I Fell (April 2003)

Douglas Wayne Ricketts
11 min readSep 27, 2022

Not paying rent on time can have unforeseen consequences.

I am a big moron. No, really, I am. The following story is true. The embarrassing part is that the events weren’t even alcohol-induced. This is all about me being a bit fat dope.

On occasion, in the middle of the night, I awake with thoughts in my head. Ideas for work, radio bits, lyrics for songs, maybe a music riff that I can turn into something good. Thursday morning, April 3rd, I awoke at 3am and was hit with the thought that I had failed to turn in my rent check. At my apartment complex the rent is due by the time the office opens on the third of each month or there’s a late fee. Sure enough, I had written out the check and placed it next to my front door but I forgot to place it in the manager’s drop box. So in a panic to avoid a late fee and get the check turned in before they arrived, I threw on somes jeans, a shirt, and shoes, walked to the drop box, and returned to my apartment.

As I was climbing the stairs I realized that I did NOT have my keys on me. As I reached for the door, I hoped aloud that I hadn’t locked myself out. Held the handle for a moment and went to turn it… nope, no turn. Locked. Great.

First, I pondered how I was going to get in. I knew I had left the balcony window open, and actually climbed up the side a bit to see if I could hoist myself over the balcony, but it was much too high to get a good grip on. I then wondered if I’d be able to use a credit card to slide open the door latch. Luckily, I had left my wallet in the pants that I had hastily thrown on in order to pay the rent. After spending what felt like half an hour and destroying my Costco and NRA cards (me having one is another story I’m not proud of), I noticed the roof access hatch and figured maybe there was a crawl space I could drop through. Just as I got up the ladder, the police arrived.

It seems that the neighbors across the way had seen me trying to break into the apartment and had notified Palm Springs’ finest. I’m glad they did, because it means they’re security minded, but what a pain in the ass! At first, the cops thought they had a real live burglar on their hands and were about to cuff me. Since my ID was still listing an Anchorage, Alaska address, and since no one was responding to the 24-hour grounds pager, they didn’t believe that I really lived there. Just before one of the officers decided to reach for his cuffs, I remembered an incident that would prove that I belonged there.

In the middle of February I called 9–1–1 five times. Not on purpose, mind you. It was my second week in the apartment and I was trying to program some new numbers into my phone. Now, I’ve had this phone for years but it had been a while since I’d tried to program it. So I did what most people end up doing. I just started punching buttons until I figured it out. I don’t recall hearing anyone answer while I was doing this, and it wasn’t fifteen minutes from the time I started that Palm Springs Police called, stating there were two officers at my door and that I should go let them in. How embarrassing it that?!?!!?

While one officer checked the hall for the non-existent body I was able to show the other the paperwork for my rental agreement. And they noted it looked as if I was in the process of moving in, what with the various boxes and stacks of items in rooms. As I was explaining what had happened with the phone they laughed at my idiocy. The officers left and upon their exit the lead officer suggested I don’t program my phone without the instructions.

At any rate, I told the officers that wanted to book me on burglary of my own home that in February there had been a series of accidental 9–1–1 calls and that they could verify I was the resident if they could check those records. After a quick moment on their radio, Palm Springs Dispatch confirmed that I lived where I said I lived. While I talked with one officer, the other talked to the neighbors that had placed the complaint call and told them that I, indeed, was the tenant. I didn’t get a chance to have direct contact with them and thank them for vigilantly protecting our apartment, complex.

After the officers left I pondered my next step. I knocked on a couple neighbor’s doors in an attempt to contact maintenance. Y’see, the way the maintenance pager works, you have to punch in your phone number. If the phone number doesn’t match up with that of a tenant, they don’t call you back. So, the only way to contact maintenance after-hours is if you are next to the phone they have on record. See why the police couldn’t get ahold of them? Ridiculous, I know. The Palm Springs P.D. officers that had come by and almost arrested me even told me that their “knox-box” key didn’t work and they had to go through a bunch of hoops to get through the security gate. I knocked on my immediate neighbor’s door. No answer. I knocked on the door of the people that had called the cops. NO ANSWER! Bastards. I started thinking that I really didn’t want to bother my neighbors anyway, and began pondering how else I could deal with this.

