It had been a great day. So great, Tyler felt like bragging about it.
Tyler had an anxiety disorder. When he was a kid, he’d never really understood what that meant, except he’d been different. And not in a good way.
As an adult, it was even harder, sometimes. As a child, people tended to humor you and would occasionally cut you some slack. As an adult, not so much. Tyler’s biggest struggle involved waiting – he experienced all kinds of unease when he had to stand or sit idly, even for a few minutes. Lines at a store, waiting rooms, and even pausing at long traffic signals could send him into high gear. Usually, Tyler tried to occupy himself with games, music or other activities on his cell phone to get through it. However, that didn’t always work.
But today had been a great day. Tyler had stood patiently in line behind the old lady at the convenience store who’d waited until AFTER the cashier had rung up her purchases to even START pulling her wallet out of her purse. And then she’d pulled an even smaller change purse out of her wallet and slowly counted out exact change, one bill or coin at a time.
And there’d been the oil change during his lunch break – he’d gone across the street to a coffee shop while they were working on the car. Neither the WIFI nor the cellphone signal had been good there, and it had taken forever for Tyler to get his order. But he’d smiled politely and told the barista to have a nice day. Just like a normal person.
Toward the end of the day he’d knocked off work early to attend a teacher conference at his daughter’s daycare. He’d arrived right on time – he’d found punctuality to be a good way to minimize waits – but the conference before his had run long. Tyler had sat for fifteen minutes surrounded by children’s toys and books, none of which held any interest for him. Thankfully, he’d pre-loaded a podcast onto his phone that helped him through it, sort of.
After leaving the conference, his daughter had wanted to buckle herself into her car seat on her own, and he’d forced himself to let her. She’d taken a long time, but he’d held onto the steering wheel tightly with both hands to control his frustration. When she’d finally gotten it right, he’d smiled at her in the mirror, and she’d smiled back.
Yes, it had been a great day. Tyler thought maybe a drink at the corner pub might be in order. His daughter was asleep, and his wife was finishing up some work on her computer. A perfect chance to slip away for a little while and celebrate. Most evenings, there was a game or something playing behind the bar to keep his mind occupied, at least for the half hour or so it took to drink one beer. Tyler never drank more than one – he had enough problems as it was.
There were only a few people in the place, but the bartender was flirting with a couple of women on the far end and pretended he didn’t see Tyler. When Tyler called down to him, he raised one finger to let Tyler know he’d heard, but still didn’t seem in any hurry to serve him. Finally, Tyler walked around the bar, grabbed a mug, and filled it up from the beer tap.
Of course, the bartender wasn’t happy about that, and things escalated. A small scuffle ensued, and Tyler ended up getting a black eye. The police were called. It took another wait of twenty minutes for them to arrive, so by that time Tyler felt quite agitated. The police assumed he was drunk, or on something, and took him away in their squad car. Fortunately, rather than booking Tyler for anything they just put him in a cell to sleep it off.
But Tyler was too keyed up to sleep and waiting in his cell was torture. He didn’t want to call his wife, even though he’d been offered the opportunity. Tyler just couldn’t face seeing the disappointment in her eyes, yet again. After a while his cellmate, a heavily tattooed man with a shaved head, got fed up with Tyler’s pacing and got rough. One thing led to another, and finally the guards came to break them up. But they were too late to stop the cellmate from bashing Tyler’s head against the cell bars. Tyler ended up bleeding rather badly from a gash on his temple.
The ambulance ride to the emergency room was another unbearable wait. With the assumption being he was high on something, the EMTs were hesitant to sedate Tyler, and one strap they’d used to restrain him hadn’t been properly fastened. Tyler thrashed out with his arm and hit one of the EMTs hard enough to knock him into some equipment, which started buzzing and beeping loudly.
The ambulance driver, startled by all the commotion, jerked the steering wheel slightly. The right front tire dropped off the pavement edge into a rut, followed by the entire ambulance, which then rolled and flipped over several times. By the time it came to rest, Tyler didn’t know which direction was which. No one else in the vehicle seemed to be conscious.
Tyler assumed that, sooner or later, first responders would arrive to pull them out. Probably after another long wait. He could see an LED light on some piece of equipment or other flashing the time. Tyler tried not to look at it, knowing it would only add to his anxiety, but finally couldn’t help himself. It was 11:59.
Maybe it hadn’t been such a great day, after all. Tyler didn’t feel much like bragging about it.
PC: Arif Wahid on Unsplash