My Downtown Savannah Escapade: The Carriage.

posted in: Day In The Life 11
Sundown in Savannah near City Market. Photo: Moi.
Sundown in Savannah near City Market. Photo: Moi.

 

Last night, I explored Savannah.

I’m ashamed to admit it was the only time I was able to do so in three days of being in that fine American city, but this was a work trip, not a vacation; I had two full-day workshops plus a new lecture to present (and reading for school on top of that.) This is the quilt teacher’s lament, you see: All dressed up, no time to sightsee.

But after my class finished yesterday, though my dogs were barkin’, I allowed myself only enough time to dip into my room to freshen up and turn right around to catch the Waving Girl ferry. The boat would take me to the Savannah riverfront and from there, I could walk downtown. When will I be back in Savannah, you know? Claus and I would like to take a trip to the American South. It could happen. But when?

When I got off the ferry, the no-see-em bugs were out for blood. They were swarming around everyone, landing in our hair and eyelashes. Batting them away was taking so much energy I was worried I had made a mistake, that I should’ve just stayed in my hotel room and promised Savannah I’d catch her on the flipside, but by the time I made my way up the steps to the city proper, there was enough breeze to blow the bugs away and my Savannah escapade* began in earnest.

Have you been to Savannah? The place is a dream. I’ve been reading about the place enough that I want to tell you all I’ve learned — but not yet. Tonight, a personal narrative, mostly because I have to get something off my chest.

By the time I hit the town, the sun was setting. I had an hour of good daylight left and this was causing me some anxiety; I was less interested in observing Savannah nightlife that I was in seeing its celebrated wedding cake houses and mossy, palm-studded squares. Luckily, I hit a few really good spots on accident right away: the Savannah College of Art and Design campus; a statue of John Wesley; and Broughton Street, which opened up to me and I walked along as the lights strung from either side of that main drag came on. The twinkle cast a lovely light and I got some good pictures you can see on my Instagram.

Because I was following my nose, I’m afraid I can’t trace for you my exact path through the city. But I can tell you that at one point I walked right past the famous Byrd Cookie. Open since 1924 and still using many of the family’s original cooky recipes, when I saw it I marched right in and bought a delicious Savannah souvenir for myself and a pal: a bag of Key Lime Coolers and Scotch Oatmeal cookys. Two-for-one. Score.

It was after that that something rather awful happened, and if I don’t tell the tale I’m afraid the memory will knock around in my head and become more vivid than it already is, here, a full day later.

I was crossing the street, munching. I had reached a paw into the bag of miniature Byrd Key Lime Coolers because I figured nothing could be more Savannah than eating those tiny, local cookys while walking through City Market. I had just reached the curb when I heard the unmistakable sound of a human body making hard contact with something it ought not to make hard contact with. The sound was a splat, a crunch; my ears witnessed a punching. The impact hung in the air for a millisecond and then I heard sharp intakes of breath and cries of alarm from nearby witnesses.

I whirled to my left and saw her. A woman lay prone on the paved street to the side of   horse-drawn carriage. She had fallen while disembarking. From where she lay on the concrete, I saw how tall those carriages really are; the force of her fall was such that I had heard her hit the ground, face-first, from more than 30 feet away. A fleeting thought occurred: So many people were drinking all around me, with open containers. There was something boozy about her fall, but of course I didn’t know. All I knew is that the sight of her there, laying motionless on the hard concrete, flooded me with horror and the lemon cookie in my mouth went to paste.

I dropped the sweets from my hand. Breathless, I said, to no one,”Oh my god, oh my god,” for there was a broken face in our midst, a busted jawbone, teeth shattered, maybe a broken pelvis or slipped disc. The woman had caught her foot in the rail of the carriage and hit the ground hard. I was at least partly a witness to this terrible moment in her life and my night in Savannah was now indelibly altered from the light sightseeing trip I had envisioned. It wasn’t that I thought,”Oh, now my night is ruined.” It was that my vague, weird fears of being horribly disfigured in a freak accident were being validated, right there in Savannah, Georgia.

As I approached, all but covering my eyes with a sugary hand for fear of seeing what I knew I was about to see, the woman, miraculously, stood. I heard her say to the man who had hopped off the carriage, “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.” Relief flooded me to see her talking and not screaming. But how? My body was tight as a spring.

