hen my wife tells the purse story, she always does it wrong. She starts with, “I left my purse in a Tokyo bathroom but someone brought it back.” I mean, what can you do with a story after this? All the suspense, the tension, the comedy and the trans-pacific dread, shot. When we meet mutual friends who haven’t heard this tale, I jump in an start with the Kyoto exchange leading into the chaos of the Narita Airport, the police, the sweaty brows, all that.
I thought about that a lot, the way my wife tells the tale. I thought you should never, never tell a story with a tension-puncture as the opening line.
And then I got in a bike/car accident.
In a nutshell, I was riding home and a woman threw on her starboard signal just as she hauled across my right of way. The next thing I knew I slammed into her passenger door, bounced over her rearview mirror and scuffed along the hood/side panel of her right front. I didn’t fall but sort of tumbled off. She stopped (the drivers (and the cops, ferchristsakes) behind us did not). I checked my leg, my fingers, my elbow. No damage to my bike or to my body. She had a long scuff down the side of her car (though I think that will buff off).
I was rolling in five minutes (actually passed one of the look-away cop cruisers at the next light). But while riding, I found myself thinking of my little adventure. Yes, this one would be fun to tell in the old, “So there I was, bombing down 1792, passing a long line of slow-roll cars. But little did I know, a middle-aged woman suddenly saw a business that she would sacrifice a life to wheel into…” Yes, it would be a good story, an epic.
Except for telling my wife.
Coming home with a blooded knuckle and a frazzled look, it came to me that a long stress-inducing tale might not be the best. Nor would be it fair to her – cycling in this awful city is dangerous enough. She’s a good sport to let me do it. If anything, I owed her a combat report, not a sea-story. And so I rolled into the driveway and met her as she came out of the garage.
“Look, I’m okay, but I did have a minor accident on the way home…”
Sometimes, a story should be used for information and not entertainment.