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Bad Car-ma

So, hereís how it happens. Iím reading Nora Ephronís book ďI Feel Bad about my Neck.Ē In fact, itís laying on the car seat beside me as I wind up the two-lane highway that connects downtown Pacific Grove to Highway One. The road winds through Monterey Pines, past cliffs, sheer drops, shards of glass and car parts from previous car wrecks.

Iím thinking to myself, ďGee, Iíve driven this road for 33 years and never actually seen an accident. I know there are some doozies because the paper says so. But, still, Iíve never seen one . . .Ē

Well, I didnít see this one either, although I saw it coming. It was high noon on Saturday and there was lots of traffic. I was heading up the hill to a spiritual group meeting when I saw a large silver car, heading down the highway, lose control on a curve. What happened next was, in reality, nanoseconds, but there is a suspension of time in an accident. You know that or else youíre one lucky soul.

Anyway, the car swung in an arc and, like a tortured bull, was headed straight for me. All I could think of was getting away from it. Moving forward so heíd hit behind me, or pulling to the right so heíd miss me. But I was up against a cliff and there really wasnít anything to do but imagine my massacre.

The crash was so deafening, so forceful, directly into my door with the might of a freight train, that my whole body recoiled in indignation that a force so huge dare assault me. Then a surreal silence. At the moment of impact I saw stars (not the movie ones Iím used to interviewing) and my whole spine was in mortal pain. I instinctively grabbed hold of the right side of my neck to immobilize it, as I had received a sideways S-shaped whiplash, snapping from the driverís seat over into the passenger seat Ė held back by my seatbelt and shoulder harness, which, I might add, bruised me like a 5-day old banana.

I was sure my neck, shoulder or back was broken. And while I couldnít move if Iíd wanted to, I groped blindly with my free left hand, holding my neck and staring straight ahead, to roll down the window or unlock the car door. I was terrified that I would be hit again and again from behind, since I was on a blind curve. Nothing would budge. I even had the insane thought that I could unfasten my seat belt and hop into the other seat and buckle up to prepare myself for more violations.

Hysterically, I pounded on the window crying and shouting, ďHelp me! Help me!Ē as I saw people pulled over up ahead and could hear them rushing around behind me to attend to the man who had hit me. Who was coming to rescue me? Such a feeling of abandonment I have never known.

And then, the first angel arrived. A smooth-skinned, dark-haired young woman in a melon colored shirt had squeezed through the passenger side door and was holding my hand and stroking away my tears and saying, ďItís going to be OK. Sh-h-h. Itís going to be OK.Ē

She had put herself in harmís way to be with me, since there could still be a multiple car pile-up.

After she told me she and her husband were visitors from San Francisco, I begged her to leave here name Ė but she didnít. I hope she reads this column and contacts me. I can tell you this: there is human kindness overflowing in this world. Most people do want to help each other.

Anyway, after what seemed like hours, yet it must have been minutes because I was only a couple blocks away from the hospital, the paramedics came and shooed her out of the car. Thus, entered my second angel: a Latex gloved woman who held my hand while they checked my vitals and slapped a stiff plastic collar on my neck.

Apparently, they tried using the Jaws of Life to pry my door open but that very door, made by stalwart Germans, would not budge.

Thus, she threw a huge plastic tarp around my body and said sheíd crawl under it and stay with me while they bashed out the window.

Having the glass shattered two inched from my head after the crash was another Salvador Dali experience, but they managed to get me strapped onto a long board and jostle and bump me (Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!) into the ambulance beside the man who had hit me.

I couldnít turn my head to see him but I knew he was there because he was talking to the paramedics. Then, and I swear I truly will be dead the day I stop making wisecracks, I said Ė in shock, mind you Ė ďWell, you sure made my day!Ē

I later apologized, as they told me he had been in diabetic shock, but he managed to say, ďDonít worry, Iíve got insurance.Ē

Thereafter, I was placed in a hospital bed while still contorted on the horrible board (I wanted so badly to have support under the curve of my neck) until they could x-ray me.

