Confess to the Mess

What would life be without it?

By Deborah Salomon

Life is funny. Accidents happen.

Last week I had an epic kitchen accident. No broken bones or burned fingers, just a royal mess. Yo, Hamlet: To laugh or to cry . . . that is the question. As I sat on the kitchen floor dripping sweet and sour tomato sauce from a bowl of cabbage rolls I was removing from the refrigerator, when I tripped over the cat, other mishaps crept back. At the time these disasters spelled the end of the world. Now, they’re just funny. Like the time . . .

I heard a scratchy noise in the living room fireplace. Bats in the belfry? Leaves blowing around the chimney? The cat heard it too and positioned herself as watchdog. We had a huge stone fireplace in the family room so I let this one be — until the morning two squirrels faced me from the other side of the glass fire screen. They had found winter digs and now . . . what’s for breakfast? I fed the poor buggers peanut butter sandwiches until spring, when the chimney sweep catapulted them into an overhanging tree. A chimney cap sealed the deal.

How ’bout the cop who caught me U-turning? I’ve driven for 65 years without a moving violation. Couldn’t suppress a giggle as I rolled down the window and handed him my paperwork.

“What’s so funny?” he asked.

“Where were you the other 24 times?” I answered. He besmirched
my record only with a warning.

I can’t remember sending a sensitive email to the wrong address but have received such a mistake. Oh my. Will not reveal the juicy details.

Then, the morning I took Tylenol PM (not one, but two!) rather than regular for a headache . . . and fell asleep at work.

When I was about six, my father managed an appliance store owned by a Mr. Greenshield. Daddy complained about him incessantly, called him Mr. Greensh–. I didn’t get it. Then one day my mother took me to the office; Dad proudly introduced his little girl to Mr. Greenshield. Wide-eyed, I chirped, “I thought his name was Mr. Greensh–.”

Not my fault, Daddy.

The two most cringe-worthy mishaps involved spillage. During high school summer vacation I worked on the Red Cross bloodmobile that served Western North Carolina mountain villages. I helped donors fill out forms and learned to type blood. Can’t remember the exact circumstances, only that the nurse handed me a clear plastic container of freshly drawn blood. It was, unexpectedly, warm. I’m not squeamish but, instinctively, I let go. Splashdown. Bloodbath. Stephen King. “Carrie.” Mortification.

The second, a classic tragi-comedy. When my son Danny was about 10, he and pal Jeff asked if they could set up a lemonade stand with real lemonade. Sure. I told them to get the juicer and other stuff ready while I went for lemons. Danny ripped open a 5-pound bag of sugar, which spilled onto the floor. Fearing my reaction he and Jeff hurried to clean it up. Not with the vacuum cleaner. Not with broom and dustpan. With water. Sugar and water become Crazy Glue on a tile floor. It was shiny-sticky (except bumps made by trapped ants) for months.

One apocalypse had a happy ending. We were in Israel for three weeks, in 1981. On the flight over, my eye began itching, which made wearing contacts impossible. It got worse. The desert sun bore down. I had no prescription sunglasses. Misery. A week into the trip we were sitting by the pool when a man approached. “Aren’t you . . . ?” he asked my husband. Yes! They had been high school classmates. Miracle of miracles the friend was now (drum roll, applause) an ophthalmologist. He diagnosed an infection, gave me something to clear it up. God bless.

I’ve saved the best for last — creepy, unbelievable but, true.

In the summer of 1962, I flew with my 5-month-old baby from Raleigh/Durham to New York. Ominous clouds were forming. Sure enough we headed into a storm . . . thunder, lightening, the works. The baby began to cry. I was frantic, terrified.

“Here, try this,” said the nice man sitting beside us, dangling his keys within her reach. That voice, strangely familiar. Could it be? Impossible. I turned towards him, for a good look. I was flying into the abyss beside Rod Serling, originator of The Twilight Zone and spokesman on Eastern Airlines TV commercials. Everybody knew that voice. “TZ” was a sensation. I never missed an episode. Several had similar plots — flying or sailing into the menacing unknown.

Mr. Serling saw the shock on my face, put a finger to his lips and reassured me things would be fine.

Life’s funny. Stuff happens, or else wouldn’t it be boring?  PS

Deborah Salomon is a staff writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at

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