Friday, February 25, 2011

One’s Dominant Wrist Has Quite An Effect On One’s Quality Of Life

In the last post, I teased you with an image of me looking a little on the haggard side: shirt dirty, arm bloody, ego bruised.

Before I get to that wonderful story, with accompanying images, a bit of house in Providence housekeeping:

There has been significant interest in the apartments (according to the property managers dealing with it all).  I have approved two tenants so far, who have yet to move in.  The second floor will likely house a young couple in March, and the first floor will be occupied by a single mother in April. 

In order to get these folks in, I agreed to have the couple have exclusive rights to the driveway (which is a relatively small one) for an extra hundred bucks a month.  That, plus their rent will get $850 per month.  The first floor lady uses public transit, so no car needed there.  She’ll be in there for $650 per month.  A little low, but with the extra money from the second floor, it’s perfectly acceptable to me.  The third floor is still not filled, but with those two tenants, the mortgage will be covered, plus a couple of hundred bucks for me every month.

In large check from Traveler’s news, not much.  They made an offer of about twelve and a half grand and I accepted it.  It’s not what we spent on expenses while we were out of the house, but 12 grand now is better than 14 grand in three months.  The agreement is being approved, so that will likely take anywhere from ten days to seventeen years to clear.  It is a race between the 12 grand from Traveler’s and my tax return.  I don’t like Traveler’s chances.

OK.  Back to life in Puerto Rico.  For the first week or so that we were here, we spent the first few days looking for a place to live that wasn’t the Radisson.  Once we found a place to live for a year, we turned our attention to transportation.  We had a super cheap rental car, but even a super cheap rental car becomes a relatively expensive car after a week or two.  In order to get rid of the rental car, but still have transportation, I had the idea (long ago) of purchasing a scooter.  They are cheap, get over a hundred miles per gallon of gas, and the weather here is scooter friendly.

We were having a really, really hard time finding a place that sells scooters.  I looked up a bunch in the local yellow pages, but said pages were more outdated than helpful.  Not only that, but streets and addresses here are super confusing.  There can, literally, be the same address miles apart from each other in San Juan.  It was, and still is, a huge pain in the fanny.

On the first Friday we got here, we decided to ask a few scooter rental shops if they were either selling some old ones or if they knew were to buy some.  The first place we went was closed, the second place, which was about 200 feet from the first place, was open, but wasn’t selling.  They did, however, give us the name of a place about twenty minutes away that sold them.

To backup a bit, I had found and talk to a few scooter sellers, but they sold pricey models, and I wasn’t looking to spend more than two grand on a scooter.

On Saturday, Amanda and I got into the rental car, found the address after some GPS wizardry and headed to Power Sports Warehouse.  We parked, hopped out of the car, wretched a little bit (it’s across from a dairy plant) and walked into the store.

Looking around, they had all kinds of stuff.  Four wheelers, utility vehicles, motorcycles, scooters, helmets, etc.  Basically, if it was street legal, but shouldn’t have been, they sell it. 

Fun fact about Power Sports Warehouse:  They sell brands of vehicles that I have never heard of.  Sure, they sell Yamahas and Vespas, but they also sell something called a Yinang motorcycle, a Cozumel brand scooter, a VIP and/or Future Champion brand scooter and a dirt bike that, literally, just says “Dirt Bike” on it.  I am not joking.  It actually just said “Dirt Bike” on it.  I was laughing a lot.

We browsed around a bit, but noticed that nothing had prices on them.  We went to the counter and waited a bit before we finally talked to a fellow that worked there, who thank goodness, didn’t speak English.


We stumbled through a bit of Spanish/English conversation and he called up his boss, who spoke English, and hi boss told me prices over the phone.  We found two super cheap 150cc scooters, one red, one green and decided to get one (SUNL brand.  Seriously.  What is that?).  Also, we decided to get two full faced helmets.  Obviously.

We ended up having a pretty easy time communicating, as Amanda and I, plus the clerk, knew enough of the others’ native language to make it work.  I signed some papers, stood around for awhile, filled some more things out, paid $1800 for the scooter and helmets and was eventually the proud/embarrassed owner of a super gay scooter.  It would be ready for us at 4:30 or so, so we got back into our Kia and wasted time at home until then.

After some lunch and some pool time, we made the second trip to Power Sports Warehouse, parked, etc. and headed in.  It was a little before 4:30 when we got there, but man did we sit in that store for a long time.  Puerto Ricans have no work ethic whatsoever, and everyone here seems pretty content to not do anything on time ever, ever (for instance, I photographed a wedding last Monday.  The pastor was fifteen minutes late.  Jesus.).

After probably an hour of waiting, a fellow drove the scooter to the front of the store and gave me the heads up.  I strapped the helmet on, fired it up, twisted the throttle a tiny bit and waited for the traffic to subside so I could pull out into the street and get home on this awesome piece of crap.

Traffic died a bit and I twisted the throttle to join the fun in the streets.  I had planned on turning right.  Instead, I went pretty straight across the rod and only managed to turn right before I hit the curb on the other side of the street protecting the sidewalk.

It was, likely, one of the funniest things to ever happen.  As a fan of America’s Funniest Home Videos, I know exactly what I looked like.  My legs were off of the deck of the scooter, and instead, were likely flailing at the sides of it.  My eyes were likely as big as a pair of bread plates from the Olive Garden. The scooter was likely wobbling a bit like the tiny little thing that Lloyd Christmas traded the van for, straight up.

I was a mess on this thing. 

I straightened the SUNL out a bit and was traveling, essentially in the gutter,  four inches from the curb, with my foot going on and off of the curb for balance purposes.  Oh, and I was travelling the against the flow on numerous oncoming cars.  Yup, I was headed the wrong way on a two way street, on a scooter, in the gutter. 

