Whenever I see Tom Cruise shout out, “Show me the MONEEEYYYY!” or look tearfully into Renee Zellweger’s eyes as he professes, “You COMPLETE me,” I cringe a little. Not because Tom Cruise kind of skeeves me out or because I still can’t get the image of him jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch out of my mind (although both of those things are true). No, it’s because I happened to see the movie, Jerry Maguire at the end of a very long, very bad day – so those quotes and that movie will forever associated with that day.
At the time, we were living in New Orleans – Doc was an enlisted member of the military, I was going to college full-time, and we had four kids, so money was tight. I was creative in my attempts to stretch our few dollars – I would go for long walks on trash pick-up day and raid neighbor’s recycling bins for extra coupons from the Sunday paper. I also dabbled in dumpster diving and mystery shopping – and one day, I saw an ad in the local paper, looking for people to delivery phone books to homes in different neighborhoods. Basically, you worked as an independent contractor, paid per phone book delivered and per route completed. The company was only in town for as long as it took to get phone books delivered to every soul, so it was a short-term gig – but I could work as much as I could handle during that time, pick the neighborhoods I delivered to (from those available), and they paid weekly – it wasn’t much, but I figured it would help with groceries and it was good exercise.
After I signed up, I looked at the available routes and picked several close to my house. I had a minivan, which loaded up with large phone books until the back of the van dropped so low I was afraid I might scrap the bottom of the car if I had to go over a speed bump. Usually I was able to get one of my older kids or my husband to help me deliver, but it still was brutal, exhausting, hot, and sweaty work. By the end of the day, I was dirty, my back hurt, and I my limbs felt like noodles. It was all I could do to drag myself into the house and grab a shower before tumbling into bed.
After about three weeks, the routes had started to dwindle and the pickings were not so fine. The available neighborhoods were closer to the projects, run down, and a bit scary, but Doc said he would help me with my route, so I confidently loaded my van with the last of the phone books and went home to pick him up. Before we even got off the base to start the route, we started to argue – I can’t remember what it was about now – but at some point I turned the car around to take Doc back home. I can’t remember if I was so pissed off at him that I told him I didn’t need his help or if he was the one who said I was on my own – but as we sat outside the house bickering, Doc became so angry that he picked up a glass of water that was sitting in the cup holder and tossed the contents in my face before exiting the car and storming into the house.
I was stunned! My previous marriage to The Loser had been turbulent and violent at times – and I had made it clear to Doc when we married that if there was any physical violence, the kids and I would be gone and there would be no second chances. While he had not struck me, throwing water in my face still seemed like a violent act – and I was confused, angry, and sad. I cried as I drove to the first street on my route and pondered how I should handle the situation. I delivered the phone books in a mindless fashion – loading up my arms with books, dropping them at doorsteps, and then returning to my minivan for more. I was so preoccupied with my problems I wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings – until I heard a man scream, “No! Come here! No!” I looked up to see a massive pit bull racing towards me from the backyard of a home, with his owner in pursuit, but far behind him.
I froze – I knew that the man would never reach me before his dog did, and the owner’s voice, so frantic and full of fear made me immediately realize that this dog was not coming to lick my hand. I clutched the phone book to my neck and chest, instinctively protecting those vulnerable areas as the dog growled and circled me, sniffing at my thighs. The owner finally caught up and grabbed the dog’s collar, but before he could yank him away, the dog lunged and sank his fangs into…my ass.
The dog’s owner was horrified, asking me over and over if I was okay as he struggled to hold back his dog (who seemed intent on finishing the job). My ass was numb and all I could see, while craning my head, was that my jeans had been torn. The man invited me into his house so that I could use his bathroom to scrutinize my rear more closely, herding the dog into the backyard on the way. His elderly mother was sitting in the kitchen and was obviously alarmed as I was rushed through the room. I could hear the owner explaining the story as I stripped down in his bathroom and stood on the edge of the bathtub to get high enough to see my ass in the mirror.
It wasn’t pretty –an area the size of a salad plate on my left hip and buttock was already turning an alarming shade of purple. There were four deep puncture wounds, as well as nasty looking scratches – apparently as the owner dragged him away, the dog’s teeth had scraped along my skin as he struggled to take a hunk of my ass along. By this point, the wound had started to sting and throb and the whole area was painful to the touch.
I pulled my pants up gingerly and tugged my shirt down attempting to cover the underwear that was peeking through my ripped jeans. As I walked back into the kitchen, the owner’s mother approached me, stroking my arm briefly as she asked me how bad it was. She seemed sincerely concerned and she was so motherly in her approach that I immediately burst into tears. I could see that this alarmed both the owner and his mother, so I tried to reassure them between sobs.
“I think I’m okay – I’ve just had a really bad daaaaaaaaayyyy!” The last word came out sounding a lot like Lucille Ball when she realizes that she has screwed up and has some ‘splaining to do to Ricky. Before I knew it, I was spilling the whole story about the fight with my husband, the water in my face, the delivering of the phone books, the scary dog, and then I ended with, “And my butt (sob) REALLY hurts!” I could see by this point that I wasn’t reassuring them at all, so I asked if the dog was up to date on his shots and told them I was going to the doctor to be checked out.
What I WANTED to do was to go home and have my husband take care of me – but I was still very angry with him and my pride wouldn’t let me drive in that direction. I also still wasn’t clear on how I needed to respond to the water throwing incident. So, instead, I went to the emergency room, where I waited for an hour for a nurse to clean the bite and tell me to come back if it got infected – she also asked me for the contact information for the dog’s owner, saying she was required to report the incident to officials so they could make sure the dog was vaccinated and not a danger to the public.
It was just getting dark when I left the ER. I didn’t want to go home – I was still irate at my husband and I childishly wanted him to worry about me, so drove to a nearby movie theater and purchased a ticket for the next movie that was starting…Jerry Maguire. The movie resonated with me — if you didn’t count the part about sports and sports agent. I related to the story of an emotionally distant husband, the breakup of a marriage, and then a touching reconciliation. All it was missing was a dog bite in the ass.