Monday, January 18, 2010

Memoir Monday: How I developed my life-long fear of Kombie vans.

If you happened to be driving past PBC High School in April of 1991, you may have noticed a stain on the road, not too big, a dark rust-coloured stain.

That stain was my DNA, smeared all over the road.

As part of Memoir Monday, as started by Travis at I Like to Fish, let me explain how this stain, a kombie van and a pack of cigarettes all relate to the day I nearly died.

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Can you believe I've actually forgotten the exact date? I nearly died, but can't remember the date.

April sometime, 1991, I'm 14 and wasting time with my mates before high school, hanging out in a park next to the school. Being the bad-ass that I am, I have started hanging around with "the bad element" and have picked up smoking as a way to prove I'm cool to the cute older boys in the group. :oP (Hey, I never claimed to be a brain surgeon.)

So today I have decided to use my lunch money to buy a pack of cigarettes. Yes, thank you, that is excellent decision making, isn't it?

I borrow a pushbike off a girlfriend, and start heading down toward the corner store, where they have a decidedly loose policy on checking ID to by cigarettes. I'm pretty sure I could've bought a nuclear warhead from this store. I'm heading back, when I hear another friend call out from across the road. Of course, I turn my head to look at her as I answer.

Here was my big problem. I was a very occasional bike rider. I did, however, ride a horse at least once a day for a few hours a day. One of the basic principles of riding a horse is that where you look, you tilt your body, and steer your horse. Problem: bikes work kinda like that too. As I look across the road, my body unconsciously leans in that direction, and steers me out onto the road.

I realise what is happening almost immediately, and correct myself, snapping my head round to check what's coming.

And make eye contact with the headlight of an orange kombie van... I can see the headlight through the black bars of the bullbar on the front. It seems impossibly close, that can't be right.

I realise this kombie is in fact that close, and it's going to hit me. Strangely, I'm not scared. I remember thinking "Oh, this is going to hurt."

Funnily enough, it didn't. Oh sure, I got a sore head (where the back of my head smashed the windscreen. The helmet? Safely hanging from the handlebars, thanks for asking), but I didn't actually feel much pain at this stage. Charming stuff, adrenaline.

I remember feeling the breath whoosh out of me, and the hard jolt and scrape of hitting the bitumen. The kombie had hit me on my right side, and I was all tangled up in the bike. I remember trying to push myself off the bike, but nothing responding like it's supposed to.

Then two friends are there, pulling me clear of the bike and laying me on the footpath. One is a senior guy I sort of know, and another is a good friend of mine. He's sitting with my head on his lap, sussing me out while the older boy is doing something to my leg. I can't feel it. A girlfriend is holding my hand, and I see my other friend running across the park toward the school, for help I presume. I am mortified. I have spend my entire school career trying not to be noticed or singled out, and then I go and create a spectacle like this! The friend with my head on his lap won't let me up, he keeps his arms crossed across my chest and my shoulders pressed into his legs. He's talking at me, but I'm not really paying attention.

I struggle to sit up, he presses me down. I get upset and struggle harder. Realising he's dealing with emotion and not logic, he lets me sit up.




My right leg is a mushy red mess. Now, suddenly, I'm in pain. A lot. It's like my brain needed a bit of prompting to react. Is she really hurt? Not sure, check with the eyes. Oh yeah, she's fucked up. Ow.

Now, I see the school principle striding across the park towards us. Remarkably, I have the presence of mind to slip the cigarette pack out of my sweater sleeve where I hid them earlier, and palm them to a friend. I don't want to get in trouble, after all.

By this stage, the driver of the van is here, babbling apologies. She was a Mum, on her way back from dropping her kids at school. Poor woman, I jump out in front of her, and she feels responsible. She is holding my hand, and my whole arm is shaking. I remember thinking very clearly, "Oh, I'm shaking, I'm probably going into shock. Someone should get me a blanket." Interestingly, I keep this information to myself.

About the same time, a paramedic turns up. Where'd he come from? Oh, it appears an ambulance has turned up. I have no idea when, I didn't notice it.

