My latest brush with death

So last night, I drove into town to pick up an amplifier I’d found on Craigslist, I was very excited because the owner is a famous musician and composer, kind of an idol, and the amp itself was better than pristine. And I got it at crackhead prices without it being stolen, all good. I stopped at Albertsons on the way back to fill up a big water bottle for our cooler, and told my wife over the phone that the amp was in such nice shape that it would be more beaten up by the drive home than anything that had happened to it in its whole life before.

Got the jug of water back in the car and was really enjoying the late sunset light and the cooler air, probably down 12 degrees from the hot part of the day. Had a little music on, no cars immediately around me, and had the cruise control set for 75. (The legal speed limit here.) I wasn’t asleep or anything, but I could see the cars way in front and way behind me and was pretty relaxed. I was maybe 1/2 mile away from my exit – close enough to see it – when everything went nuts.


A deer came mashing toward me diagonally from the left, very fast, on a course that would put it right in front of my car. I crushed the brakes and started a slow turn to the right to get around it, thinking I’d just pass it and then be done. But it had enough of a lead that it kept getting more in front of me and I had to turn more and more right, and the net effect was turning sharply right and hitting my brakes very hard at 75 mph, never an ideal situation. I heard the car tap the deer, but they looked around for it later and didn’t see anything, so it may be OK, definitely better than it would have been if I’d hit it square-on at least.

I spun the car across the freeway, it flipped over and I skidded backwards and upside down up the median, a little hill.

The car stopped safely away from traffic, facing backwards and upside down. I didn’t feel any pain, so I unbuckled and squirmed out the window. I didn’t realize it, but when I dropped upside down into the broken glass from my former moonroof, it cut my scalp up a little. Nothing tragic, just a little raw later.

I heard a siren right away, and realized that I couldn’t see much; my glasses had come off during the roll. A policeman driving the other way had seen everything and drove over the median right away to come check things out. A couple drivers stopped to see if anyone in the car needed help but I was thankfully alone.

Lots of little things went on over the next 90 minutes. I felt as calm and collected as I ever do, but the paramedics said my heart rate and blood pressure were a little up. I was curious and asked how fast my heart rate was, and it was 110, down from 120. My resting rate is something like 70, so without me knowing it, my heart was beating as though I’d just been out for a long run. When Anette rushed to the scene, she forgot to bring me glasses, and I was adrenaline-alert and half blind. Since I wasn’t drinking and there were no drugs and no other cars involved, the police side of things was very simple, and all the rescue workers were very cool and helpful.

We went to take the rest of our stuff out of the car today, and the car looked less dramatic than it had the night before upside down and backwards on a hill, but it was still pretty messed up. The guy at the wrecking yard gave the car a double take and asked us who had been in it, you should have seen the look he gave when I said it had been me the night before. Only thing we can’t get out is the 6 CDs in the changer, the ignition wouldn’t work, not the biggest deal. (The AC and the stereo were still going last night after I’d stopped, so something else had happened later, maybe a short that drained the battery, or some kind of safety disabled thing.)

Inspecting the car, I saw that there had been an airbag built into my seat that had gone off behind my left shoulder, that’s where the stiffness came from. (Well, that and hanging upside down for a little bit probably.) I can’t believe I walked away from it. I feel very, very happy today, and very, very lucky. And very, very tired – the adrenaline in my body kept me from sleeping soundly, and it’s only now that I feel blessedly, safely tired. I’ll probably take a nap.

And the amp? Totally fine. As I mentioned at the beginning, while I was getting the water, I had said to Anette on the phone, “It’s in pristine shape; the ride home will put more scratches and dents on it than it’s had its whole life before.” When I’m right, I’m right.

I guess the water’s gone, too. $1.50 down the drain, and somehow I’m not concerned.