Thursday, May 31, 2012

No. 735 – Burnin’ for You

Performer: Blue Öyster Cult
Songwriters: Donald Roeser, Richard Meltzer
Original Release: Fire of Unknown Origin
Year: 1981
Definitive Version: None

Laurie doesn’t wear a seatbelt when she drives in the city (only on the highway), and it drives me nuts. I’ve told her that if we’re in a crash and she dies because she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, I’ll hate her forever. She doesn’t care. Well, she cares, but not enough to change. I’ve stopped bothering her about it.

I’m something of a fanatic about wearing seatbelts. I like to tell the story of Derrick Thomas. Derrick Thomas, for those who don’t know or have forgotten, was an All-Pro linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Years ago, the SUV that Thomas was driving to St. Louis for an NCAA Tournament basketball game flipped and rolled on an icy patch of freeway. One passenger was killed instantly. Thomas was paralyzed from the waist down and died of a heart attack in the hospital a couple of weeks later. A third passenger was treated and released the same day. Which passenger was wearing the seatbelt? It was Thomas.

I’m kidding. Of course, it was the guy who was treated and released. In other words, no one had to die that day, but they did because of one little thing that they didn’t want to bother with.

As you might suspect, there’s a reason for my fanaticism. Just before the end of my junior year of high school in 1981, my buddy Jim and I went out for lunch at McDonald’s.
Jim drove, and he drove a Buick Grand Prix, not quite a land yacht, but a lot of car for a 16-year-old kid. I don’t think this song was on the radio at the time—more likely it was something from Back in Black, which Jim played a lot—but it could have been. Anyway, Jim looked down to change the radio or tape … and didn’t see the car that had stopped in front of him to make a left turn.

We plowed into it going 30 mph, which meant I—not wearing a seatbelt—plowed head-first into the windshield going about 30 mph. I wasn’t knocked out, but I when I opened my eyes, I saw that I had put a huge crack into the windshield. If we had been going faster, I might have gone through.

Everyone was OK, albeit a little shaken up. The guy in the car in front of us was an associate at high school, who ironically just minutes earlier in a general assembly for student-body government elections for the next year called Jim out by name from the stage. What’s that about no good deed going unpunished?

Anyway, I never lost consciousness, but Jim’s Dad was insistent when I went home for the day that I go to the hospital to get everything checked out, just in case. Mom took me, and it ended up being a disaster. I wasn’t an emergency case, so we were made to wait and wait … and wait.

Well, Mom wasn’t having it. She was asleep when I had come home and wasn’t thrilled to take me to the hospital even though she did. She certainly was in no mood to wait on a doctor, so she said, we’re leaving—even though I hadn’t seen anyone yet. I felt OK—I had a hard head—so I didn’t fight it.

In the parking lot, Mom got so disoriented about finding the exit that in her frustration, she drove through a lowered gate, breaking it off. As you can imagine, for someone who had just been in a pretty decent-size car wreck, that was a little upsetting. Before long, we were home, Mom was back asleep and I was feeling lucky that all I had was a bit of a bump on the ol’ pumpkin.

But I never again have ridden in a car, bus or truck (including a taxi)—even when going around the block—without buckling up first. I might be hard-headed but not that hard-headed.

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