Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Many Brushes With Death

I was just reading a Cracked article online, 5 Mundane Objects that Saved Important Lives, which is about just what the headline says. It got me to thinking about the times in my life that my chips were almost cashed in. I've read that we come this close to death at least six times per day, but that we usually don't know it. Leaving aside how it is even possible to come up with that figure, I do know that I've been conscious of several of these. Here's a partial list off the top of my head:

1. Nearly flattened by a train - In 1986, I moved from my parents' home in the country back to Whitehall, Ohio, where I'd grown up. In fact, I was moving--temporarily--back into my childhood home, prior to my parents finally selling it. My kid sister--11 at the time--rode along, in one of a series of Ford Econoline vans our family owned. Just south of the 5th Avenue/Hamilton Road intersection, near what was the Rockwell International building, Hamilton is intersected by railroad tracks. On this particular day, the flashers and gates did not activate, in addition to there being an obstructed view. My sister and I sailed over the tracks, and as we plunged down the hill immediately after the tracks, the train woodshed immediately behind us.

2. Run-in with a ditch, pt. 1 - I was driving to my parents' house, from Whitehall, this time. It was dark, and I was driving my brother's 70s Toyota Corolla (his license was suspended, and my car was in the shop). There was a light but steady rain, and I remember that the headlights on the Corolla did not illuminate the landscape very well. I remember feeling an odd sensation while tootling down the country road at 60 mph. It was like the car had lateral rollers underneath the tires. Odd, I thought. Then, I hit a bump or pothole, and my steering wheel spun under my hands. I was hurtling diagonally across the road, the car heedless of the direction the tires were spinning, directly toward a telephone pole. The brakes were ineffective.

I clipped the pole, and the car spun completely around, eventually landing driver's door down in the ditch, on the same side of the road as the pole. I climbed out of the passenger door--now on top--and got out on the side of the road. This wasn't rain, it was freezing rain. I was barely able to stand, due to the sheath of ice on everything. A passing motorist picked me up, and took me the next three miles to my folks' house. I called a tow truck, which eventually arrived, and took me back to the crash site. They pulled the car out, and abandoned me there. My limited injuries included my ruined voice (from screaming, "Oh, Shit!!!"), a bruise across my chest from the seat belt, and sore muscles from scraping the tomb of ice off of the Corolla before I could drive it oh, so slowly back to the house.*
If I'd gotten my gloves, I'd have been right in the
spot where the car was hit.

3. Run-in with a ditch, pt. 2 - Leaving my parent's house for work in Delaware, Ohio**, I crept across deep fluffy snow, from the house to State Route 605. As I turned north onto the road, I was greeted by a (barely) two-lane path, which had been plowed into the snow. Accumulation had obscured the road, so it was difficult to tell where it was. But I was on it, that wasn't the problem. I'd scarcely gotten half a mile when I felt the wind. There was an open field to the west, and the wind was gusting. My Nissan Pulsar NX weighed approximately as much as a large kitchen appliance. It was no contest. The wind softly and gently pushed my car into the ditch on the east side of the road.

The landing was not violent. It was like landing in a cloud, since the snow had been drifting into the ditch. My car and I were unharmed, but I was stuck. I got out of the car, and trudged to a house a hundred yards to the south of me. I called my Dad, and he said he'd bring a rope to pull me out. I walked back to the car, and desperately wanted to get my gloves out of the hatch. Then, I had something akin to a premonition. I imagined another car, also getting blown off of the road, right on top of my car. Instead of opening the hatch, and getting my gloves, I walked around it, and stood behind a fence post. Seconds later, a Ford Tempo--just as I imagined it--whooshed off of the road, and crashed right on top of my car! Dad was a bit surprised when he got there, to see the Tempo on top of my Pulsar.

4. Nearly fell through sliding glass door - In late 2006, I was newly out of debt. After nearly a decade (almost my entire 30s) climbing out of debt, I was free. So, naturally, I thought it would be a good idea to buy something I'd never been able to afford before. So--after much research--I bought a Maytag Ice20 refrigerator. I got it as a display model from Home Depot, and got a great deal. Since it was a floor model, it was missing a few trim pieces, which I managed to find online. One of those things was a plastic hinge cover for the top. Foolishly, I used a swivel stool to stand upon to put the trim piece in place. After I installed the piece, I started to get down, and the stool swiveled beneath me. The chair flew backward, and so did I. I managed to grab on to the hinge cover, and it--barely--saved me. That I didn't fall still amazes me. Gravity and momentum were working strongly against me. If I hadn't caught myself, I would have gone through the slider glass, likely back first onto broken glass and the door frame and slider tracks. I was home alone for the first of three days. I could've either been severely injured or dead there for all that time before someone would have found me.

And that, dear reader, is my top four. I'm sure there are many more. How about you?

* A coda to that story is very sad. I stayed home from work the next day, since I was in so much pain. I recuperated in Mom & Dad's bed, and was watching the news on their television. On the news was a van in a ditch, clearly on the same road I was on. The back doors were open, rear end in the air. Turns out, the driver of the fan overcompensated after seeing my car in the ditch, and crashed into the opposite ditch. The seeing eye dog the van was carrying scampered out, and was killed by another motorist. The kid the dog was being delivered to had been waiting for months for the dog. I still feel guilty about that.

** Oddly enough, most of my near-death experiences (and car incidents, and run ins with cops) have been either when going to, or coming from my parents' house. You'd think I'd learn.


  1. The day of the Oklahoma City Bombing, we were supposed to BE right there on that same floor, but because we got up late that day, we decided to postpone the trip. We were going to take my son, then a toddler, to get his birth certificate. We were late, and that's why we didn't go the 2 plus hours to get there that day. I still get shivers to think about it. We would all have likely been killed!

  2. Wow, Cass. That's a lot like Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show) who was supposed to be on one of the planes on 9/11, but had a hangover and overslept. Glad you made it! Spooky.

  3. I had survivor's trauma for a long time after that. They showed the OKC bombing films in commercials and on the news lead ins for years after that, and it was hard to forget about it. I don't know why the media thinks drumming things over and over again is a good thing!


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