The day the picnic table collapsed and I became an unlikely heroine

I’m no stranger to horrific experiences in the great outdoors. And I admit I don’t always handle them well.

Like the time I went camping, and in the middle of the night, a raccoon the size of a bear devoured my Rice Krispie treats. I’m not proud of awakening the other campers when I used my bullhorn to issue this warning, “You’ll wish you didn’t have those handy opposable thumbs when you need insulin injections!”

Or the time I sat around a campfire smoking a cigar, drinking cheap brandy, and the campground authorities didn’t like the commotion I made when I heard a coyote and hurled my s’mores.

I ditched camping, and it’s not because I’m on the list of banned campers in the state of Maine either. I’m more of an indoor person. And I don’t like danger.

But danger can lurk in the most common outdoor experience as I discovered one day during my lunch break.

Famished, I overlooked the risk of melanoma and Lyme disease to join co-workers, Brandi and Cynthia, for lunch at a communal picnic table. When I approached the table there was one person sitting on each side, and sorry I could not sit on both, I took the one less sat upon.

And it made all the difference.

It started out like any ordinary lunch shared under a cloudless sky on an 85-degree, humid summer day. I plunked down a tall glass of water and used a mini-crowbar to pry the lid from my Tupperware containing last night’s leftovers.

Poised to take my first bite, I heard a curious rumble. I didn’t want to embarrass anyone by asking, “Who farted?” Besides, my hearing isn’t all that good, and for all I knew it was me.

Then I heard the theme from Chariots of Fire ever so faintly in the background as I watched the picnic table collapse. In slow motion.

Grizzly business

Brandi is usually ultra-compassionate, but in an uncharacteristic display of callousness, she screamed, “My phone! My phone! The water spilled on my phone!”

Meanwhile, my legs were squeezed between the disassembled table top and the bench, but I could see that Cynthia was in worse trouble. In an uncharacteristic display of bravery, I yelled, “To hell with your phone. Cynthia is pinned under this table!”

And just like the legend of the ninety-pound weakling who lifts a piano to save a life, I bench-pressed the table high enough for Cynthia to roll out from under its crushing weight.

For the record, I haven’t weighed ninety pounds since I was in first grade, which may have contributed to the demise of the picnic table, but I can assure you I qualify as a bona fide weakling.

Brandi dried her phone and fussed about the fact that one of her pant legs was soaking wet, and she was missing a shoe. Once we knew Cynthia had only suffered grass stains, I looked at the back of my legs and said, “My back legs are hurt!” Cynthia, regaining her composure and wit, said, “As opposed to your front legs, you mean?”

We were still in shock when this photo was taken

Having determined that no one was seriously injured, Brandi’s phone was in full working order, and we had not lost our lunches, we laughed hysterically until we all had wet pants.

Have you ever rescued someone from impending disaster? What’s the shelf life of your heroic act? In other words, how long can you milk it for special treatment?


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27 thoughts on “The day the picnic table collapsed and I became an unlikely heroine

  1. Your title reminded me of the James Thurber story that my dad was so very fond of. It was something along the lines of “The night the bed fell on Father.” Glad you weren’t terribly squashed and that everyone managed to get out alive. Your Herculean strength reminded me of the time I was showing off and swung from a football training device that had been errantly left on a field. I was 9 and desperately trying to impress my older cousins. My contortions caused the thing to become unbalanced and it began to sway and lean over. I fell to the ground and it crashed down on my right humerus, snapping it in two and firmly pinning me to the ground. It had taken seven of us to erect it yet my sister heaved it off of me all by herself, dragged me out from under and carried me home. I spent the rest of the summer in a body cast from the waist up.

    • Wow! Your sister was amazing! I suppose she never let you forget her rescue? Not that you ever would with that outcome. So wonderful to see your comment, Kelly. I tried to leave one on your recent blog but I’m not sure it went through. Loved your story of gardening before your big trip and am hoping you had a great time. This is why I don’t garden. 😉

  2. I’m glad you had your wits about you and could get the table up! yay! A few years ago, we were all sitting at our “all-in-one” picnic table, 2 on one side, 3 on the other. Somehow, my bro-in-law and I got up at the same time, suddenly causing the table to lift up. In slow-motion, our dinner plates slid to the side where the other three sat, and I got the picture in my mind of the Flintstones’ feet wiggling up in the air as the table continued to tip! My very strong German bro-in-law (twin to my hubby) quickly turned and jammed the table down with one strong hand (he has Popeye arms). He saved the say and we roared for hours and still talk about it to this day 🙂

  3. I once lifted a burning car off a puppy. No I didn’t. I don’t actually have any heroic stories☹️ The picture suggests you got decapitated. I’m guessing you didn’t. Right? Very entertaining?.

    • LOL! I am decapitated in a lot of my photos, but this one is especially significant, Gilly. I’m glad you never had to lift a burning car off a puppy, but I’ve no doubt you could and would do it!

    • The great outdoors is definitely a scary place, Kate. I do okay on my neighborhood walk, and sitting on my patio. But beyond that, I’m out of my element. We indoor gals need to start a support group! There is a lot of pressure to be outdoorsy.

  4. Loved this story. Love your wit and good humor. Made me think of a camping trip we took back in the seventies in Arizona – who knows, I may put together my own little story to share next time when I post. Got me both smiling and laughing this morning and we all know – that is a good thing. Thanks for sharing.

    • I hope my post has prompted a camping trip story, Irwin. I like to read them. I just don’t like to go camping. Those aggressive raccoons have kicked my camping butt! Glad you could have a good laugh when you read my story.

      • Okay, you got me thinking – but it may take a little time and editing cause if I remember correctly, the story was in 3 parts and at least 4-5,000 words in total. But, one has to start someplace. Thanks

  5. Lovely tale but not so lovely for the survivors. I am glad you could have your picnic after all. Perhaps you need to get a sheet and sit on the grass instead of on the tables.
    Once during a meeting we had for our post graduate course, I was a good 95 kgs of weight then. I sat on a chair and it creaked as you said, so un-ladylike. And also gave way. I learnt later that all present had a joke on me and my weight then. I was hurt and had an ouchie in my heart then.
    Another time my husband was doing jogs around a track and he had taken at least 3 BP medicines all at once as his BP was not getting controlled at all. Suddenly the heat and the running took their toll and I found nearly 100 kg of human muscle and bone sliding to the cemented section of the track. First time I had seen a man take a tumble in front of my eyes. Knowing I needed to protect the back of his skull, I jumped to the occasion and held the posterior part of his head in my hands as he slipped into the relative comfort of the flat position.
    Saving co-workers, I can’t think of any instances.
    I am glad Cynthia was ok , thanks to you. I have a coworker called Cynthia too.

    • Wow! Your husband is one lucky man, Susie, and you are lucky you don’t have a husband with scrambled brains. The story about the creaky chair was sad – I don’t like the way your colleagues hurt your feelings. Want me to come over there and whack them with a board from the defunct picnic table? I’m feeling heroic.

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