a surprisingly good impact on a somewhat awkward relationship. Who could have predicted that!