December 30, 1996

I was planning to write a traditional "year-in-review"
piece for this week but I've changed my mind
because of my brush with death today.

Of all the ways I've imagined dying, horribly, this never even made the list. Sure, I've thought about being involved in a freak Christmas Tree decapitation. I've anticipated possibly contracting botulism from left-overs. Having my brain explode in self defense at the family Christmas dinner was a real threat. But not this.

Surprisingly, the culprit was not my darling dearest, but a huge cube of sheet metal. We were in the lumber aisle at Home Depot, looking at pine shelves for a planting table Leslie saw in a catalog. The reason we were at Home Depot and not on the phone ordering the damn thing from Becky, the overly cheerful customer service agent, is that the table cost $225. The lumber was $72.23. You do the math.

If you don't own a house, there is a good chance you've never been to Home Depot. (If, on the other hand you do own your home, you have promised your soul to the Devil several times just to get the Tile Guy to show you where the 5 lb. bags of grout are. All you can find is the 50 lb. or the best value, 200 lb. bucket with complimentary back brace.)

Home Depot has everything you need to build a house or a nuclear warhead, (plutonium is on aisle 17, side B, next to the halogen light bulb display). All Home Depots looks the same: a gigantic cube (not unlike the one that almost killed me) made from concrete blocks with lots of industrial orange trim.

My father, an architect and amateur contractor, is now retired. He began building a small fish pond with a fountain a couple of months ago. My mother now refers to it as his Taj Mahal. He goes to Home Depot every single day to get a little something. He'll go for a nut and a hose and come home with $300 worth of copper tubing because it was a good deal.

So, this morning my partner and I decided to go and get lumber. It was a rainy- blustery day. Perfect for staying indoors and playing with power tools! We grabbed a cart and headed inside. Carts, if left unattended, are likely to wonder off on their own and lay claim to other shoppers that pay more attention to them. To prevent this, we put a small box of nails on the cart and parked it at the end on the aisle. After looking at the prices and discussing the merits of smooth pine verses rough-cut Douglas fir, Leslie noticed our cart was no longer in sight. I went to get it, basically because that's my job: fetching crap.

I found the cart, glared at the man standing next to it, and headed back toward the smooth pine shelving. I must have been no more than half the distance to her when I heard a far off rumble and saw a look of horror on Leslie's face. Now, this is the interesting part. Usually when someone yells, "Look out!" I stand perfectly still, look around to see what's going on, and say "What!?!". I've been told that I look like I'm accusing someone of bothering me. This behavior of mine has attracted many baseballs, soccer balls and footballs to careen right into the side of my head. This time I did not pause; I ran. I ran directly toward Leslie and that frightened face of hers. I kept the cart though.

Just as I ran a HUGE air duct crashed down from the ceiling. The thing must have been six feet wide and deep and eight feet high with loads of grating. I'm sure some of you will accuse me of exaggerating but I have a Polaroid from the Home Depot guy who said I had "good moves".

A few things raced through my still intact head, in no particular order, when I realized what happened: That thing is really big. It accelerated at 32 feet per second squared. Leslie is really upset; is this my fault? And lastly, SHIT!!!!

Like any good agnostic, I firmly believe, deep in my heart, that this may or may not have been a sign from God or some other deity. The problem with signs like this is that I have no way of interpreting them. Does it mean to be thankful for every moment I have on this earth? Perhaps, it's meant to scare me into becoming a better person. Maybe I should have bought a lottery ticket.

I told a very good friend about this experience. She believes in signs and betterment and listening to what the Fates have to tell you. I asked what sort of cosmic significance she saw in this event. She thought for a minute and said, "You spend to much damn time in Home Depot!"


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Copyright, 1997 by Laura Jiménez.