Looking from the outside in, it’s not a big deal. But from the inside out, it is.
When you read about an armed conflict somewhere far away resulting in only one victim, the tendency is to pay little attention to it. But for the victim, it’s a different story; as it is for the people in that victim’s life. The same is true for car accidents, for slipping on black ice or on a banana peel. Things happen, people say, and they move on. They shouldn’t. They should give it a thought.
What I experienced had nothing to do with armed conflicts, car accidents, or banana peels. Maybe the correlation to the previous lines is vague. But in my case, being shocked to the core, I felt the scary unpredictability of life. It is easy for what you know (and don’t know) to explode in your face. To end. To hurt. To shatter. Ka-boom!
My story starts almost two years ago when my wife and I decided to remodel our bathrooms. We hired a designer to help us plan and choose, and an array of tradesmen — a general contractor, a demolition crew, plumbers, carpenters, an electrician, painters, and tile and glass people. Ten weeks later the job was done. Our new bathrooms, with stainless steel and chrome fixtures, track lights, and gray and turquoise ceramic tiles, were so shiny and perfect we were hesitant to use them. The shower doors in the master bathroom were made of tempered glass called “bubbles,” which looked like rain drops gliding on window panes. There was a stationary door with a towel bar on it, and a sliding door ensconced in a stainless-steel frame, moving on large silent rollers, and provided with a two-inch hole in a silvery ring serving as a handle.
Fast forward to several Saturdays ago. We were having an easy and happy afternoon, and were looking forward to a nice dinner party at our friends’ house. I decided to take a nap. Uncharacteristically, my wife decided to lay down as well. She wanted to be relaxed and rested for the evening. At 4:30 she dutifully got up and went to shower. We had about an hour to get ready and leave.
I was still in the twilight zone of my nap when I heard a huge noise. It sounded like an explosion, like a heavy object collapsing in a sound chamber where everything reverberates. It sounded like a signal from the other side of the world. I guess it took me a few seconds to respond and my reaction was typical: I called my wife’s name. There was no answer, so I called her again. And again. I thought that perhaps the noise had come from downstairs, and she, being in the shower, couldn’t hear it (or my yelling). I decided to check on her first, jumped up, and opened the bathroom door.
She was standing about a foot in front of the shower, naked, surrounded by broken glass. Myriad of shards covered the beautifully tiled floor and filled the shower stall. My wife was facing the hole that once had been the sliding door. She trembled. Her body was pierced in multiple places (we later counted more than twenty cuts), and blood was running down her hands, legs, breasts, and back. She couldn’t talk. Her shoulders were covered by a fine powder of glass. Soft daylight fell through the skylight and intensified the shine of the chrome fixtures. The shards sparkled. My wife’s back sparkled. In contrast with the red blood, her skin was like white marble. Shock and fear had drained all color from her face.
“My God, come out of there,” I said.
She didn’t answer. She didn’t move. With her eyes, she indicated the shards on the floor.
I brought in some towels, covered the glass, and guided her out. The details of what followed are not important, except that we ended up at an urgent care facility in our neighborhood, where they gave my wife a tetanus shot, and bandaged her more severe cuts. We made it to our dinner party that night a few hours late, and, after a few Kir Royals, she started talking again.
We reported the event to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and learned that glass shower doors shatter from time to time — not often for it to be a major issue, but often enough. Statistically, 4 or 5 doors out of every ten thousand spontaneously explode. Sometimes it happens in the middle of the night. My wife didn’t touch the glass door. She just happened to be close to it.
Days went by. Her cuts are all but healed. The installer came and treated us with the expected level of professionalism. He cleaned the area and replaced the door free of charge. Of course, he was concerned with our safety and his reputation. At our request, he applied a transparent plastic film on the inside of the glass (the exterior surface is not smooth because of the bubbles pattern).
We know how lucky we were that no glass had cut my wife’s face, or a major artery, that no shards had gotten into her eyes. Everything is perfectly fine one moment, and then it isn’t — ka-boom!
I told our story to my buddies on the tennis court. “Blog about it,” one of them said. “Talk about things that shatter; about things you would actually want to see shatter, but they never do.”
I smiled. I think I knew what he meant.
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