Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Likelihood of Survival

The following statement was from a man whose tandem parachuting partner died from a heart attack during mid-jump. He was able to remain calm because as he said:

"The likelihood of you surviving, you know, decreases absolutely amazingly by factors exponentially if you panic," he said.

Hmmmm. It took me a few years of my life to realize that I have a higher than normal ability to panic. I have no, nada, zero, zilcho useful skills when it comes to emergency situations. Heck, might as well just put normal, every day situations in that category as well. Though I may appear to have it all together, underneath it all, my mind is just churning with the absence of rational thinking. I make the following argument, though I doubt many who know me really well will wonder why I even make the effort. They already know the truth.

Case #1:
Car collision with lake on Willie Bodenheimer Road 1988
The reality is that I was a very inexperienced driver behind the wheel of a 1979 black Ford pick-up truck with no power anything and only an AM radio to keep me company. It was a Goliath of a machine and I had to sit on two pillows in order to maneuver the beast. It was a cold March morning and I had my highly valued term paper on the uni-seat beside me. Willie B. Road was one that I drove on my way to and from school and was not a "paved" road, but a rural road comprised of tar and loose gravel. As I turned onto the road, my time-wasted, yet, coveted paper went flying into the floorboard. Mistake #1 - I reached down into the floor board to retrieve it, thus taking my eyes off the road. As I peered through (not over) the steering wheel I realized that I was off the ride-hand side of the road. I could hear the driver's instructor's voice in my head. "If you run off the side of the road...DO NOT PANIC. Slowly bring it back onto the road." Mistake #2 - The use of the phrase "Don't panic" only increases panic. I did try to bring it back onto the road, but instead of releasing the gas or even better, braking, I pressed the pedal harder in my attempts to "not panic." The truck began to fishtail. And, off to my left I saw it - the pond, complete with geese. I knew at that moment, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was going in it with my truck. So, I just...let...it... happen. The water was about hip deep as I exited the truck. As I made my way (paper in hand, by the way),to the shore, I took one little glance back and saw the pillows floating away. Imagine calling your dad on that one.

Case #2:
Fire in a large convention building in the Netherlands 1994
I was speaking to a group of Dutch girls to recruit them to be au pairs in the U.S. It was an informational meeting and while speaking, a lady came into our room, following by a medium amount of smoke. She calmly said, "There is a fire outside our room, we need to exit the building." On the outside, I remained calm. I didn't say anything. I didn't start screaming or wailing my arms around. We were asked to get our things and follow the fire exit signs. Which I promptly did. Once outside the building, I found that I had a pocketbook, which not my own and...a stapler. Yes, I was the hero that day as I saved the stapler from certain death. Or, did I think could use the stapler to stamp out the fire? Who knows? What I do know is that I did NOT have my complete faculties about me and just needed something in both hands in order to leave that room.

Case #3:
Driving in mountains in Washington State vacation trip 1999
Jay and I took a one year anniversary trip to Seattle to visit friends. While there, we decided to camp one night in some mountain range. Was it Mt. Olympus - I think, but my memory of that is fuzzy. What I do remember, quite clearly is that morning Jay was feeling flu-like and decided to sleep in the backseat during the drive leaving me alone to navigate. I didn't want to miss the opportunity to make this scenic drive and catch a glimpse of Canada (I know, why?) from a towering mountain top. As I drove up the mountain, my heart began to beat faster and faster. Those were really steep drop-offs (even though I was on the inside of the road). There weren't a lot of barriers to prevent one from driving off the side. And I could see myself driving right...off...the...side of the mountain. I started to emit little panicky noises. I checked the speedometer - I had slowed to a snail pace of 10 mph and couldn't muster the strength to increase my speed, despite the enormous amount of traffic behind me. The last curve was a doozy as you couldn't see any road ahead just this curve into nowhere. As I rounded the corner I saw it...the parking lot. I parked, facing another drop-off, and seriously thought the car was continuing to roll even though the emergency brake was on. I exited the car and laid down flat onto the pavement for what seemed like hours until Jay popped his head up and asked me what I was doing. He had missed the entire episode. Needless to say, he drove us down the mountain while I laid down in the back.

Case #4:
Birth of second child 2001
Having been through this already once, you would think that I might have worked out all of the panic possibilities. Alas, I had not. Child #2 was brought into this world by induction. In the delivery room there were two nurses getting me prepped and ready. While I was answering questions to the one nurse (are you allergic to anything, etc.), another nurse was preparing the iv. Now, I have had tons of ivs. Never an issue. But, for some reason this particular morning, I was fixated. I thought she was going to stick me before I had a chance to "prepare." I thought she wouldn't even let me know what she was going to do and just go for the jab. But, for some reason I didn't think to ask the interviewing nurse to pause, so I could make my concerns known. Instead, my body went into a tailspin. I began to get dizzy, my eyesight blurry, my head light. All I could mutter was...I don't feel so good. They took my bp and it was something like 56 over 40! No wonder! My brain was being deprived of oxygen all because I couldn't say, "wait."

Obviously, I do not have a "high likelihood of survival." I rest my case.


jkkafer said...

You are the funniest friend I've ever had. I have laughed hysterically over this post! A stapler? These four cases show that you should always be surrounded by someone who knows you well...or else.

Anonymous said...

So funny Kels! I remember the black truck and the two tow trucks. I've never driven past that lake since without thinking about you and those pillows floating away from the truck.

Weren't you also on a plane that had an engine catch on fire?

And too weird, Loowit had strep throat last Friday-Saturday too.

I just love your blogs. The ones that make me laugh out loud and the ones that make me cry--it's usually one or the other!


Anonymous said...

Yes, I was on a plane, alone, that had a TWO engine failure (one initially caused by fire). We had to fly around to dump fuel because we were too heavy to land. Upon landing we were asked to be in "crash position", but the landing was fine. There were all sorts of emergency vehicles on the runway and it made the front page of the main Dutch newspaper. Surprisingly, I remained calm - I think I was in denial.

Yeah - actually, I was pretty much left alone in all 4 cases (Jay was there for 2 of them, but he was sleeping or out of the room). Hadn't thought about that. Interesting.

Glad you enjoyed the read.

Angela said...

Aaah, the truck episode. It's funny because it didn't happen to me.