Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Don't Recommend This

So last night, on my way back to Riverside after being in my hometown for my lovely friend Kelli Mayer's birthday party, I decided it might be fun to hydroplane in my car and crash. In retrospect, I really don't recommend doing it.
It was the most terrifying experience of my life. It was pouring rain and I wasn't driving over the speed limit, but I just hit a patch of water in the road and since my car is so light, lost control. Everyone always says how they see their life flash before their eyes. I didn't see that at all. I remember the moment that I knew I had started to hydroplane and lost control and was really hoping I could just go straight and eventually my tires would catch and I'd be fine. But, thats not what happened. I have no vision or memory at all of what I saw while I was spinning. I remember realizing that I was spinning and trying to correct the spin and standing on the brake pedal. But I don't remember seeing headlights, or the wall that I hit, or other cars, or anything. I remember feeling everything. I felt the spin of the car and definitely felt hitting the guard rail (thank god the center divide was the metal rail and not the cement divider which I'm sure would have flipped my car over), I remember feeling my head bump the side of my car but not hard, and I remember the song that was playing (I don't need to know by City and Colour...pretty good song to crash to). But no visions. Nothing flashed before my eyes. When I finally came to a stop, after 1.5 or 2.5 spins I don't remember which, I checked my surroundings. Realized that, thankfully, I came to a rest on the shoulder in the center divide well in the mud out of the way of traffic. This is good because I found out later that my front tires were looking at each other (intersecting planes...exactly the opposite position that tires should be in). I couldn't have moved my car if I wanted to. LUCK OUT #1. I then immediately checked myself out. Remembering that I bumped my head, I felt my head for a gash or blood because I knew with the adrenaline pumping through me, I could probably pick up my car and move it and definitely wouldn't be able to feel a tiny cut. After some inspection, I was totally fine. LUCK OUT #2.
As soon as I could form a coherent thought, I realized that the growler (64 oz refillable bottle) of beer I got from Green Flash Brewery in Vista, was still in the front seat (not broken, LUCK OUT #3?). I knew that the CHP would be on the scene soon and there is no way they would believe I hadn't had a drop of alcohol for 10 hours if I had a half-gallon sitting in the front seat of a crashed car. I immediately grabbed the bottle by its handle and flung it into the trunk of my car as if they were walking up to me. At this point I had been crashed for maybe 30 seconds. Right after being afraid of beer in my car after a crash, I reflected for a minute. I laughed a bit to myself at how crazy it was and how lucky I was to be alive let alone totally unscathed and that I didn't hurt anyone else. Then I kind of chuckled about nothing flashing before my eyes and I kind of felt a little cheated by not getting that.
So after hanging out for a bit, I realized I couldn't sit there all night. I grabbed my phone, which was surprisingly still in my cars door handle where I always put it. And of course, no service...emergency call only. BUMMER #1. So after about 3 minutes of swearing at AT&T, I decide to dial 911. I couldn't even dial out to 911. That emergency call service is a total LIE! So I get out of my car and stand in the pouring monsoon and flash my lights at oncoming traffic and wave my arms to try and flag someone down. Eventually someone stopped. I got excited and as I turned to jog down to their car to talk to them, I dropped my phone and, of course, it landed in the gutter of the freeway. I literally watched my phone float down in a tiny river of water like a little foil boat kids make to sail in the gutter. BUMMER #2. I snatched it up and tried to dry it off. After I got down there, they were able to call 911 and had a tow truck on its way.
When I was sitting waiting for the tow truck, it all kind of hit me. I got a wave come over me of tons of emotion. Everything happened so fast I didn't really stop to think how close I was to dying. I could have easily had my car roll and tumbled down the freeway. I could have easily, instead of spinning to the left and into the guard rail/shoulder of the road and mud (LUCK OUT #4), spun to the right into traffic and hit someone. Aside from that, I kept thinking about what it would be like if I died. I had 2 dollars in my wallet, my grandma's glazed carrots recipe in my back pocket (Thanksgiving!), and bevy of random items in the trunk of my car (tent, camp axe, broken tennis racquet, headphones, tripod, etc.). What would my family and friends interpret from the items left in my car? Would they assume I was drunk because I had beer in the car? What would they tell their friends? It was a pretty surreal experience.
The tow truck arrived pretty quickly. Loaded up my car. Then we were off like a prom dress. I called my brother to pick me up and he came and took me back to my parents house to sleep off the adrenaline. I crashed a little bit after 12 AM and got home by about 1:45. I didn't sleep until 3 I was so wired.
You learn a lot about yourself when you are in a crash. I am not going to be one of those people that now assumes every day is a gift. Acting like every day is a gift is really just calling everyone else shallow for not appreciating life and getting bogged down with problems. But I will say that I learned several things. You know how on an airplane they say, "In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion doubles as a floatation device." I learned that a stock feature on the '09 Honda Fit is that in the event of spinning out of the freeway, the seat cushion doubles as a toilet. But honestly, I have never been more happy to hug my family in my life. It centers your life. As soon as I came to a stop I wasn't thinking about the jobs I have applied to, the papers I've published, the photos I've taken, the cool places I've been, or the pretty girls I've flirted with. My only thought was about my family and how scared I would be if anything happened to them. I have to say though, I'd be pissed if I died. I just spent 6 years and close to $150,000 getting 2 degrees I am not using...but I at least want to live long enough to not use them.
I have always joked about dying around this age. I always say how I am reaching my peak dying potential. Like I had died in this crash, people might have said, "He was so young!" "He had such a bright future ahead!" "He had so much potential with the education he had!" But if I am 50 and haven't really done anything people might say "Well he was still a little young but, I mean, he he didn't do anything with his last 50 years."
After going through that I am just glad I lived to fight another day (and that I didn't spill my beer!). My father was a cat. So I was born with 4 and a half lives. I guess I'm down to 3 and a half.