I saw the woman give the man a pat on his shoulder and tell the other passengers in the carriage she was okay; they were all as aghast as I was. I stood, dumb, there at the curb, the blinding white, powdered sugar cookys at my feet. I watched the  woman stumble across to the curb near me and keep going up the street. I realized, as I began walking again — only able to think of her bloody, broken teeth — that my left hand was clutching my breast and that I was still in full wince, still shielding myself from that sound of her body hitting the road from too-high up.

The woman passed me, limping. She was in shock. Of this there can be no doubt. She was a few paces ahead of me; suddenly, she turned and went into a bar. I didn’t follow her. I didn’t know what to do. I guess I thought she was okay; an hour later, I would think, “No, she was hurt. She was in a daze. She had broken bones.” And I wished I would’ve followed her into the bar to make sure she had a friend, a helper.

So that’s all I can tell you now. There’s so much to tell about QuiltCon and the other amazing thing that happened this week, but that’s all I can say for now.

 

*I love a thesaurus. I thought, “There must be a better word than ‘adventure.'” An “escapade” is “an act or incident involving excitement, daring, or adventure.” That’s more like it.

11 Responses

  1. Elizabeth Sonnenfeld
    | Reply

    I love Savannah! I lived there for 16 wonderful years while my daughter’s were growing up. They moved to Atlanta and I moved away but I always think of Savannah as home.
    Strangely enough I had a fall just like the woman you saw. I was getting out of a street car in San Francisco and I missed the step. I landed hard (with a bang) on the pavement, face down. I was laying there for a minute or so while someone asked if I needed an ambulance. I was bleeding from my braw above my right eye and it was a lot of blood.
    Even though I was a little in shock, I stood up and leaned on my husband (who was also in shock) and got back on the trolley. The conductor brought me a wad of paper towels soaked with cold water and I held that until we got off.
    I was fine after that but pretty bruised.

  2. Melody A.
    | Reply

    This sounds like a pretty traumatic event. to witness. You were in shock too. that is why it is hard to know exactly what to do. Take care and have a great weekend. from Iowa

  3. Molly
    | Reply

    I just realized I’m clutching my breast. Poor girl. I felt like I was there

  4. Julie Sander
    | Reply

    I was looking forward to reading this since you had mentioned this one to me yesterday when we met. My husband , Charlie, & I loved your talk. It was wonderful to meet you. Thanks!

  5. Nadine donovan
    | Reply

    Wow- what a wierd and horrible incident to hear and witness!!! I would not overly worry- if she went into a bar- there are other people there. If she needed help, I am sure some one would call 911. At least the bartender would.

  6. Kathy Isaacks
    | Reply

    Wow I can really relate Mary. Just got a splint off my wrist from my tripping fall. Amazing what a thunk a body can make! Did the same thing 3 weeks ago (although I hadn’t been on a lovely carriage ride). Was going into my church for my quilting group and tripped on the cement curb. THUNK! Flat on my face! Fortunately I “only” slightly fractured my wrist, and slightly chipped a tooth! You were correct in thinking she was in shock- I was. Fortunately several Boy Scouts and friends were there to help me. Looking forward to hearing about Quiltcon. I’ve seen some awesome photos from a friend who attended.

  7. Anne
    | Reply

    That is crazy – I’m surprised the carriage driver didn’t stop the woman from wandering off!

    On a much lighter note, my Mom and I were at Quiltcon and we loved, loved, loved your talk. We met you for a hot second before you started. 🙂 And I’m glad to know the name of the bugs that ate me alive!

  8. Sarah
    | Reply

    As a caring person you reacted NORMALLY. Remember you were tired after a long day and just beginning to unwind. You wanted to help but were uncertain as to how, or even if help was needed. She went into a place where there were other people who could help her is she needed it. Since she had already refused help from the driver, my guess is she would have done the same to you if you had offered it. No need to feel in the least guilty, but a useful experience for learning how people in shock behave. Write it up, why don’t you? Could be cathartic.

  9. […] I had seen the strange thing, a wave of exhaustion passed over me; I needed to head back to my room. This would mean that I would […]

  10. Elaine Theriault
    | Reply

    Mary

    I was at Quiltcon and we had a woman come to the Northcott booth on Saturday. She had taken a spill on the cobblestones on Thursday. She had two black eyes, two broken bones in her hand and a broken nose. I felt very bad for her as I’m sure she was a mess. But she was so optimistic – she was at QUiltcon after all. So not the same woman – I took extreme care on the streets – it was a challenge. And the no see ums??? My ankles are swollen and I’ve huge rashes on my legs. Never had that kind of reaction. An interesting time to say the least.

    Elaine

    • Mary
      | Reply

      WOAH!!!!! (??????)

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