Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Accidental Death

I have never had a new death experience, and after reading the Wikipedia explanation of NDE I'm very glad about it:

A near-death experience (NDE) refers to personal experiences associated with impending death, encompassing multiple possible sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light. These phenomena are usually reported after an individual has been pronounced clinically dead or has been very close to death.

No, never been there, never done that. I have however had a couple of near accidents that could have resulted in my death - and the death of friends. Both incidents, unsurprisingly, took place while driving .

Some years ago a friend visited me from the UK and we decided to take a road trip from California to Canada. I worked out a half-ass itinerary Orange County to Vegas to Salt Lake City, Idaho, Montana - I wanted to see what Butte looked like after watching so many Westerns in my boyhood. (Shouldn't have bothered). We made it to Canada as far as Banff then on to Vancouver without a hitch.

It was in Oregon while we were looking for Crater Lake and my friend was navigating when she told me, 'Oh turn right here, looks like it takes straight to the lake.' So I did and this road proved to be a steep uphill trail that got narrower and narrower as we proceeded. Now, I'm the last person in the world to ask a stranger for directions, but this did seem very wrong and I started to get a bit creeped out, so on seeing a guy on the side of the trail throwing debris into the back of a truck I  pulled over. He looked a bit startled by my question, 'Is this the road to Crater Lake?'

'No,' he replied, 'and you better not go one yard further - and be careful turning round.' Puzzled, I got out of the car to see if maybe there were potholes or something to avoid. What I saw, froze my blood. The road had ended and we were on the edge of what could only be described as a precipice. A hundred or so feet below was a garbage tip.
'But there's no sign' I said in protest.
'Everybody knows it's a private road' he replied. 'Says so at the bottom of the hill.'

To this day I'll never know why I stopped to ask the way. It was so out of character for me. Some intuition, sixth sense, or just blind luck. One thing for sure, my friend never go to navigate again on the trip.

The second brush with death also involved a car and also friends from the UK. (I really don't have it in for my fellow Brits, honest!) I was taking them to the airport in San Diego at the end of their trip and had to cross two sets of railroad tracks which are guarded by bells, flashing lights and electronically controlled descending gate that stop you from trying to beat the delay. I honestly don't know what happened except a car pulled out in front of effectively stranding me on the tracks.

Of course the bells started clanging, the lights flashing, my friends screaming 'Oh my God, we're going to get hit!" I tried backing up but there was a car directly behind me, the driver on her cell phone. So I backed up anyway, hit the front end of her car which made her look up and give me the finger. Now I was convinced we were going to die as I could see the train bearing down on us at a rate of knots. Fortunately she realized at the last moment she needed to reverse. As I backed up the the gate came down and hit the hood of my car and the train passed by us leaving no more than a coat of paint between it and we three trembling and very lucky fellas. One of my friends started to laugh hysterically as the train thundered by and it was contagious - soon we were all laughing like fools and I had definitely given them something to remember their US visit by.


  1. Wow, this topic is gonna be fun. Sure, experiencing such things are not what we would've asked for, but it does make for good stories. Good thing you lived to tell us about it, JP.

    When much younger, I was riding backwoods trails with a friend, both of us on motorcycles. We'd run this one section of dirt road over and over, going around tight corners and jumps, then coming back and doing it over again. On one pass, I got a little bug up my kiester, and continued uphill into new territory in third gear. On the big Triumph, that meant 65-70 mph. At the top of the hill, there was nothing but a few boulders and air. It was an abandoned quarry, and a drop of a hundred feet or so. Had to lay the bike down to avoid going airborne.

  2. I have dreams about stuff like that... Great post, Jim! (and I hope your cruise is going delightlfully!)

  3. I have had an NDE, and you accurately describe it except when returning you do not wish to do so, but once back, realize time is not to be a wasted commodity.

    You have angels riding shotgun, apparently. Very nice post.

  4. Best wishes on the cruise as well! Cars are dangerous! I sometimes pause and marvel at what massive risks I have taken in cars in my life. We all must be desensitized to the things that can happen.

  5. So glad you & your friends survived! Cars are no match for trains.


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