Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ridiculous But True Stories Volume 4 or 5 or whatever

This is my 200th blog post. I don't blog much, so it's taken me 3 years to get here.

Among my many posts, the "fan favorite" seems to be the Ridiculous But True Stories. They are long, rambling, somewhat humorous tales of my adventures as a musician and world traveler.
You can view the past ones here.

It just seemed appropriate that my 200th post ought to be another chapter in that "book," so here goes. It's a long one, but I don't think it will be boring.


I don’t consider myself to be a dramatic person. Meaning, I don’t think I overdramatize my life. But to be fair, dramatic people probably aren’t terribly self-aware when it comes to their ability to assess the drama in their lives. So who knows? Maybe I’m a drama king.

Either way, I’ve dialed 9-1-1 several times in my life. To my count – and I may have forgotten some – I’ve dialed it 7 times. I figure that’s more than normal, but I have no idea really.

I haven’t written any “Ridiculous But True” Stories in a while, and I know you’re eager to hear one, so if you’ll bear with me, I’ll tell you a little about all 7 times that I have dialed 9-1-1. Then you can decide if I’m dramatic , or if I’m just supposed to become an EMT or a superhero or something (please say “superhero!”).

The first time was maybe 12 years ago. It was Halloween night. I was driving home from a friend’s house and it was pretty late at night. Close to midnight I think. I was on a 5-lane road in College Station called Wellborn. Wellborn runs right along the west side of the Texas A&M campus. I was in a little Nissan pick-up that I had for several years way back. I loved that little truck. Lots of great gigs and road trips.


Heading home with not a care in the world, I spot headlights approaching in my rear view. Approaching very fast. Definitely well over the speed limit. I decide to change lanes to get out of the way of this maniac. Only right at the same moment, the other car changes lanes as well. Now we’re both trying to anticipate each other and the whole thing is a mess. I barely avoid a super-fast rear-end collision, but instead the other car smashes my passenger side, hard, going probably 70 miles an hour. It’s like one of those scenes in an action movie where one car tries to knock another car off the road by side-swiping it. I don’t think that was the driver’s intention in this case, but he actually did a really good job of it nonetheless.

My pick-up goes swerving into the oncoming lane which, fortunately, is unoccupied. I whip the wheel back to the right and get control of my vehicle. The vehicle that hit me continues down the road, apparently undeterred by our little (big!) smash-up. The car doesn’t even appear to slow down.

Just as I’m getting my breathing back in check, another car passes me going just as fast. From what I can tell, this second car is chasing the first car. Neither car is pulling over to see if I’m okay. Maybe they didn’t see me.

Well, now I’m curious – and a little ticked – about what’s going on, so I give chase.

About a mile down the road, the first car pulls into a campus parking lot, followed by the second car. I arrive seconds later. Both cars have stopped; both drivers are out of the car. By the time I pull in next to them, the driver of the second car is laying a blue ribbon beat-down on the driver of the first car.

Curiouser and curiouser.

I get out and try to talk down the situation, to little avail. (As a sidenote, watching people fight isn’t much fun in real life.) So I decide that I’d rather let the po-po’s handle this one. I call 9-1-1. The cops come and take both dudes away.

By the time the story gets straightened out, here’s what I’ve learned. The driver of the first car left a party where he’d been drinking copious amounts of the booze. On his way out of the parking lot he smacked into the second car. He freaked and drove off. The guy in the second car wanted to, er, exchange insurance information. So he pursued. The guy in the first car realized he was being pursued and decided to run for it. I got in the way of said pursuit and you know the rest.

Happy Halloween.

The second time was about 5 years ago. Many of you already know this one, so I won’t give the whole story, just the basics.

I was on the way to a camp just north of Waco, where I was scheduled to lead worship for 5 days. The short version is that a 15-year-old girl ran across 2 lanes of a major highway and right into the path of my Suburban. I hit her going about 45-50 miles an hour, and she flew up over the top of my car like a rag doll. Appropriate yelling and panicking ensued. Andy Crawley, my longtime drummer and good friend, actually did the 9-1-1 dialing on that one, but that was only because I was hyper-ventilating so I couldn’t talk. I get a pass.

If it sounds like I'm making light of this, don't worry. I was plenty sober and freaked out when it happened, and for months after.

The part that you’re interested in is that she didn’t die. In fact, she only got a really badly broken arm and some other minor injuries. Of course I didn’t know that for a while. Due to the nature of the law with regard to medical records and privacy and such, I had no idea if she’d lived or died or been paralyzed or whatever for about a year. I finally got the whole story when her family sued me for negligence. Long story. In the end I was absolved of all wrongdoing.

