Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Crisis Communications

No one would ever accuse anyone in my family of being cool under pressure.  We are a group that would crack under the stress of a flat tire, leaky pipe, or broken glass.  We are the family that would, quite literally, cry over spilt milk.  So when we are faced with a real crisis, we crack like an egg underfoot. 

Little Sister is known for her hospital visits.  The girl loves the emergency room (don't we all?).  It's been quite frequent (though not recently) that she would end up in the hospital for a three-day stay after becoming dehydrated.  When asked, as she was being hooked up to an I.V., "Why didn't you just drink some water?" she would answer, "I forgot." 

One time, when my father fell extremely, critically ill in a hotel on a trip to West Virginia (during which he declared, "Please don't let me die in West Virginia!"), my mother, out of her mind with worry, grabbed an innocent bystander who had come to help by the lapels and shrieked in his face, "Help him! Help him!"  All this was while my sister ran up and down the hall screaming like a fire engine. 

Lest you think I'm a cool cucumber, there was another time, when I was about 15 and my mother was trimming hedges with one of those toothy trimmers that looks a bit like a crocodile, when, in an attempt to keep the cord from getting shredded, she sliced off the end of her finger.  I was sitting on the patio reading a book at the time and as soon as I saw the blood and heard the delcaration, "I think I cut my finger off," I snapped into action.  I got on the phone with 911 and started screaming for my father.  Meantime, my mother insisted that she did not need an ambulance and for me to get off the phone.  Calm as long as I had a job, once I hung up with 911, I lost my cool.  Without anything to occupy my panic, I ran through the house and then into the back yard screaming bloody murder.  It was like Friday the 13th, but without Kevin Bacon (yeah, he was in that). I can still remember my father driving away to the hospital as I hyperventilated and sobbed in the kitchen.  Good thing she hadn't really cut off her finger, just nicked the tip of it.  (And they left me at home in charge of my sister--or maybe she in charge of me.)

Another time, LS and I were in a car accident just before Christmas.  I was driving and she was in the passenger seat when some kid ran a stop sign and plowed into the side of my Jeep.  Neither of us killed, I jumped out of the car and started screaming at the kid who hit us.  That's when my sister declared, "I can't feel my legs."  The infinite voice of reason, I snatched the kid's cell phone and screamed in his face, "You better have a good lawyer because you paralyzed my sister," as I called 911.  Fortunately she'd just hyperventilated, which had caused numbness in her extremities.  Either way, we got a ride in an ambulance and a visit to the emergency room (score!). 

And while I've highlighted my family's shortcomings  in the art of remaining zen, I definitely win the prize (yeah, it gets worse than the finger and car accident stories).  In fact, there's one story that has gone down in history as a family classic.  We were vacationing in Mexico one summer when my mother stepped in a drainage ditch on the grounds of our hotel and twisted her ankle.  She gasped, moaned, and declared, "I think I broke my ankle," while my father, sister, and I looked on.  Always one to snap into action (lest I dissolve into panic), I ran to the front desk of the hotel.  "My mom broke her ankle, I need help," I declared as I grabbed a bellman and ran back to the scene of the crime.  I returned to see my mother hobbling down the path, leaning on my dad and my family looking at me like I was from space as I ran back with the (also running) bellman.  My mother was furious (and amused).  After convincing the very concerned bellman that she was okay, he finally went back to the front desk.  And thus the merciless ribbing began.  Nearly 20 years later, and my family still tells me to go "get the bellman" when someone skins a knee or breaks a nail.

So, fine, I'm not all that great in the face of a crisis.  I get weak at the sight of blood.  I scream at innocent (or not so innocent) bystanders.  I might be too quick to call 911.  And even though I've had first aid training from the time I was in fifth grade, I still dissolve into a puddle at the first sign of emergency.  I can scream louder and panic better than anyone you ever want to meet.  Sure, this may not put me in the running for "Best Under Pressure," but when the stakes are high, you can always count on me to call a bellman.


  1. Wow. Never work retail. Although I think it would be kinda funny.

  2. HaHa. Sounds just like my family, I totally can't relate to those calm, quiet families.

  3. How did you survive this morning? Or is that a continuation post?

  4. Debb, I nearly did have a freakout, but I managed to refrain from dialing 911 in the midst of the monsoon. I will say, thank goodness for Twitter, because checking in with other people to make sure we weren't being bombed by insurgents or something really did help to calm me down. For now...I hear there are more storms a-comin'.

  5. yeah, I totally did that with the earthquake. that's one thing that sucks about living in DC. I always think we're under attack.