Evading Death

Story time.

It’s been very cold here recently, which makes me think of snow.  As I was working on my previous post regarding driving, I remembered a story that I shouldn’t have lived to tell.  This was a long time ago when I was in “college”.  Let’s see how many of the details I can remember.

Back then, I would have been driving… what?  It was probably a 1987 Dodge Lancer (turbo, of course).  I probably had recently gotten rid of my 1969 Mustang (fastback, of course).  The car is sort of important if you want to imagine what the result of my youthful stupidity could have looked like, but it doesn’t factor into any details of the story.

I was “going” to “school” at The Art “Institute” of Pittsburgh (for music production, of course) and we were coming up on a holiday break.  Probably Christmas, considering the weather.

I never really got close to anyone at school.  I never made any friends.  I was pretty much a loner and I had an apartment kind of distant from the school.  Other students were all in a common apartment building near the school, downtown, so they had opportunities to socialize.  But whatever.  Me being a loner is nothing new.

Fate was doing some weird shit that holiday.  The last day of class, before leaving, I happened to talk to the class burnout.  This guy was a major acid user and always complained about his back hurting.  (Minor research says that the pain was nothing involving spinal fluid and was probably just muscle tension, contrary to what we all believed at the time)  So, after a very uncommon decision to have a discussion with him, I found out he lived in a city less than half an hour from my hometown.  And I learned he had no way to get home for Christmas.  So I made the very uncommon decision to offer him a ride, since I was driving almost two hours that direction anyway.  And he accepted.  We’d never really spoken before and now we were going on a car ride for a couple of hours.  That’s not exactly normal for me.  Further, I’m probably going to be driving with someone tripping on acid.  Again, not normal.  I mean, I was the only person in my entire circle of friends that didn’t smoke pot, but acid?  That’s another plane of existence (for both of us).

School’s out, we’re loaded up in my car and we headed north.  Winter in the wasteland means it gets dark early.  Like nighttime at 5:00pm dark/early.  And it’s interstate driving the whole way.  And it’s winter.  And… we enter a blizzard.  There’s hardly any way for me to really explain the gravity of this.  I drove, me and this burnout doper, we drove through this blizzard in near white-out conditions, at full fucking highway speed.  I drove at 60 miles an hour or more, for at least an hour.  There was not a single car on the highway.  There was not a single snowplow truck on the highway.  There was nobody out but us.  For at least an hour.  If there was anyone – anyone – out on the highway, we would be dead.  Snowy roads with near zero visibility at 60 miles an hour.  No one would be able to avoid a collision or swerving off the road to their death.  For most of the drive, I don’t think we spoke much at all.  The snow flying over the windshield was like a hypnotic screen saver (in the days before screen savers).  Maybe my passenger was tripping, I wouldn’t know.  But if he was, the visuals would have been stupendous.  I don’t even know how I navigated turns.

I remember not taking him directly to his house, but dropping him off somewhere along the way.  He said he was going to meet someone there who would drive him home.  This is pre-cell phone era, so I don’t even know how this was planned.  I don’t remember much after that.  I don’t seem to remember him coming back to school after Christmas break.  I didn’t stay long in school after that incident either.  I’d become a little suspicious about how there would be jobs for all these music production graduates, so I eventually dropped out.

But that shared moment was something that just defies reality for me.  Primarily that we didn’t die, but also that this was a connection with someone that I never talked to before and never talked to since.  And the circumstances of that chance meeting delivering us safely to our destinations despite all efforts to the contrary.  I realize just how stupid I was and how I could have been just another headline in our shitty local paper.

It’s definitely an overused saying, but someone was watching over us that night.

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