But I did ride in a cop car, take a “drunk test,” sit on a witness stand, and a few other interesting-but-not-fun things. Oh, and I think I saw an angel. That’s a long story too. But again, I’ll just give the short version.

Rewind to about an hour after the wreck. While I was waiting for the cops and ambulances to sort everything out, I just stood by my car in the turn lane of a 5-lane highway. Turn lanes aren’t very wide, so I was actually standing really close to the oncoming lane. It wasn’t safe, and you’d think I would’ve been extra-aware of that kind of thing on a night like that, but I needed air, and I was a little loopy from the experience, so I stood out in the road, safe or not, leaning against the driver’s side door while the cops and EMTs worked it out, thinking about what life was going to be like if I’d killed somebody.

Anyway, cars rolled by slowly, rubbernecking and trying to get a sense of what was what. At some point, a car pulled right up to me and a woman inside rolled her window down and starting describing the accident to me – in pretty good detail – and telling me how I hadn’t done anything wrong and that I had no reason to feel fear or shame. Then she drove on.

Pretty sure that was an angel. You may not believe in such things, or maybe you just don’t believe me. Not sure I would’ve believed it either.

I didn’t end up leading worship at that camp.

The third and fourth times happened that same summer. It was quite a summer.

Only a few weeks after the wreck in Waco, Staci and I were driving around in Bryan – where we live – and we pulled up to a red light. While we were waiting for it to turn green, we sat and watched a little white pick-up truck drive right by us, smash into a light pole, flip over, end-over-end, and land upside down in the road we were about to cross, maybe 20 feet in front of us. I dialed 9-1-1, then handed the phone to Staci while I ran to the truck and checked on the driver. To my surprise, he wasn’t wearing a shirt. For a moment I thought, “I’m rescuing Matthew McConaughey! This is my big break!” But it wasn’t him. Just some other dude who loved to be shirtless at inappropriate times. I would never have the guts to try something like that. So anyway, other than being shirtless, the guy was relatively fine, and even though I would’ve probably recommended that he not move until the ambulance got there, he insisted on crawling out, so I helped him.

No big deal on that one. Far as I know that guy was fine. By “fine,” I mean fine other than being a shirtless driver who didn’t know how to steer clear of a 15-foot light pole in broad daylight…

This seems like a perfect time to say just keep livin’.

Only a couple weeks after that, Andy (aforementioned drummer and pal) and I were at another camp. We were in Daytona Beach, Florida. We had some time off during the days, so we would head over to “the strip” and see what there was to see, which was mainly MTV rejects and people who probably drove shirtlessly into light poles fairly often.

Whilst cruising the strip one day – on foot, which probably doesn’t count as cruising – we were surprised to see a woman running frantically toward us, looking scared and just sort of “off.” We stopped her and asked what was wrong. She told us a crazy-sounding story about how she was being pursued by her ex-husband who was abusing her and her child. Who knows what’s true and what’s not in these kinds of situations? With an almost reflexive move of my fingers, I dialed 9-1-1 and invited the cops to sort thru it. We stayed with the woman for a bit to wait for the cops, but then we had to get back to the safety of singing songs about Jesus to half-interested teenagers.

The fifth time was a whole year later. Andy and I were at a summer camp in South Texas. Our good pal Brady Redwine was also there, playing like 17 instruments and generally making everything sound better. This camp made two grave errors. They gave us golf carts. And they didn’t give us or the golf carts any kind of curfew.

So one night after worship a bunch of us were out driving our golf carts. Brady had decided he wanted to teach us all how to do a “j-turn.” According to Brady (who may have been making it all up), a j-turn is basically when you’re going in reverse, real fast, and you pull the park brake while simultaneously whipping the wheel. If you do it right, you end up facing forward at the end of the turn. Cops on TV shows do it all the time. Only with cars, not golf carts.

Well, you know how this is going to end, so I’ll just get there.

Me and Brady were in a golf cart together, and Brady decides to try a j-turn while driving downhill. In reverse.

So of course when he hit that brake and whipped that wheel, the golf cart flipped. Brady and I both flew around a little and I ended up on top of him, both of us landing pretty hard.

I was pretty shaken – sort of half-conscious, really – and I spent a few seconds just trying to get my bearings. Once I did, I could see two things. First, the golf cart was pretty wrecked. Second, Brady was laying perfectly still with his eyes open.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve watched way too much TV in my life, and on TV, when people are perfectly still with their eyes wide open, it means they are dead. Somebody always has to come around and do that thing where they close the dead dude’s eyes with the palm of their hand. I think it’s supposed to be some kind of tender and respectful way to say “goodbye old buddy, you were the best d**n partner this ol’ cop ever had” or something. Just a watch a few hours of primetime and you’ll see it.