Also, I was freezing, as is the case when youíre in shock, but no one thought to lay a blanket on me until . . .

The third angel showed up. Her name is Annie and she is my best friend and power of attorney for health care as well. Mere minutes after the hospital called her, she materialized at my bed foot and loaded me down with a show drift of heated white blankets.

She wore an x-ray apron while holding me for the spine photos. And I remembered the time I held her foot as she underwent a brain CAT scan.

Friends are there for each other.

Bada bim, bada boom! Sprained spine, carbuncles, contusions and bruises later, I can only say that Iím amazed to be alive. When the insurance company asked me to remove my belongings from my banged up Beemer I visited the place where they had towed it and I cried.

ďBaby Beem, Beem,Ē I sobbed. ďIím sorry I ever called you Humpty Dumpty (after everything that could go wrong with a new car did go wrong).

My car and the manís who hit me were both total losses by the insurance company. How did I escape with my life?

Which leads me to this: I feel badly about my neck; Iím suffering the worst continuous insomnia Iíve had since my mother died 13 years ago; my paranoia tells me that every car on the road is out to get me (scratch the paranoia, they really are) and I canít focus worth beans. The crash shook up my car-mic energy plane as well as my brain.

But I have such gratitude, that every morning when I awake, I think of one thing Iím grateful for with each letter of the alphabet.

I tell myself that life is a gift, and staying in the ďnowĒ is the ďpresent.Ē Thereís more work for me to do: on myself, with others, and with my talents. Some days post CA (car accident) I feel heady with the power of renewal. Other days, I am deeply vulnerable and the world looks more dangerous than ever.

Thereís really nothing like a near death experience to straighten you out on whatís important in life. And itís not material objects.

However, with that said, I have a new used BMW because Iím convinced that those armored car doors spared my life and Iím not going to drive a golf cart (dinky little cars, you know who you are) to tempt the universe . . .

 

Wook at the Wong-Eared Wabbit Wun!

The above is actually what I said as a toddler. Mommie told me so. That is, when she was alive to praise and brood over me. I miss her so sometimes.

Anyway, Iím not ready to be a Velveteen Rabbit yet, even though the fur has been rubbed almost off me. Male pattern balding is what my Ob/Gyn calls it. So I use this shampoo that is supposed to help my thinning hair grow or at least not fall out.

I donít think itís working.

Yesterday, as an experiment, I combed back my short, layered hair and sleeked on a sweat band to see if pulling my hair straight back would give me a mini face lift.

It did. But the horror is this: two inches below the band, where there used to be solid hair, there is nothing but scalp and clumps of Fuzzy Wuzzy (as in, ďwas a bear, had no hair, wasnít very fuzzy, was he?Ē)!

People used to marvel at how gorgeous I was with my hair pulled straight back into a ponytail or French twist or chignon. Now I am a sitting duck for wig sales people.

My sisters donít seem to have this problem. And my parents werenít uncommonly bald. Why me?

Maybe itís from all the years of pulling my butt-length gleaming hair into ponytails. Maybe itís from tearing my hair out over so many serial monogamies gone awry. Maybe itís retribution from God for my narcissistic attitude, for taking my tresses for granted. Who knows?

One of the many confoundments (I just invented that word) of aging is that you lose hair in the places you want it to stay, and it starts sprouting up in places you dread: ears, nose, the knuckles on your toes, a renegade straying down from your bikini line, mustache, nipples, Lincolnís facial beard and Ė horrors of horrors Ė that lone, spiky, tenacious one that sprouts down from your chin. The worst part being, you are now too blind to see it.

I recently sat across from an aging super model and, impeccably groomed from her tipped nails to her manicured toes, her make-up done by Bobby Brown and her hair by Sassoon, she had, Iím not kidding ďThe Hair.Ē

I restrained myself from mentioning it and, especially, from leaping across the table and yanking it out.

Iíll tell you this: Iíve pledged my best girlfriend to tell me if one of these critters ever attaches itself to my chin. The only problem is - if her visionís as bad as mine, she wonít notice it . . .

 

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