An idea pops into my head then begins to take form on an empty computer monitor. Several rewrites later the idea and the words are examined by the keen eyes of a discerning editor. Then through a process I do not understand completely, the words that flowed from the idea appear on these pages. So far everything that’s happened to the words is not extraordinary. It’s what happens afterward that never ceases to amaze me.
Someone picks up a copy of the Pine Cone, finds his or her way to the Real Estate Section (or hopefully goes through the RE Section first) and comes upon the words that expressed the idea way back when. It is that unpredictable part of the process that intrigues anyone who writes – the part where someone reads the words then reacts in a way the writer could never envision. Here’s an example of that.
Several weeks ago I wrote about going through knee replacement surgery. It is serious surgery even though I tried to describe my experience in a light-hearted way, not to diminish the seriousness but to let people who are having knee pain know that the operation offers a way to be pain-free Yes, there is a rehab process that is quite intense, but it is absolutely necessary to achieve a good result.
Not long ago I am on Fremont St. pumping $4.03 gas into my car. Why? Because up the street it’s $4.29 a gallon. A lady across the island is also pumping gas. She says to me:
“You have a new knee.”
“How can you possibly know this?” I ask her.
“I read your column about it,” she replies. “I’ve read your column for years. Dr. Clevenger did my knee, too, about three months before you had yours done.”
Now comes the amazing part I mentioned earlier.
“Do you want to see my scar?” she asks.
It is not a standard conversation starter, unless of course, you are Lyndon Johnson ushering in the presidential press corps, or Al Capone putting his best side forward for the paparazzi. So maybe you can appreciate my foot-dragging before replying, and the thought process I went through before I said anything. What’s involved here? She’s not wearing a dress or skirt so the scar is not right out there in the open. She’s wearing slacks. She doesn’t have to pull the slacks down. All she has to do is roll her pants leg up. I haven’t been drinking so there’s no chance of getting hit with an OUI (ogling under the influence) She’s still on the other side of the island so it’s not like we’re going to be playing knees-ies or anything. It seems like a good idea. But isn’t that what General Custer thought before riding into Little Big Horn? Oh come on, dummy, it’s a perfectly logical request from a nice person who was kind enough to let me know she reads my column – and we have an orthopedic surgeon in common.
But wait a minute. How does she know it is me? Oh right, she said she has read my column for years. When I was writing for another newspaper, you know the one that uses a typeface so small it has to run ads for eye-wear on the front page, my picture accompanied the column. Say, I don’t mean to get off the subject but maybe I should propose that to Paul Miller. I know several artists in Carmel who would do a portrait of me. Imagine how it would pop-out in the Pine Cone’s on-line edition. Paul could run my picture on the sides of MST buses urging people to read my column. OK, let’s put that one on the back burner.
“Sure,” I say, finally. “You show me yours if I can show you mine.”
So there we are in the middle of the gas station rolling up our pants comparing scars. They are similar in length. Hers has taken on a milky-white color, the normal progression time imposes on the scar tissue as it becomes incorporated into the surrounding skin. My scar is still a deep purple-ish gray like the Mississippi River seen from an airplane, or like the purple asparagus I get at the Farmers’ Market.
Perhaps, it is an “only in California moment.” Regardless, it is a moment born from words being put on paper and a kindly reader responding in a way a writer could never imagine. It is a moment forever frozen in my memory. Because of it, Donna and I, though not comrades-in-arms, have become comrades-in-legs. Both of us are forever scarred by the same surgical procedure emblazoned, not on our I-pads, but on our knee pads.
Thank you, Donna, for the feedback. And one more thing, you have much more attractive knees than I have. I threw that in just for the patella-uv-it.