Sunday, August 8, 2010

A few extra seconds at a stop sign saved my life

A few extra seconds at a stop sign saved my life

I often think about how I was recently given a second chance at life.  It doesn't feel real at times because I don't have anything tangible to show for it.  If I were grazed by a bullet, I'd have a scar to prove that.  If I had almost gotten on a plane that crashed, I'd have the ticket printout and the news articles.  In this case, I just have my memory. 

About six weeks ago (I could look up the exact date by my banking website is down), I was driving to the ATM the bank branch the next town over.  It was about 9pm and I just needed to get there before 10pm so my account wouldn't overdraft.  I wasn't excited about leaving the house as I had to stop playing the game and I didn't want to be out in the real world either.  I reached this 4 way stop in this residential area.  The speed limit is 25 in this area.  Both streets have two lanes, one for each direction.  Normally, I make a full stop at stop signs and then proceed through the intersection after about one second.  Of course, I check both directions as I'm doing so.

This time, I delayed for longer than I ever do at a stop sign.  I don't exactly why and I've tried to replay that memory countless times since then.  Maybe I stopped longer was I wasn't in any rush.  I had no where to be.  Sure, I wanted to play the game, but I wasn't rushing to get back.  I had plenty of time to get to the ATM before 10PM and I knew I was just going to play the game nonstop when I got home.  Maybe, I could subconsciously hear the speeding car barreling 40-50MPH down a 25MPH residential street.  Maybe it was divine intervention.  For some people, that would be high on their lists of probably reasons.  For me, I deem that the least likely.  I would say that the random chance in the universe cause this particular chain of events to happen for me.  In some other parallel universe, I go through that stop sign after one second and things unfold differently for me there.

I remember just not wanting to proceed through that intersection at that moment.  I almost can't believe that's the way it happened, but I kept replaying what happened in my mind I truly believe that was the case.

As I'm sitting at the stop sign, this car comes barreling through the intersection at a high rate of speed.  The car spins out of control three houses down and hits a mailbox.  I remember something like the bumper falling of the car because a car that followed the speeding car hit something in the road and then noticed that there was a spun out car in the front lawn of the house. 

I remember that I couldn't move for a bit after seeing that car.  My car was just stopped at the stop sign.  I was there for like 20-30 seconds as I remember watching the second car coming to the stop sign and going through the intersection.  I was going to check on the guy but I called 911 first.  The person in the second car had already gotten out and there was a guy walking near the intersection that was on the phone too.  Normally, I  would have stopped and watch everything unfold but I didn't want to let my account overdraft. 

Later, as I was coming back, I saw the street was blocked off.  I was going to stop and watch what happened but I didn't because my hair was all messed up.  Since I hadn't left the house in weeks, my hair had been growing in all directions.  I was in the middle of giving myself a haircut but my trimmer ran out of charge.  I had a half shaved head and was embarrassed to walk around.  I thought about asking if they needed a witness to the accident, but I had told the dispatcher what I saw.  I figured the police could look up my number from the 911 center and contact me if they really needed me. 

I never looked up what happened.  I assume the guy was drunk and spun out of control.  I'm sure he got a well deserved DUI charge for that.  I was never contacted but I didn't expect to be contacted as no one was injured except the driver I believe. 

What could have happened:
I know that I had a brush with death because I've seen videos of what happens in a side impact.  Side impacts are about the worst accident you can get into.  A head-on collision is bad for obvious reasons, but you have the airbag and seat belts designed to protect you for such a collision.  Newer cars have side airbags to prevent injury in side impacts but my old car does not.  I remember reading that a side impact crash with no air bags usually results in injuries resulting in paralysis or death.  If I had been hit by that car, best case scenario would be that I'd be in a wheelchair. 

It's ironic that I thought about dying because I hated my life at the time and that I almost got my wish...

I think about those moments at the stop sign and I realize how dumb it is to ever entertain such thoughts.  There are so many more things that I want to do and experience in my life before it's over.  Life might have been bad for me, but I have to believe I can always make things better. 

As I write this, things are better.  I started talking to my friends again but I still have to reach out to a few more and I'm working on that.  I have some new direction on my life and I'll expand on that in future entries.  Oh, and yes, I'm sarging again and that's helped me feel better too.

When things get tough, I remind myself about what happened.  My life could be drastically different or be nonexistent if it weren't for a few seconds.  I tell myself that everything I've experienced since then and everything I experience now is a gift.  I'm lucky that I'm even able to have these moments and I try to appreciate them whether they are good or bad. 

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