When the driver of the van is convinced to let go of my hand, I am barely trembling. Turns out it was her shaking, so hard it made my whole arm shake. She needs oxygen. I remember feeling sorry for her.

The paramedics give me a delightful green whistle. This contains pain killers, the dope-you-out-of-your-head kind. They put my mushy leg in a temporary splint and do other very efficient, in-charge kind of stuff. I'm vaguely impressed.

I don't remember much about the ambulance trip, but according to my friend who came in the ambulance with me, I am hilarious when on morphine.

In the end, I have a horribly broken right shin, go into surgery to and end up with external traction (bolts sticking out of my shin, with scaffolding over the top holding it all together). I will spend pretty much the rest of the year graduating from this, to a thigh cast, to a walking cast, to a limp. Other than some cuts to the back of my head, the rest of me is unscathed.

Some days, I can't believe how lucky I am.



  1. Is she really hurt, not sure let's check with eyes.....hilarious girl, and oh so true.

    Glad you survived this one! Out of curiousity, did you get busted for the smokes?

  2. Does everyone in Australia know basic first-aid?

    Sheesh, all I really took out of this was...


    Thanks for sharing, darlin!

  3. Wow... I've always feared of being run over.
    I don't ride bikes much because traffic hear makes me nervous.

  4. Oh, the stupid stuff we do when we're young and trying to be cool! You are a lucky girl!

  5. Wow what a blessing you were saved from what could have been much much worse. Ahh popularity in the teen years bites doesn't it.. quick way to realize you were not meant to smoke pot ( referring to myself) puke everywhere after the first hit, yeah you guessed it I am allergic to pot.. needless to say that little escapade was ehough to stick with me and keep me from the harder stuff.. found ay at Travis'...

  6. I must say you're a very lucky bike rider. For me, I would have died. For some reason, I know it.

    I found this through a girl I read, through a guy I read. Thought I'd stop and read. :)

  7. Whoa, what a story! The poor driver, shaking your arm. And er, you're hilarious when you're NOT on morphine so can only imagine how much breath you stole from your friend while she wheezed at the funnies you were cracking on the green whistle.

  8. August 8th 1991.......You may have forgotten the date but I never will. Worst phonecall in the world. "Your daughter has been hit by a car, we have her bicycle in the office". Well, can't be my daughter, she doesn't ride a bike!! Phew!! Well it was my daughter and you should have seen the leg.....not pretty! You'd think that would put her off smoking for life hey? You know the karma - sneak off for ciggies and pow! But no, took many more years for her to figure out they weren't cool. Did take her about 4 months to get back on her feet and she will have the scars for life. Still she was a very lucky girl and I still thank God that it wasn't far worse....

  9. Hmm... as lil sis i've decided to add a couple of my *favorite* (now i know you're are alive) memories of this event... Such as Mum leaving a message for Dad "Daughter is Hospital" - No mention of which Daughter, Which Hospital or, for that matter... Why. I got slightly more info left for me at my school.. "Sister hit by car"... Since whomever left the note neglected to add more info such as whether you lived!! my *Helpful* friend decided to remind me ALL DAY that people die from car accidents every day... That was fun!! Oh and while I'm not sure of it... Mum'll know the date... I'll Bet!

  10. Hah... Told You!! Good one mum - Thought it was later in the year!

  11. Of course your mum knew the date! I had a spectacular fall from a bike in a similar manner but my only insult was a lack of skin on my arms from the asphalt. You are a lucky girl. Am particularly impressed with your quick thinking in the life or death situation and the palming off of the ciggies!! I shouldn't be laughing at your injured expense, so stop making it so amusing!

  12. Wow, what a day for you. Liked the description of the disconnect between mental and physical. Great story and so pleasing that all you have suffered long term are scars.

  13. What a close call! Glad you survived and lived to tell the tale (in an appropriately witty manner).

  14. See, smoking is bad for your health!

  15. haha what Alex said... GOSH! What an ordeal!!! Lucky you are with us to share your fantastic stories....!

  16. Damn woman! Can't top that one! I'm sure your brain has blocked out the exact date as part of its natural defenses....

  17. Is it inappropriate to ask if you got your cigarettes back?

    Glad you are around to tell the story now.


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