Runnin’ on Empty

So, here’s me, having a dry spell. Sometimes the ideas flow so fast I can’t keep up with them, but lately, well, nuthin, as they say. So, what to do? I suppose I could tell a story. I was thinking recently about a car accident I was in when I was 16.

It was the day after Thanksgiving, 1972. Must have been a Friday. Me and my friend Bob (name changed to protect the not so innocent) were driving his dad’s car to see another friend who lived out of town. I grew up in a small rural town so when I say our friend lived “out of town” I mean he lived in the country. We were doing nothing more than celebrating not being in school; no drinking or drugs. We both smoked, however.

It was cold that day, as I remember wearing a large winter parka. There were no seatbelts in the car. In 1972 that was still a new thing for some cars. So, we’re cruising along, Bob is driving, and he lights a smoke using the car cigarette ligher. If the car lighter wasn’t hot enough, sometimes it would stick to the end of your cigarette and pull out some of the tobacco. This is what happened to Bob. He started paying more attention to his smoke than to the road. We hear alot about distracted driving these days. Well, it’s always been a problem.

The road we were driving on had about one foot of shoulder and the tar was raised about four inches. To this day, I do not remember anything about the accident but it was speculated by the police that this is what happend. We drifted to the edge of the road and the front passenger side wheel went over the edge of the tar and pulled us in the ditch. We went through about fifty feet of smooth ditch and then hit a driveway. The car flew over the driveway and crashed down on the other side.

I remember waking up sitting on the floor on the front passenger side of the car holding my hand to my head. I guess I must have understood that we had had an accident but it really didn’t register then. Bob was outside the car yelling about the scratches in the paint of his dads car. Then a man leans in the drivers door and asks me if I can move and am I in any pain. I tell him I think I can move and don’t feel any pain. He tells me to come out the drivers door so I crab crawl out to him. It was the ambulance driver and as I laid down on the cot I started losing the feeling in my legs. By the time we got to the hospital I couldn’t move from the waist down.

As I learned later, the lady who owned the driveway we flew over had seen us do it and called the ambulance. She came out to the car and discovered that I was covered in blood so she went back to the house and came back to us with rags. Thats why I was holding my hand to my head. I don’t remember the lady.

The next time I came to there was a Doctor standing over me and I can’t feel the top of my head. He says, “oops.” “Oops?” I say. “whadaya mean, oops?” The next time I wake up I’m in a hospital room. I never did find out what the “oops” was about. So here is what happened. I was thrown upward instead of out the windshield. I broke off the rearview mirror with my head and recieved fifty two stitches for that. I also broke my back from the impact. Commpression fractures of the lower lumbar vertebrae. The swelling was so bad that they couldn’t take xrays to see the damage so for two weeks I had no feeling or movement from the waist down and no idea whether or not I ever would. At 16 years old, this gives you some pause.

I spent almost a month in the hospital and another month at home. I had to wear a brace that went from my crotch to my armpits with big steel rods in it to hold my back straight and I walked with a cane. The brace was so tight I couldn’t eat with it on. I could only take baby steps and could barely sit down. Bob had to have many stitches in his mouth from the steering wheel and smashed up his left knee.

So that’s my distracted driving story. For a long time afterwards I was afraid of cars. That’s also how my folks found out I smoked. The hospital gave them my bloody clothes and they found my smokes when they cleaned out the pockets. Lucky for me I was able to walk and dance and still play drums (after a lenghty recooperation). So, pay attention while you’re driving folks, a little mindfulness please. And I still don’t have any ideas for poetry!

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