Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I REMEMBER...the palm reader & the 3 accidents

....having my palm read when I was in college and how it turned out. But first, let's back up a bit.

I was a pretty good wrestler when I was in college. [Trust me, there is a segue here]. As a result I was fortunate enough to get a "deal" when I went to college. Chico State College in 1965 did not have wrestling scholarships, but I got the next best thing. I got pre-admitted to all the classes I wanted [just gave the coach your class list and it was a done deal]. I got two classes with an automatic "A" Health (taught by the coach) and communications (I was a DJ at the KCSC college radio station] to help keep my grade point up to be eligible for sports. I also got a much sought after job [working at the cafeteria at the college dorms]. This is when the ratio of girls to guys was a bonus, I got paid, too.

So, [here comes the segue], I worked the cafeteria line serving up vegetables and the student that worked next to me was from China. Her parents were fortune tellers and palm readers. She believed in it so much, she refused to "read palms" for her friends, because she didn't want to see what was in store for them and tell them bad news. Anyway, I finally got her to read my palm after I convinced her that I wouldn't take it seriously.

After she looked at my palm, she got quiet and said she changed her mind. With much cajoling, she finally told me what she "saw". First, I would be wealthy in friends, but not in money (at the time it seemed I got a raw deal), but friends and family "appreciate" at a far better rate than dollars over the years, so (if you believe in fortune telling), it worked out OK.

The other, more serious view, was my palm’s "Life Line". Mine has a major break in it, early on in the line and then the second part goes off the side of my hand. Her comment was that there would be a major incident early in my life (remember, this is 1965 and I was 18) and I might not live through it. But, if I did, I would live a long, full life, with enough money to get along, but rich in friends and family.

I didn't think about it until the summer after my senior year. The "Bad News" comes in threes was the catchword for my "interesting break in my life line". In June, some friends (2 guys & 3 girls) and I went for a drive up to Feather River Canyon in my buddy's newly purchased old beater pick-up truck. The girls were in the back and the guys were in the cab. No seat-belts. Coming back down the steep and winding grade, I got the "shotgun" rider's bird’s eye view of the 500' drop off on my side of the cab. As I was sucking up my breath, due to the speed with which we were taking the curves...I heard these comforting words: "S---t, the brakes are out - what should I do"? As we only had two choices, hit the side of the mountain or go over the cliff, we made an extremely hasty unanimous decision to swerve across the oncoming lane on a curve we knew we couldn't make and hit the side of the mountain. Without much discussion, we figured our chances were better with a crash than a lead airplane drop off the side of the mountain.

Oddly, we didn't crash [note: I am writing this tome some 40 some odd years later, so I didn't die, nor did anyone else], but rather, we went up the side of the hill like a motorcycle jump and into the woods on the other side. That newly purchased truck was like a rocket ship out of control. We landed in a dry stream bed, and with all the wheels and both axles gone, gravity had us follow the stream bed like a little slot car.

The driver was still trying to steer, which, looking back on it, was pretty funny as there were no wheels. Note: the three girls were thrown out of the back when we shot up the hill slope. Although bruised and scared, they were alright. Those of us in the cab were OK. The truck died and is probably still there.

The next month, July, I went to visit a former college roommate in San Jose. He wanted to take me for a ride in his parent's new Camaro before they all left on vacation the next day. Full moon, nice night, he cruised up into the hills for a winding road test of the hot sports car. Still reeling from the accident the previous month, I asked many times for him to slow down and cool it. After the car squealed around yet another sharp turn up in the mountains, I undid my seat belt and started to climb over the front seat into the safety of the back seat. That was the moment that Mike couldn't make the next curve and rolled the Camaro over the cliff. I thought surely I had died and moved on to the afterlife. It was a very surreal scene. The engine was running, emitting a high pitched whine. The inside of the car was full of a smoky dirt cloud with just the light of the full moon shining in. Everything was oddly different, as my former roommate was hanging upside down, suspended by his seat belt. The headlights shone out into a dark night right towards the full moon. We were slowly swaying back and forth. It was creepy. Slowly, I figured it out. We had rolled over the cliff and had landed upside down in a tree growing out of the side of the mountain. My friend undid his seat belt and landed on his head. I laughed. We carefully climbed out of the car window and up the side of the mountain through the bushes, to the road. It was very weird looking down on the moonlit undercarriage of the Camaro, engine running, lights shining out into nothingness, with a 300 foot drop under it. That tree was the only one on the side of the mountain and we had landed right in the middle. This was BCP (before cell phones) so we hiked down the road to the nearest house and my former roommate called his parents to get a tow truck and come get us. Mike’s parents arrived at the same time as the tow truck. Mike’s dad only said “Where’s the other car”? Mike told him there was no other car and I don’t think I heard his dad speak again. When the tow truck got there, he refused to hook it up because he feared if the car fell out of the tree; it would drag him and his tow truck off the cliff. So they had to call another tow truck and use both at the same time to get the Camaro up to the road. Needless to say, Mike and his family didn’t leave on their vacation in their new car the next day. Mike didn’t come back to college that September either.

Two bits of irony followed. The car was totaled except for the driver’s side which looked like it was in show room condition. When the tow truck pulled away back to San Jose, the Camaro came loose from the chains and swerved over to the opposite side of the road and scraped everything off the formerly pristine side, mirrors, door handles, paint, etc. Also, Mike and I, other than a few bruises were unscathed…except for two days later when we found out the hard way that the hillside we climbed up in the dark was covered in poison oak.

That was two. The trifecta was completed (thankfully) the next month, where once again I was a passenger in someone’s car. A friend from college and I had gone to Tahoe to apply for jobs at the ski resort for the next winter season. After a long day playing at the lake, we were driving back to Lodi late one Saturday night. There was a Y in the road coming up and we had to be in the left side of Y. The driver thought she was over too far to the right and moved over one more lane to the left. It was dark and it appeared as if we were just about the only ones on the freeway. Just as we noticed the highway divider chain link fence appear out the passenger side window (meaning we were in the oncoming lane on the wrong side of the freeway) we also noticed the oncoming traffic, three abreast, taking up all the lanes coming right at us. This is all happening at 60 miles an hour in opposing directions. Instinctively, I uttered some situation-appropriate, adults-only, words and raised my arms up over my face. The driver instinctively pulled a hard right, even though the chain-link fence was there. Fortunately, the sixty miles an hour, two-ton Cadillac swerved to the left just as it kissed off our tiny tin-can Volkswagen Bug. It was like throwing a small flat rock at the right angle and at the right speed to skip along the surface of a huge lake, defying gravity and impact. The Volkswagen was destroyed. About 30 yards of highway divider chain link fence never lived to see the dawn. Cheryl went to the hospital with a broken rib and a lacerated liver (seatbelt). Once again, I walked away. I suffered a fractured finger and a gazillion tiny cuts from the implosion of the windshield over my head.

I figured I had survived the odd break in my palm “Lifeline”. Three months. Three major accidents. No one should have lived through any of them. Only the vehicles died. Bob, the passenger, walked.

Fast forward thirty years. I meet Lise and early on we took some picnics, trips and adventures. One day she says, “You always drive. Why don’t you let me drive and you be the passenger.” I couldn’t do it. I never was the passenger again after that summer. If I couldn’t drive, I didn’t go. I have since relaxed with it a bit, especially if I can fall immediately to sleep but mostly. I drive. Note: back in the day, before seat belts and before seat belt laws, the passenger seat was often referred to as the Suicide Seat (the act of doing something that seems contrary to your own best interests and seems likely to lead to a disaster).

Drive My Car - Beatles

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