So at this rate, I was still locked out of my apartment and wasn’t sure how I was going to get back in. I thought about walking a few blocks to the corner store and trying to contact maintenance from there but didn’t want to leave the complex for fear of not being able to get back in. My key card for the gate was in my locked truck, and my access key for the person-sized gate was in my apartment. Plus, since the pay phone number wouldn’t have matched up as tenants the effort would have done no good.

The next thing I thought was that maybe I should check into a motel for the night and come back at 9 am when the office was open. Then I remembered that I had an early morning conference call scheduled at work, and that if I didn’t leave shortly after 9am I would miss it. I considered jumping the fence to the pool area and sleeping on one of the lounge chairs but I didn’t want to be out in the open to be pointed at and made fun of when my neighbors started waking up. I mean, seriously, if you were going to work or school or whatever, and you saw some bald guy with a goatee in jeans and a t-shirt sleeping near the pool area, you’d call the cops, wouldn’t ya? I did NOT want to deal with that again. So, I went to my truck, grabbed the two cinder blocks from the back (a relic of living in Alaska and keeping weight in the back to increase weight for traction), and set up a makeshift ‘chair’ for me to sit on next to my door. I figured when the sun came up and people started going to work I’d hear them and be able to ask them for help.

As I sat, it started to get colder. The days have been averaging 80–90 degrees with the temperature dropping to about 50 at night. Since I was getting chilly, I tried, one last time, to get the door latch to pop open by sliding my Sam’s Club card through the door jam. No luck. Then, I recalled that the police had arrived before I had time to fully examine the roof, so I climbed back up. I discovered that there were no access holes (which is a good thing, except for situations like THIS) and that the rooftop was much too far for a drop to the balcony to be safe. I climbed back down and sat on my cinder block chair for another moment and tried to take a nap.

After sleeping a bit, I woke up with a chill. I decided to walk around a bit and see if I saw any lights in the complex windows, thinking maybe a neighbor or two might be awake and they could call maintenance. As I was walking down the stairs, I looked up at the balcony thinking maybe I hadn’t examined it fully and might be able to find another way up. Just as I finished that thought, I slipped. I must have been tired and not paying attention, preoccupied with my attempts to get inside. Suddenly, with my left leg in the air, my right foot landed on a step in such a way that my foot bent way too far (toe-toward-shin… ouch!), my hand shot out to grab the handrail that I was too far away from, and Buster Keaton style I launched forward and fell about five to six feet straight down and “plop” right onto the concrete. Aloud, I let out a low-key, “Ow.” I lay there a moment taking stock of the impact. My left leg was tense, my left arm was hurt the total length of 2–3 inches just below the elbow (not cut, just impacted and bruised), my left hand hurt just above my wrist and was bruised, my stomach hurt a bit on the left side, my right forearm was sore and had tiny scratches on it, and my right foot felt funny. I moved to get up and was met with a sharp pain that shot up my leg. I tried to balance myself with my arms and felt a jolt of pain from my left hand to the top of my left arm. My right arm tingled a bit but it barely hurt at all. My left leg was sore but still useable. And the best part? After regaining my composure I noticed a raccoon (!) was sitting a few feet away, watching me from the hedge. I asked the raccoon, “Did you enjoy the show?” and it kinda jumped and scampered away into the bushes. I’m glad it decided not to eat my face. I hobbled back up the stairs to my cinder block chair and waited for morning activity so I could ask a neighbor to call maintenance.

