In the past I’ve listed ways in which I’ve barely escaped death, either by physical trauma or embarrassment. (See Ten Times I Nearly Died and The Other Ten Times I Nearly Died). Here’s a few more, although through a dwindling base of experiences from which to choose and the wordiness of these particular examples, this list is shorter (by number, anyway). Without further ado (when “A” does that, does “B” step in it?), then, here are A Few More Times I Nearly Died:
1) Some years ago, I was enjoying a slice of pizza at home. I tend to inhale rather than simply eat those foods I find particularly pleasing, and pizza certainly falls into this shockingly ample category. So I did exactly that; in my gluttony, I inhaled bits of dry crust into my lungs. My windpipe shut down like a cheese eater’s pooper, and the frail, high-pitched squeaks that emanated from my throat enticed several amorous mice to appear from various hiding places in my home. I bolted upright from my chair, ran to my wife and mimed in desperation my mortal predicament. Her response to me, in a tone that decidedly belied the seriousness of the situation was, more or less, as follows:
“I read somewhere that if you can make a sound, you’re not really choking.”
After a few more plaintive squeaks were similarly discounted (the mice, however, were by this time almost blind with passion), I gave myself the Heimlich Maneuver with the help of a wingback chair, expelled the offending crumbs from my lungs and promptly called my life insurance company to change my beneficiary.
2) In high school, my friends and I would often forego our educational opportunities in order to drive up the local mountain and play in the snow. emboldened by cheap wine and the immortality of youth, we would fly down a narrow path through the pines lying face down on an inner tube. After our driver split open his upper and lower lips when he face-planted into the ice, he selfishly demanded that we leave immediately. Strangely, none of us seemed to realize the inherent danger of a drunk driver, bleeding profusely and in considerable pain, hurtling down any icy mountain road at breakneck speed. In short order, we hit a patch of ice, spun several times and crashed sideways into a snow-covered embankment; an avalanche of snow consumed the vehicle. Fortunately, some passers-by dug us out, and as I waited for them to finish the job, saw how lucky we had been: had we spun the other direction, we faced a free-fall of at least two hundred feet and certain death. (Apparently guard rails hadn’t been invented yet).
3) Many years later, my wife and I took our children up the same mountain for some sledding. In my excitement and haste to beat everyone to the slopes (always a child at heart or, more accurately, ever selfish), I pushed down my kids, ran and slipped on some ice, fell on my back, slid downhill and embraced a large, sharp-faced rock with my butt cheeks. I cracked (snicker) my tailbone (medically referred to as the “Coccyx” – again, snicker); for the next three months, every cough or daily constitution was an exercise in agony. Once, I did both simultaneously and cried for ten minutes. Amazing how thought-provoking and all-consuming those things one normally takes for granted can become.
4) When I was twelve, I went with my mother to visit my grandmother in Vienna, Austria. One one particular day, we visited several museums; after some considerable time (literally minutes), I’d had enough and begged my mom to let me walk back home. I assured her I knew the way and somehow convinced her to let me go. She wrote the address down for me in case I had trouble and off I went.
Three hours later, I was struck with the realization that I was both an idiot and six thousand miles from home; I was hopelessly lost and began bawling like, well, a lost twelve year-old. I remembered the slip of paper my mother had given me and, looking around, chose and then approached the least murderous looking adult I could find. I handed an elderly man the address and, after looking me up and down and regarding me as an offensive little American turd (the Austrians are ridiculously good judges of character – Hitler notwithstanding), pointed at the subway entrance down the street.
As I descended the subway steps, I saw the street name for my grandmother’s house on the wall past the platform opposite my own. I was overjoyed, and after a cursory check for a speeding train, jumped down onto the tracks to the shouts and shrieks of no small number of Austrian subway riders. I climbed the opposite platform and ran up the stairs to my street. I attributed their collective concerns to the their culturally innate anal retentiveness (the Teutons are positively freaked out by any overt diversion from the social order); only later did I learn that the rails carry 600 volts of electricity.
5) I would employ my son to install fountains with me during the summer, when I needed help with something heavy or if I wanted to show him what not to do for his career. On one particular occasion we were in the back of my box truck, with a four hundred pound fountain bowl balanced on edge between us. The weight of the bowl shifted toward me and I found myself falling backward out of the truck; my son reached for me as I fell.
“No! The bowl!” I shouted before I landed on the driveway with a sound like a load of watermelon spilling from a flipped produce truck. (This was a hand-carved stone bowl, worth easily a thousand dollars; my current worth at the time was arguably less).
As I lay on my back, breathless and assuming permanent paralysis, my attention turned to the bowl rolling steadily toward me; I could only imagine the horror of my son seeing my eyes, intestines, twig and berries spontaneously and violently expelled from every aperture of my body. Fortunately, my son was able to change the bowl’s course and it turned and then dropped, harmlessly, to the carpet-covered floor of the truck. Its inertia pushed him from the truck as well, but he landed on his feet, strangely enough.
6) I let my wife drive again last week. As the unlucky pedestrian spanned our front windshield, our eyes briefly locked; he looked at me as if to say “Why the sidewalk?”, before my wife turned the wipers on and he slid past my passenger window. I had always felt God had a special reason for keeping me alive; like the aforementioned pedestrian, who only seconds before had stepped outside, has my purpose now been served? Am I now a marked man?
Fortunately, as the years have gone by and I’ve become increasingly slothful, the chances of me dying in exotic fashion seem less likely. Admittedly, I could drop from a heart attack or aneurysm at any moment, but the odds of me croaking dramatically seem to be getting longer. I still eat Pizza, though….