“Some days you’re the dog and some days you’re the hydrant.” Van Halen
I was almost 22-years-old the morning I drove face first into a cement truck. I was driving a 1976 Monte Carlo that a girlfriend of mine at the Bay Deli, where we both worked, had sold me for one hundred dollars.
Thank God it was a big, big car.
I had gotten up late that morning and wolfed down a hot dog and Fudgsicle for breakfast.
“I better go,” I said to myself.
My roommate and I were sharing a small house on Schwartz Road behind St. John’s West Shore Hospital in Westlake and I was late for class at the Fairview Beauty Academy.
When I got into my car I couldn’t wait for the windows to defrost more than the little bit of one inch you absolutely need to look through. I was squinting through that little inch of windshield when I hit the cement truck head on.
I never touched the brakes.
The truck was parked on my side of the street, the front end fronting me. That was a surprise. I knew I was on the right side of the street since I could see out my side window.
At first I didn’t know what had happened. When I tried to get out of the car I couldn’t. I was wearing a skirt and when I looked down to see why I couldn’t move I saw the steering wheel between my legs. I was accordioned between the wheel and the seat.
I finally got out of the car by swinging one and then the other leg over the steering wheel. Standing next to my suddenly scrap-metal Monte Carlo, looking at the man in front of me, I realized why no one had come to help me. He was as white as a ghost.
The rest of the cement men behind him looked like they were seeing a ghost, too.. They thought I had died in the car. “I tried to wave you off,” one of them said.
“Hey, here’s a little clue, I didn’t see you and I didn’t see the truck,” I said. “Thanks for the heads up, but I didn’t see anything.”
The next thing I knew a woman walked up to me and shoved Kleenex up my nose.
“You better sit down,” she said.
“That’s OK,” I said. “I’m good, I’ve got to get to school.”
“No, you better sit down. I’ve called an ambulance. They should be here in just a minute.”
“Seriously,” I said. “I just bumped my nose.”
She sat me down and when she did my skirt rode up and I saw my knees.
The convertor radio underneath the dash had slammed into my legs. Even though I couldn’t feel anything bad, yet, I could see both my shinbones and a thighbone. It had only been a minute since I had gotten out of the car. There was bloodshed everywhere. It was after the excitement that I went screaming banshees.
Then I lost my eyesight.
“Everything’s getting fuzzy, like an old TV.”
“Just close your eyes. The paramedics are here.”
“OK, Julie, open your eyes,” one of the paramedics said.
“Are they open?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Are you sure? Because I can’t see anything.”
“Is it like in a closet, or more like the basement, with the lights all out?”
A closet, I thought? Oh, my God, this guy is such a smart ass. Who sits in a dark closet except crazy people?
They laid me out in the ambulance and, suddenly, there’s my sight back!
“It was just the shock,” I told them.
“Quit self-diagnosing,” the medic said.
“I was a lifeguard. I know my stuff.”
St John’s Hospital must have thought I was younger than I was, underage, so they called my parents.
“You did what? You called who? I’m 21-years-old. You didn’t need to call my parents.”
“You rat bastards!”
I was mad. I hadn’t talked to either of my parents for almost a year.
“Fuck off and die” had been the last thing I had said to them the year before.
I had planned on moving out as soon I turned 21, but my dad didn’t want me to grow up or move out. I wanted out, they both wanted me out, too, but they didn’t want me to go, either. When I told them I would be leaving the day of my birthday, first, they beat the shit out of me, and, second, they threw me out of the house. They literally threw me out. I had no money, no clothes, and nowhere to go.
I called my dad about getting my clothes.
“If you come grovel for them, you can get them out of the trash,” he said.
“You keep them, dad, I’m not going to grovel.”
At the very least they raised a stubborn kid.
I don’t know if he really threw my clothes in the trash because I never called or went back, at least not for the clothes.
My mom burst through the emergency room door at St. John’s at the same time as my dad got me on the phone. Before that I had been joking with the doctors, saying I had cut my legs shaving.
“Oh, my God, look at her legs!” my mom started shouting.
“Who let that woman in here?” I cried.
“Who’s the president, who’s the president?” my dad asked over and over on the phone until the line went dead.
The next thing I knew my whole family, my sisters, brother, my dad, were all in the room, and the adrenaline wore off fast, completely fast. I had been sitting there, not too panicked, when all of a sudden AAARRRGHHHHHH!!
Betsy started crying and everyone got so upset about her crying that they put her in my dad’s lap. I was left laid out on the table alone in pain and agony until they finally wheeled me away to surgery.
No one paid any attention to me.
In the end it wasn‘t too bad. I cracked my nose and seriously hurt one of my knees. It had to be operated on. They told me afterwards if I had hit the back of the cement truck instead of the front I would have been decapitated.
If that had happened and I had been driving a custom convertible Monte Carlo instead of my hard shell, then “HEADLESS GIRL IN TOPLESS CAR” might have been the headline in the next day’s Bay Village Observer.
But, I kept my head.