After the sun started to rise (it comes up at about 5:30 am) I noticed movement in one of my neighbors’ windows. I knocked and a nice Korean couple answered their door. They fed me a cup of coffee and tried to call maintenance several times. There was no response. Then, the lady thought she knew where one of the on-site managers lived. We knocked on the door. No response. I felt a bit uncomfortable intruding on their morning and insisted that the sun was out and I’d be fine until the office opened. Luckily I wasn’t bleeding, and I kept my left arm below the elbow covered with the sleeve of my oversized t-shirt. I shuffled back and forth between knocking on the door of the on-site manager to checking the main office for early arrivals (the maintenance workers are always doing something on this complex) to sitting next to my door to sunning myself near the pool area. I even asked another neighbor to try and contact maintenance and they never received a call back either.

So, here I am, shuffling around in pain, still unable to get into my apartment. At about 8:30 am, one of the property managers finally showed up and was able to open my locked door. Sara, the complex manager, apologized for maintenance not contacting me, and admitted that they had a worker leaving just yesterday and a new one starting today and that *NO ONE* had the pager. *NO ONE* was on-call!

At any rate, feeling beat up, I called work and told them I was going to the doctor after falling about six feet down the stairs and landing on concrete. I then passed out from sheer exhaustion and awoke an hour later. Heading to take a shower and clean up some of the tiny cuts I was slapped with the realization that I couldn’t put all of my body weight onto my right foot without sharp jolts of pain shooting up my leg. The area below my left elbow wasn’t cut, just sweating a bit of blood due to pinpricks from the jagged concrete, and I was feeling pain whenever I pulled or pushed anything with my left hand.

After looking up the addresses of some of the emergency care facilities, I drove around a bit trying to find one that was open. I happened upon the Desert Regional Hospital and decided to stop there. I checked in with work while I was waiting for more tests, and the boss had told our afternoon jock that I should just take the day off and get everything all fixed. What a great group, huh? Believe me, I’ve worked with some people who have no empathy for injuries. These people are great.

So a few hours later, I was poked, prodded, got a shot in my butt (I told the nurse, “THIS must be the highlight of your day, huh?” and she laughed, saying that she’d seen uglier butts), and got x-rays of my wrist and my ankle. The doctor determined that there were no breaks and that I had just overextended the tendon above my right ankle and impacted the muscles and tendons in my wrist. Also, I had a HUGE bruise on my left leg where I landed. They gave me a prescription for a muscle relaxer that I can’t pronounce and a painkiller called Vicoden (which apparently is the drug of choice among people with pain). I was also told I could work but that I should stay off the foot as much as possible so the area would heal. I asked if a cane would help. “Absolutely!” They gave me the name of a follow-up physician, charged me $300 for the immediate visit, told me the doctor’s and radiology bill would come separately in the mail, and sent me on my way.

As I was leaving the hospital, hobbling in pain (but much less pain thanks to the shot), I was approached by a woman that appeared to be getting out of a taxi, asking for directions. As it turned out, she was a religious freak that started rambling about how the taxi driver didn’t speak enough English, that she was trying to find some historic temple, and that God loves me. I told her I was in pain and had to go get a prescription filled. She tried to hand me a pamphlet, rambled about people who don’t go outside in the sun, noticed that I wasn’t very tan compared to some people and that God loves me. I told her, very clearly, “I hurt. I must go to the pharmacy.” I could still hear her having ‘our’ conversation as I was climbing into my truck. I recall thinking, “I wonder if she knows I walked away?”

After getting my prescriptions filled and finding a cane at the pharmacy, I went home, ate some lunch, took my medication, and passed out for six hours. I called my girlfriend who was still in Alaska so she could laugh at me, took my next dosage of meds, and fell asleep for the night.

Over the course of my first day back at work I got pretty good at flying around the office on my cane (although, occasionally I’d miss a step and get rewarded with a lovely shock of pain). And, in the control room at the radio station, I just shove myself around on the wheeled chair. At over one day from injuring myself I feel about two times better. Now, if that damn raccoon had only had a video camera maybe I could’ve made some of the money I spent at the hospital back on the video.

And remember kids, none of this would have happened if I had just paid my rent on time.

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Douglas Wayne Ricketts

I do things! Sometimes music or comedy is involved. Your mileage may vary.