Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
An electric escalator.
The plan was simple. Drop off my luggage with the airline and then go meet a friend for one last view of the Emerald City. Instead, I ended up bloody and pants-less inside a family restroom.
First mistake: Devising a simple plan.
Second mistake: The airline accepts bags four hours prior to the flight’s departure time and I arrived at the five-hour mark. However, I did find Ken’s Luggage Storage & Other Services in the basement of the airport and entrusted a large man with a salt and pepper beard down to his gut with my chocolate-plaid Liz Claiborne bag. He did not laugh when I enquired about Barbie’s whereabouts.
“My name is not Ken,” he said dryly.
Third mistake: Thinking that I could walk up an escalator without falling.
I began my ascent. First step, fine. Second step, sturdy. I looked down to an Alaska Air representative standing eerily still by the kiosk. She was an older woman with dyed blonde hair and tattooed eyebrows. I was trying to discern if she was real or made of wax, when I miscalculated the depth of my third step. That’s when I lost my balance.
I tried to grab onto the handrail, but it was too late, my left knee bit the sharp metal edge of what would’ve been my fourth step. My body fell forward, but I had the wherewithal to hold out my arms like I was mid-way through a push-up. Filled with embarrassment and fear that the escalator would suddenly switch on, I hobbled up the rest of the way.
At the top, I collapsed into a row of seats reserved for disabled travelers where the pain caught up with me. Convinced I had either broken my knee and/or needed stitches from the blood stain slowly growing on the outside of my jeans, I mustered enough courage to roll up my pants to see the damage. I had to be quick about, as I have a tendency to faint at the sight of blood, particularly when it’s my own.
I cradled my leg between my arms, sat firmly in the center of the seat, in case I lost consciousness, and lifted my pant leg. Only I couldn’t roll them up. I couldn’t get the pant leg past my calf. It wouldn’t budge.
I sat for a while. What felt like ages. Sweating. In pain. Until I gathered the energy to return to Ken’s and pick up my bag. I needed my toiletries and a new pair of pants.
“Are you okay?” Not-Ken asked as he took my claim ticket.
“I fell climbing the escalator,” I winced.
“At least you lived to tell the story. People die on that thing all the time,” he said, rolling my bag in my direction.
I set up a triage area in the nearest family restroom. I attempted to disinfect the surfaces as best I could, but when I heard that last, gasping squirt of my travel-size hand sanitizer I knew it was only a matter of time before hepatitis would find me. Damp from the sweats, I began the precarious process of peeling off my jeans. The button, the zipper, then peeling the material off my hips. Down my thighs I stopped short of my knees and pulled out the good leg from the pants first. Then, the mutilated leg. As soon as I exposed the wound, two squirts of blood shot up like the Bellagio fountains, if they were designed by a vampire. I instinctively rolled the pant leg back and realized that served as a very useful tourniquet.
I sat on top of my suitcase with my back against the wall and my leg wrapped in denim, propped up on the toilet. I applied pressure with one hand and googled escalator deaths with the other. Certain that the skinny jeans saved my life.