By Richard Bleil
Previously I’ve written about my heart attack, but that’s not the first time I died. I’ve been dead several times, and the Devil just keep spitting me back out.
The first time I died was in the mid ’80’s. I was driving a 1971 Dodge Dart Swinger, a tank of a car, but, inside the trunk, there was this steel pipe from that lead from where the gas nozzle went in during the refill to the gas tank. My friend pointed it out to me one day, and told me that if I were ever rear-ended, it would rupture, and I would die in a blaze of gory. Not glory…gory. Thanks, Mitch! Butt.
So I was working as an analytical chemist in Cincinnati (the true chili capital of the world). I was driving home from work on a highway with a speed limit of 55, at a stop light. There was a car in front of me, and nobody behind me when I saw her coming up on me. You get used to people slamming on the brakes at the last moment, but there comes a point in time when you realize that, this driver just doesn’t see me.
I couldn’t maneuver out of the way, and didn’t have time to do anything. I remembered Mitch’s comment and knew I would die in an inferno. Thanks, Mitch! Butt.
I remember thinking about physics. I figured I would hit the car (a station wagon) in front of me, but if I bore down on the brakes, maybe I could absorb enough of the impact to give them a chance. Pressing has hard as I could on the brakes with both feet, and bracing against the steering wheel, I thought to myself, “well, I don’t have to worry about that report that’s due tomorrow.”
And I knew I was dead.
It’s an odd feeling. I wasn’t afraid I was going to die, I just knew I was dead. It was very calming, and aside from the thought of that report I was supposed to write, no, my life didn’t flash before my eyes. Or maybe it did and I fell asleep. I dunno.
A moment later, the world was chaos. I was thrown about, beginning with heading towards the windshield. Yes, I was wearing a seat belt (one of the two reasons I survived the crash; the Swinger being the second), but it was a lap belt as they all were on cars in the late seventies, and exactly identical to the modern belts they use on every commercial jet in service today.
You would think that the airliners could find technology better than the seat belts developed for cars in the ’70’s, but, hey, who would want to survive an airplane crash anyway?
The seat belt began stringing its way through the belt, as my body moved forward. It might be my imagination, but I swear I felt the glass of the windshield on my hair when the bundled material at the end of the belt caught and flung me backwards. I was tossed around for what felt like about three days, when finally things came to a rest. I cautiously opened my eyes, and realized I was looking at the ceiling of the car.
It took me a moment to realize that, in fact, I was not dead after all. I groped around, and found the steering wheel. I pulled myself up, and realized that when the seat belt caught, it slammed me against the back of my seat so hard that it had broken. I tried to put the car into “Park” so I could get the keys out of the ignition, but the damage reached the transmission. So I left the keys there, unbuckled and tried to open the door only to find it was jammed. I shimmied over to the passenger side, and found it jammed as well. I wanted to get out before that fire ignited, so I laid back, and kicked the door open.
The cars had already begun bypassing the accident, and one of the drivers was startled and almost hit my car door. He honked, and yelled something obscene as I, the victim of a dangerous accident, crawled out of my car. Lord save me from causing him any inconvenience.
As I exited the car, I realized that there were four cars and a truck involved as one vehicle was pushed into the vehicle in front of it. My trunk was gone, as my car was hit so hard that even the suspension snapped. The front looked like it hit a brick wall at 30 mph, but much to the credit of the way the car was built, the cabin was nearly intact, with only an air hose under the dash having come loose. Perhaps the most surrealistic thing about the whole crash was the roll of duct tape, originally in my truck, had been thrown clear and was sitting, calmly, peacefully, and seemingly purposefully on the road. The outermost layer did have a scuff, though.
Have you ever wondered how you would be in an emergency situation? I have to admit, I was ROCK SOLID! I went to each vehicle to see if anybody needed help, and when I realized they were okay, I urged them to get to the side of the road in case of fire. As we waited for emergency services, somebody asked me if we should be changing insurance information, to which I replied that the information would, no doubt, be collected by the police. Somebody from a fast food restaurant came out and asked me if they should bring something for everybody to drink. I told them only water, as anything else might cause peritonitis if there was internal injuries. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I saw it the previous night on MASH, so, hey, I must have been an expert.
Funny how we honestly believe that we actually are knowledgeable from the television shows we watch.
First on the scene was the fire department. I fell in love. There was a gorgeous young female firefighter, swimming in the all-too-large fire coat and hat, full makeup as clearly she just came from work. So as she was spraying foam on my gas tank, I sidled up to her, and said…no, not really. I just watched her. I am honestly something of a coward, but in this case, it’s probably just as well as I’m sure she wouldn’t have been cool with me leaning on the car she was trying to foam down to look cool.
The police showed up. He was wearing the silver mirrored sunglasses that were all the rage at the time, and took out his ticket book. “Who owns the blue car?” he asked casually. “I do,” the driver said. “I’ve never seen traffic backed up this far before!” I thought, “It was backed up a lot further before YOU came along…” but, no, I kept it to myself. The police continued, “I’m going to cite you for failing to maintain a safe distance.” Failing to maintain a safe distance? Seriously? TRY ATTEMPTED VEHICULAR HOMICIDE YOU well, honestly, it was just his way of telling the insurance companies that she was at fault. “Who owns the green car?” he asked. “I do,” I replied. “You’ll need a tow,” he said without bothering to look up. Yeah, thanks a lot, Einstein…
Finally the paramedics showed up. They put me on a backboard in moments. Those things are uncomfortable after thirty seconds. I was on it for three hours. They wheel me into the hospital, but all of the rooms are occupied, so I’m in the hallway. “Take your pants off,” a nurse said. Everybody within earshot suddenly are looking at me. “Uh, I’m in the hallway,” I explained. “Well, here’s a sheet, just, kind of…”
So here I am, in a hallway without pants covered by a sheet. And the nurses were SO attractive. I’m feeling fine, and flirting my BUTT off. What the heck, they have to feel sorry for me, right? They wheel me in for an x-ray, and everything looks fine. So three hours later, they say, “Okay, you can sit up in the hallway naked without any pants on if you like.” Uhhh…
So I sit up, and for the first time in three hours, I see all of these beautiful women I had been flirting with from the waste down, and I realized that all of them, each and every one of them, was not less than eight months pregnant.
But, that’s okay. They were still gorgeous. Didn’t get a date out of it, though.