I finally stopped and waited for traffic to die down again so I could turn around and go, at the very least, unsteadily with the legal flow of traffic.  Instead of making the sharp turn needed however, I was only able to go straight across the street.  I was, once again, on the wrong side of the street in the gutter.  This time however, I attempted a sharp turn and dumped the scooter.  It was laying in the gutter and I was standing over it watching the Spanish speaking store clerk running down the sidewalk to help me.  It was just incredible.  At least I was uninjured though.  No serious trauma, other than the emotional trauma of realizing that I had no idea how to drive a scooter.

He took over the driving duties, I hopped on the back and we headed back to the store to get some practice in.  He took me behind the store to this old, abandoned parking garage, we hopped off and he repeated the word “slow” to me over and over before letting me get back on.

At this point, Amanda was back with the Kia and cracking up.  She said it was just amazingly hilarious.  Just incredible to watch.  I believe her, as I was both terrified, and curiously delighted with myself when I was driving the wrong way in the gutter.

It was at this point that I realized what my problem was (other than a complete lack of scooter piloting skills) when I first hopped on; more specifically, when I was seemingly unable to slow myself down enough to regain control of the scooter.  The throttle is a twist throttle.  The rear brake is right in front of the twist throttle.  When I twisted the throttle to go, my hand and wrist were in a comfortable position.  When I tried to grab the brake to slow down, the comfortable position that my hand and wrist were in kept the throttle slightly twisted, thus essentially cancelling out the effect of the brakes.  I was pulling the brake at the same time that I was giving the vehicle gas.  It was just the worst.

Back to the parking garage.

It began to rain pretty hard, as it often does for minutes at a time here in the Caribbean, but since we were covered up, it was still seemingly safe to practice riding the deadly machine that I had just purchased.  I sped around the ground floor of the garage for fifteen or twenty minutes, each minute getting more and more comfortable on the scooter.  I would buzz back and forth, reaching twenty or twenty five miles an hour, before braking and turning around to do the same thing.

The heavy rain, while not wetting me in any way, started to infiltrate the ground floor of the garage in small streams of water running downward across the tarmac that I was practicing on.  They were only three inches wide, at most, so I didn’t think much of them and continued along with my getting comfortable exercise.

Amanda was chatting away with the clerk (or at least, nodding when she understood something that he said) and I was going back and forth over and over and over again. 

I twisted the throttle, took off, got up to twenty miles per hour, then hit the brakes to turn, as I had done over and over for tens of minutes before.  This time, however, it was the Perfect Storm of Scooter Crashing Elements.  I hit the brakes, and slowed down a bit, but instead of slowing down completely to turn, the front wheel hydroplaned after a few feet of slowing, turned sideways, hit the pavement again, regained traction, this time sideways, and sent me flying off of the scooter while it slid across the ground on its side.  I landed hard on my hands, rolled to my back (I used to skateboard and do other dumb stuff, so I taught myself how to fall), and then back to my chest and came to a stop.  Assessing things quickly, I was fine.  A few scratches, some (lots of) dirt, but generally unharmed.

Amanda and the clerk fellow came running over, I reassured them that I was fine while holding my right wrist, and I told him that I was finished practicing for the day.  He rode the scooter around a bit to make sure that it was fine (it is), then gave me the super long lecture of “slow” repeated over and again ten times.

While being lectured, I was slowly realizing that I was not, in fact, unharmed.  I thanked the fellow, told him I’d be back to pick up the scooter on Monday (they were closed on Sundays) and Amanda and I walked back to the rental car.

At this point, the adrenaline that was released upon baling off of a scooter going fifteen miles per hour was wearing off, along with its pain masking effects.  My wrist was killing me.  It was super duper extra painful.  We headed to a nearby Walgreens after I had diagnosed myself with a sprain (breaks are generally much less painful, plus I had sprained my joints eighteen million times per year, and broken them a few times, so I knew the difference in pain levels) and purchased a wrist brace with splints to compress and immobilize the wrist and some generic ibuprofen so I could dull to pain enough to try and sleep.

Here’s the wrist that evening (it swelled more by the next day):

Wrist 2

It doesn’t look to bad there, but if you take care to look at it for more than a cursory glance, you’ll notice that my right wrist (left in the picture) blends into my swollen hand, and fattens my thumb and normally extra skinny, completely muscle-free forearm.

I went to the hospital the next morning, got some x-rays and paid a $300 dollar co-pay (my insurance is imaginary, so that’s what it costs to get an x-ray here) to find out that it wasn’t broken.  Even though it wasn’t broken, the doctor suggested that I leave the hospital looking like this:

Wrist 3

It is certainly overkill, but at least I got my money’s worth?  That’s a sling, filled with a half cast.  I removed the half cast and went back to the splinted brace at the first sign of an itch.  So that evening.

I am slowly recovering still.  It’s a huge hassle having to do everything left handed.  Just the worst.  From what I understand, wrist sprains should take anywhere from 3-10 weeks to heal up completely, so since it hasn’t yet been three weeks, I’m not too concerned about it.  I certainly wish that I hadn’t torn those ligaments so badly, but it’s getting better.  As soon as it is, I will be back in the lovely cushioned saddle of that SUNL brand motor-scooter to continue my practice.

A few days after the fall, I had the scooter delivered to our apartment and it has remained there ever since, mocking me.  Here she is:

Wrist 5Wrist 6

And here’s a close-up of her sliding along the pavement damage:

Wrist 7Wrist 8

I can’t wait to scratch it even more the next time I fall off of it.

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