Face it, it's just another story to share

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In perhaps my favorite scene from one of my most favorite movies, the three principal shark hunters in "Jaws" are drinking the night away at sea when they begin unceremoniously comparing scars.

Emboldened by shots of whiskey, Richard Dreyfuss' oceanographer Matt Hooper character tries to outdo Captain Quint (Robert Shaw) in a male-bonding scene to end all movie male-bonding scenes.

The two go back and forth comparing bull shark and moray eel bites and even toast the scars their fishy encounters have left on their legs.

All that testosterone-induced braggadocio leads Roy Scheider as Chief Brody (best known for his "You're gonna need a bigger boat" line), to quietly lift his shirt and stare silently at an unimpressive appendectomy incision scar.

But what really hits home is that the whole sequence begins with Brody gingerly touching a scratch on the left side of his forehead as Quint assures him, "Don't worry about it, Chief. It won't be permanent."

Hopefully Quint's logic holds true, for within the past week I have managed to mangle my own forehead in similar fashion. Granted, mine wasn't the result of a scrape with some monstrous Great White Shark out in the Atlantic.

The scratch I inflicted upon myself has quite the tale to tell though. For little did I realize that our hand towels might come filled with shrapnel. Or that when you splash your face with water after shaving and reach for a towel, you might permanently disfigure yourself.

Yet such was the case the other morning when I grabbed a towel that had a sharp piece of plastic or rock or something imbedded in the nap, rubbed it across my face and drew blood and expletives not so deleted.

That left me to spend the rest of the week with virtually everyone I ran into asking, "What did you do to your face?"

Not that I resemble Chuck Wepner, "The Bayonne Bleeder," you understand. But I was concerned, like Chief Brody, that it might scar.

After all, that seems to be my luck. Like the first time I mowed last spring. I ran the Dixie Chopper under a sturdy limb of our forsythia bush, gouging my leg just above the knee with a long, deep scratch that is still visible. I call that a scar.

"Scars are just stories you can tell," Jared the jester interjects from the next desk.

"Scars are just tattoos with better stories," a similar song lyric offers.

Yes, scar stories can be scary. Like the one involving the tip of my right ring finger that I mangled in a 1950s-era wooden folding chair.

Or the base of the middle finger on my left hand, scarred for life by broken glass. I wasn't running with scissors mind you, but a glass of cherry Kool-Aid that shattered on impact when I tripped and fell.

Similarly, my right wrist bears the remnants of 10 stitches from the time I put my hand through the storm door glass one unseasonably nice Chicago winter day in a rush to go outside to shoot some hoop.

My left thigh carries the reminder of another winter day when while wiling away the hours on a model car kit, I inexplicably stuck an X-acto knife in my leg. Dad butterfly bandaged it so it wouldn't need stitches but it scared anyway.

There's another X-acto scar I got from stepping on the toe of the flipflop-wearing young woman who was pasting up my sports pages at my first newspaper job back about a million years ago.

She had the X-acto blade in one hand and a cigarette in the other (that's how long ago it was), and got me with both in an equal and opposite reaction to my misstep. It was OK though, we were dating at the time.

As Jared and I traded our scar stories over coffee (not whiskey) in the newsroom, I realized that like Quint, Hooper and Brody, we're all in the same proverbial boat.

But if I keep collecting scars like I have, Brody is undoubtedly right.

We definitely are gonna need a bigger boat.