They Day Flamin' Amy Died (And I Almost Did Too)
Hello, Lovers. I've had ten emails just in two hours - ridiculous for a post from this rat-trap blog - wanting to know about my near death experience. No, I do not think this is gruesome or prying. Now keep in mind, because I am a Norwegian Viking Warrior, no scars nor blood was shed in my near death experience. In fact, I only woken to permanent, catastrophic pain on September 29, 1999 at 3:15PM on a clear, sunny day in Seattle. First, one should know that by age 26 still nobody has ever trained you on what to do when a 1990 Kenworth from CTI (complete with second trailer) full of broken cement is out looking for trouble. You yourself don't have to snort cocaine to be effected by it. So if you send email questioning what to do after your spine is inevitably turned to liquid I do know now. Teachable moment. On that afternoon I was driving home on Highway 167S which is a known gridlock generator full of semi trucks and people driving to Auburn or Puyallup (or the "Paris of Washington" as I like to say). Other trucks on the road are jacked up accidents waiting to happen, built up as if there are no paved roads just 20 miles south of Seattle. My 1979 Dodge short bed was just a plain ol’ pickup. You know, the kind you use for work and not to feel manly about or compensate for a lack of understanding physics. Predictably, after driving 55MPH for about 5 miles the gridlock grew and I came to a stop. My arm was out the window. The stock AM radio was playing “Greatest hits from the 50s, 60s and 70s” and I was listening to chatter from truckers on the CB. C’mon! Great day right? As I was singing along with Manilow I glanced into the rear view mirror (as all good drivers do every 5 seconds or when coming to a stop). What befell my Rootbeer Brown eyes was a Silver Kenworth dump truck about a mile back coming at me quick. What caught my eye was the second trailer visibly jack knifing. Not good. Highway 167 South is 3 lanes in its direction. The carpool lane is on the left. The “fast lane” in the middle and the “slow lane” is to the far right - the lanes were in the right place but as usual the drivers were not in their proper lanes. I was in the middle lane and there were no cars behind me. I can see the driver correct for the jack knifing trailer and then wheel from the center lane into the carpool lane but there is a car right along side him and he veers back towards me and that’s when I knew I was going to take a massive hit. The driver had made the choice to rear end me rather than crush the car beside him into the divider. I had time to actually consider getting out of my truck and making a dash for the grass and trees on the side of the highway but quickly reasoned that the best protection I had was the Detroit Iron I was already in. I took one more look with my own eyes out the back window. To keep from adding to the change in velocity I was about to experience I threw the truck in neutral, let off the clutch and brake (not unlike Obi Wan lowering his light saber when facing Darth Vader) and heard Manilow sing to me, "This ones for you," and said, “SHIT!
SHIT! By that time, it was lights out. Cocaine Kenworth crunched to within 3 feet of my body/head and had wiped out over 20 cars before I “awoke”. I don’t know how long I was out but there was not one thing in the cab of my truck bolted down that wasn’t thrown lose, including me. The initial hit had my head knocking out the rear window immediately followed by being pushed into the next car in front of me, knocking my big 6’3” 240 pound lifeless body into the steering wheel. The steering wheel bent at 90º and left marks on my cheek bones to this day. Still, no blood or tears came.
Courtesy rear window pop out via head.
This Norwegian oaf was shook out of it first when one Washington State Trooper, one Kent Police officer and one King County Sheriff were gently pulling me out of my truck. I only remember apologizing for being so big. When asked for my address I gave them a mix between my childhood homes and my childhood best friends home, none of them current in more than a decade. I remember hearing one of them saying, “he’s dead.”
And that is where Adam 2.0 started. The shock of running 6 minute miles and dunking basketballs and lifting cars off people - gone in the blink of an eye. My brain is still sure I can do it, alas, it cannot. Think of every possible physical pleasure you enjoy - diminished by 50% or completely - forever. 26 and life to go, Mr. Smith.
I remember coming around and saying, “I’m a hero!” That’s just my style - supposed to be funny in dire straits and I’m glad my brain quickly filed back to a good place despite a severe concussion and spine completely on fire. My body tightly strapped down to a board to prevent further damage, including my head taped down and on the floor of a speeding ambulance I remember my back hurting so bad my hands felt cold. I spent what mental faculties I could focus on by reassuring the medic. I asked him if I was in a General Motors vehicle and what engine was under the hood. He replied that it was inconsequential because the semi had wiped out over 25 cars and there was no traffic between us and the hospital.
Courtesy rear window pop out via head.
Use your signals. Give a semi 5 seconds of signal before changing lanes in front of one. Finally, submit to the fact that even if you do all these things and the driver is coked up and jamming gears that he is going to do some urban renewal on your body.
I suffered three burst discs, L3-L4, L4-L5, and L5-S1. These immediately were the thing that set my spine on fire. The concussion, which was only termed "severe" made my whole body flinch every time I blinked my eyes.