The Shard Phenomenon and Its Potential Application as a Come-onby
Heather Van Doren
The next time you’re at a party, instead of asking someone, “What do you do?” (over cocktails) or “What’s your major?” (over the keg nozzle), ask your new acquaintance this: “Did you know a kid who crashed through a glass door?”
Your respondent will briefly struggle with the urge to abandon you for safe, predictable question askers. His/her initial physical response—darting eyes and shifting limbs in preparation for a sprint—will take just long enough for recall to kick in. Then, invariably, the answer will be “yes.” Everyone knows a kid who walked/ran/fell/stumbled through a glass door.
Sometimes, the very person you ask was the kid who crashed through a glass door. But don’t withdraw for fear of dredging up a blocked-out trauma that didn’t make it into the family scrapbook. Be polite and ask if it was the front door or the back door. Sliding? French, but without the muntins? Basic full-screen replaced by the storm door weeks before, but on such a nice day it was easy to forget?
The kid in my neighborhood who crashed through a glass door wound up on his concrete front steps. What’s worse is that he lived in a split level and got a good running start down the living room stairs before smash-o. Pulverizing a front door gains unwanted high exposure. Kids on bikes, ladies bent over their gardens, guys with hoses, everyone comes over to check out the source of that unfamiliar clinkity noise. Once they see the spotted kid sprawled on concrete, no one’s leaving until he’s hospital-bound.
The boy’s mom wrapped him in a sheet and opted for an ambulance ride to the hospital. The doctor plucked glass from his wounds and stitched him up with the caveat that some bits might get missed. For the rest of the kid’s life, pieces of glass could just “pop,” fall right out of his skin. He could just rub it away carefully, or flick it off of his dinner plate, his lapel, or whatever.
When you’re conversing with your fellow partygoer about kids who crash through glass doors, ask what the youngster was wrapped in afterwards. “Oh, a Star Wars sheet?” “A ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ bedspread?” “A Vanilla Ice bath towel?” No two answers will be the same, and you’ll both appreciate popular culture’s role in emergency response.
For those of us who haven’t crashed through a glass door, the “how” of it lends it some mystique. At birth, probably the first series of doors we’re led through (delivery room, hospital exits) are glass. At home, more glass doors. Mom, dad, siblings, and visitors open and close the doors with regularity. We see this, and once we’re mobile, we become habitual door-openers ourselves.
Why, then, do some kids—after years of door usage—suddenly forget to open them before stepping through? Maybe it’s something they see, or, thanks to the magic of elbow grease and Windex, something they don’t. Or maybe they hear a mysterious force that only kids destined to crash through glass doors can detect.
Feel free to ask your party companion the how and the why, then freshen up your drinks and change the subject before the eye-darting resumes. You might also suggest a change of scenery, but let your new friend go first. At the nearest doorway, observe as his/her arm extends to ensure safe passage for the both of you. Later, should the two of you wind up wrapped in sheets, at least it won’t require stitches. (Unless you’re kinky, but that’s a whole different story… the Hanger Phenomenon, prefaced by, “Did you know a kid nicked by wire?”)
Heather Van Doren is a Boston native in the Midwest, using her command of the English language to include the “r” in the pronunciation of car, pursuing a master’s degree in literature, and editing university communications.