Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still (For Me)

For those who know me, I've survived some pretty miraculous mishaps over the course of my life. I once drank a cup of half-diluted Clorox bleach when I was 6 because I thought it was water. Thankfully it did not agree with me (snark!) and my stomach rejected it almost before the liquid struck bottom.

But the worst thing that ever happened to me, injury-wise, was a pretty harrowing street crash on my bike that I was lucky enough to escape alive, let alone walking.

I was 14 and over the summer had taken to riding the mean ol' streets of the Bronx on my mountain trail bike. It was usually the three of us: me, my brother, and our friend, Alex. Typical of teenagers, we never thought anything could ever happen to us. Even back in the early 90s when the Bronx was a far more dangerous, drug-infested den of iniquity than it is today.

Anyway, one day Alex and I decided to take a short cut down this extremely steep hill near my block. We’d done it many times before. Nothing to it. The trick was to wait at the crest for the traffic light to change green at the bottom of the hill. Or for the intersecting traffic light to turn yellow. Once either of the two occurred (depending on how adventurous we were feeling that day), we would lean forward on our handle bars and race as fast as we could down the hill.

Now this hill was AT LEAST at a 30-degree incline. Seriously steep. Even fit people needed to pause for breath when climbing it up to our street. So needless to say going down it on a two-wheeler with absolutely no breaks was nothing short of idiotic, all told.

This time, however, I got a little more adventurous that I should have been. On this day, I thought I was DA MAN! I thought: you know what? Forget caution. I didn't feel like stopping at the crest of the hill for the light to change. So when we arrived at the end of the block, I kept on going.

Down, down, down the hill of death.

I heard Alex gasp in surprise behind me, but he wisely stayed behind. Meanwhile, halfway down my short path to perdition, it dawned on me that I was not going to make the light. It was already turning red!

No sweat, I thought. The intersecting street rarely had traffic. And sure enough, I did not see the front end of a car waiting at the box. So I relaxed and enjoyed the roller coaster ride down.

Of course, there was a car. And it was going fast. Why wouldn't it? As a driver, you’d like to believe that there aren't crazy 14 year-olds barreling down steep hills towards you at close to mach 3 with no brakes. I mean, a kid so retarded wouldn't be let out of the house unsupervised, yes?

So I’m sure it came as a shock to poor Mr. Taxi Cab Driver--who innocently believed he had the green light and, therefore, did not slow down as he approached the intersection -- to find a blur of metal and blue jeans come slamming into his front right wheel assembly like a drug-addled bat out of hell. I’m sure to him, unlike the neighborhood kids playing touch football nearby, it was NOT a funny sight to see said blur go cartwheeling several turns over the hood of his Lincoln Continental to land half a block down the street, bounce a couple times on the hard concrete, and come scraping to a halt before the entrance of an abandoned parking lot.

“HOLY SHIT!!!” I remember one of the kids yelling. I swear, that still rings in my ears to this day. I can hear it clearly as if it just happened.

So I laid there as people came running over to me. It was like the world had come to a stop. I wasn't in any pain, oddly. I just lay there willing myself to believe everything was okay. The taxi cab driver was the first to reach me somehow. He was petrified, thinking he had killed me. Or, at the very least, turned me into a paraplegic. I remember trying to get up to assure him and everyone else that I was okay, but people started grabbing me and telling me to stay down while they called an ambulance.

Suddenly I thought of my grandmother, and how angry she would be that I disobeyed her by going down that hill in the first place. I immediately reiterated to everyone that I was okay and that an ambulance wasn't necessary. The cab driver offered to drive me to the hospital himself – he was so scared! I felt bad for him, so I said it was my fault and not to worry. I was fine. In retrospect, he was very kind in a city known for its hit-and-runs.

Eventually Alex showed up and just couldn't believe I was still breathing.

“Man, I thought you had died!” he yelled at me. I could see he was extremely relieved.

I was shaken up myself, no denying it. I went to the bushes where I had seen my bike land while I was still bouncing across the pavement (no joke). The bike was twisted into a pretzel. The front wheel was mangled and turned completely inward into the chassis itself. The handle bars had broken off.

So picture it: Me limping up the hill, numerous scrapes and open wounds across my face and palms, and holding the bashed-in remains of a mountain bike in both arms. The kids playing touch football stared at me the whole way up, with something halfway between fright and awe mixed on their open-mouthed faces.

When I came home, my grandmother made a big fuss over me. Shamelessly, I lied to her. Since I rarely did so, I was almost always believed. I told her I had crashed into a parked car while coming really fast out of the park to cross the street. I did not want to tell her the real cause.

And my war wounds? The only thing I came away with were the aforementioned scrapes and a bruised knee. The knee got swollen and made it hard to walk for the next three days, but I did so without assistance. And I still had to go to school. I never missed a day in my life.

So there you go, yet another incident where I almost died. I still see the hill every now and then when I take the long way home from work. It’s still ridiculously steep and terribly dangerous. I shake my head now, knowing I shouldn't have been able to walk away from that crash. Not going as fast as I was down that decline. To this day all my friends think I have bones made of titanium. It’s true I've never broken a bone before (knock on wood), but I’m more apt to think it was just blind luck.

Or perhaps there is such a thing as divine intervention after all?

Now *there’s* a thought!


Ashe Hunt said...

I've never forgotten this. I still remember you telling me about this in school. I remember you did miss 1 day and the next day you came in looking like you'd been through battle. I was buggin' out wondering what the hell happened. Then you told me this extremely amazing tale. I was horrified and wildly amused because of the way you told the story. You told it even better here. Man I'm cryin' I'm laughing so hard. Your storytelling capabilities are superb. What I never forgot and am surprised you didn't mention, was that your heavy ass glasses you wore at the time flew off of your face and after you came to a stop they landed right next to your head as if someone just put them there without a scratch. I remember wishing I'd been there. I'd have probably been with you going down, which probably would have changed the outcome of this event tremendously. Yeah, I've never forgotten this one. Simply amazing. Your higher power definitely watches close over you my friend.

cindy said...

holy shit! is right! and how is this labeled "humor"? you're twisted, david. haha! as a mom, i'm terrified!!!

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