The Jaws of Life
“Marisol, I’m ready to go, are you?” I called to my daughter, giving her time to mentally approve of our outing to the barbershop for my monthly clip. Today was Dad’s day to be with his three-year-old daughter, Marisol. The fact that the day had started with a spilled bowl of cereal should have given me a clue as to the rest of the day.
During the bus ride down Mission Street, a few friends were made by Marisol’s enchanting eyes. Her charm can be captivating, pulling those around her into her spell. Little did Dad realize that fear in those eyes could attract a crowd as well.
During my haircut, Marisol behaved well, entertaining herself by watching the scissors going around my head. After I paid, we were window shopping on Mission Street. I paused at a telephone to make a call. A three-year-old must be kept close by or trouble brews. After thirty seconds on the phone, I looked up and she was two stores down the street looking at toys. I told my friend to hold on while I frantically gestured for Marisol to return to safety at my side. Upon her arrival at the phone, she played peek-a-boo around the phone station and playfully put her head up through a rectangular opening in the base of the unit. I was immediately forced to conclude my call as Marisol could not pull her head back down and out of her predicament.
Because of her excitable nature, I knew that panic was right around the corner. I did my best to calm her, but tears and panic grew in exponential progression. Because she had put her head up and through the opening at just the right angle, the angle could not be duplicated under the duress of panic. My only solace-giving action was to sit on the sidewalk under her and let her sit in my lap (with her head sticking up through the opening). Her frantic efforts at pulling down her head were lessening now as the friction on her forehead and back of head were causing repeated pain.
A small crowd gathered. Advice was freely given. My quivering daughter was sobbing in my lap with her head protruding through the base of a phone platform. Teenagers returning from school began offering advice on contortionist therapy, application of axle grease to my girl’s forehead, and the inevitable lobotomy. The crowd had reached two dozen when the local corner grocer appeared with a bottle of peanut oil and without so much as a how-de-do, poured the contents over my daughter’s head. Oil dripped down her face and head. With the crowd further entertained by this latest move, her agony was exquisite.
Because the crowd was spilling into the street, traffic was stopped. A MUNI bus with windows thrown open had the appearance of a grandstand, curious faces looking out and wondering what the commotion was about. We had reached critical mass; this farce could go no further.
In the distance, I could hear the wail of a fire engine! Soon a half dozen enthusiastic men in red were surrounding us with differing opinions on how to release Marisol’s head from its steely trap. A lifesaving device called the Jaws of Life was produced. It was placed between the steel housing of the mini-booth. The jaws began expanding the framework. My alarm grew as I realized the glass could shatter, cutting Marisol’s face. The firemen reassured me that safety glass would not shatter.
Their enthusiasm reminded me of the one time I had dealt with firefighters. Their zeal in their task is boundless, multiplied by their comrades. Here I was sitting under an expanding glass cube hoping for some sort of finesse in my daughter’s rescue while witnessing five 200-pound men attacking the steel and glass above us. Not to fear, our concerns were soon relieved when the metal expanded and Marisol was set free to escape the head vice of the telephone station.
Marisol ended up unscathed, apart from a few minor self-inflicted scrapes and bruises on her forehead and neck. Dad seemed to be the one with the more lasting damage. From that incident on, I realized what impossible situations small children can get themselves into, not to mention dangerous. Being a parent can certainly be scary!