There have been times over the years that books have literally threatened my life. Since you know how I feel about the word “literally,” you know I’m not talking about that time that the Houston Public Library threatened to send the fine I didn’t think I should have to pay to collections. I’m talking about occasions when books have threatened my physical well-being in one way or another.*
NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE #1:
I had the bad habit in college of loading myself down with books and, rather than putting them all in by backpack, I’d be like Sandy-from-Grease and clutch them cross-armed over my chest. Now, for those of you who have never been to the UCLA campus, there are some serious hills and stairs to contend with, and while going up was never that much of a problem, there was one time that going down was expedited by my heel catching on the edge of a stair. My dental life flashed before my eyes as I envisioned smashing my face at the bottom of the stairs, and while I narrowly missed actually injuring myself, I learned enough to stuff all my books in my backpack whenever possible.
NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE #2:
More recently, I decided to put all of my books in the space above my cabinets in my kitchen (the space normally reserved for cooking paraphernalia, but whatevs). The reasoning behind this was pure spendthriftness, since I didn’t want to buy bookshelves if I didn’t have to. Unfortunately, some of the cabinets were above the refrigerator, which meant (naturally, because I’m me) that I had to climb up on top of the fridge to put all of my college textbooks up there.
Cue the realization that a refrigerator is a lot taller when you’re sitting on top of it, followed by the realization that if I managed to hurt myself coming down, no one would be able to help me because the front door was locked and my phone was in the other room. I sat up there for a little bit mulling over my situation (and wondering if I was too young for one of those LifeStation necklaces old people get in case they fall down in the shower) before I finally decided to just go for it. Unfortunately, as I began easing down, the freezer door came open from under my right hand, propelling me towards the tile floor. My fall would have been broken by my cat, but she moved before she could be of any use. I did land on my feet, but in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but remember that I heard once that, if their owners die, dogs will starve to death next to their cold bodies while cats will pork out on their cold bodies. Near miss, especially considering the appetite my cat has.
NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE #3:
Finally, and perhaps most dramatically of all, was the time I put a candle on a set of glass bookshelves, lit it, and promptly began a yoga sun salutation. You probably know that smoke rises, so by the time I got to tadasana (a standing pose) the smell of smoke had filled the room and I had a distinctly un-zen WTF? moment. Turns out the candle was under a copy of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, which was now charred and blackened atop an equally blackened glass shelf.
What was really unfortunate about the whole thing, however, was (a) the book didn’t belong to me; (b) the book didn’t belong to the person from whom I borrowed it; and (c) I was unable to finish it, since it was pretty much unreadable. On the plus side, I didn’t go into savasana and burn to death in a post-yoga comatose state.