So anyway, that’s Brady. Totally immobile. Eyes wide open. Standing at the pearly gates, playing his little dobro gee-tar for the angels.

It’s important to remind you that, at this point in my life, I was awaiting a court date for the lawsuit from the aforementioned car wreck. So of course my immediate thought was “Brady’s dead and his parents are gonna sue me and I’m gonna have TWO LAWSUITS GOING AT ONE TIME. I’ll be broke and no one will ever want to hear my songs ever again. And Brady’s dead, which is also sad as well.”

Poor Brady. Killed un-glamorously in a bizarre golf-cart stunt, only to have the emotional weight of his passing overshadowed by the threat of litigation.

Well, he wasn’t dead. I yelled at him for what seemed like a couple of minutes (probably 10 seconds) and he finally woke up. Well, he didn’t really wake up, but he did start moving.

By now, the other cart-drivers had made their way down the hill to check on us.

We got on another golf cart and made our way – slowly, safely, and without any stunt-driving – back to the main area of camp. We had to call for an ambulance. This particular time, the 9-1-1 dialing was only required because it was too late at night to get a hold of an ambulance that would come out to the boonies and get him.

There are some other funny parts of the story that I have to tell before I move on.

First of all, Brady, who ended up having a concussion and an injured shoulder, was cussing a lot after his injury. Like I said, he had a concussion. I don’t think I’ve ever had one, but supposedly, it sort of makes you do weird stuff. Anyway, we’ve got him on a back-board (not knowing the extent of his injuries) in the nurse’s station of the camp, and he’s talking really calm, only he’s throwing in profanity every few sentences. Like, just sort of randomly. Those of you who know me well know that I’m not offended by the occasional curse-word (there are even rumors of my usage of some such words, but don’t believe them). But we were at a Christian camp. We were the worship leaders at a Christian camp. So it wasn’t apropos for us to be cursing. So as Brady is blathering on in curse-laden nonsense, I’m trying to convince the dozen or so people who are standing around that he is out of his mind, instead of just really uninhibited. I think maybe I tried to blush a lot and look appalled. I don’t know if it worked.

The story turns out ok. Again, just a concussion and a messed-up shoulder for Brady. Those things were bad I guess, but considering the fact that I thought he had died (and that I might be sued or jailed for it even though it was totally his fault), it kind of seems like we got off easy.

The only other thing that seems important to mention is that I rode in the ambulance, and the driver went – I’m totally not making this up – 90-100 miles an hour for most of the way to the hospital. When I asked him about it, he said something like, “well, I’m allowed to drive as fast as I want if I think my passenger is in dire need of medical attention.” At that point, I was thinking, “well, Brady’s cussing more than normal, but I think he’s okay, but if we wreck at 100 miles an hour, we’re all gonna die.” But kept it to myself.

Even funnier is the fact that my friend Aubrey Spears – who was speaking that week at the camp – had to follow us in my Suburban. If you do the math, you’ll realize that Aubrey was driving my Suburban at 90-100 miles per hour as well.

Somehow, we had arrived at a place where amateur-stunt-driving golf carts weren’t the most dangerous vehicles cruising around South Texas that night.

OK, two more, and these are both pretty boring, but I’m trying to tell all these stories in the order that they happened, and this is just how it worked out.

Number 6 was odd, but not exciting. A year or so later, Staci and I were on the way to Brady’s wedding. Yes, somebody married that cussing, brain-damaged goofball. It’s a miracle.

Anyway, the wedding was in Wichita Falls, so Staci and I were driving thru Arlington to drop off our son at her parents’ place. We’re on I-20 and a pick-up truck in front of us is loaded down with furniture, which is packed in extremely tight and not-very-efficiently. So of course, at some point the truck hits a bump or something and all the furniture just starts flying out of the back of the truck onto the highway. Staci and I are a few hundred feet behind the truck, so we have enough time to kind of swerve around it all, but then we realize that we better pull over, because the furniture is covering like a half mile and several lanes. Cars are smacking into end tables and lamps and such. Couch stuffing is floating around. Etc. Traffic is backing up like crazy.

Next thing you know it’s a parking lot on I-20.

We dialed 9-1-1. We didn’t make it to Brady’s wedding. I am told it was a G-rated affair with zero profanity.

OK, last one. This was about a month ago. I was on my way home from our Sunday meeting of Community Church. We meet at night, so it was nighttime. I had just picked up some takeout for me and the wife. I pulled up to a stop light and saw two cars stopped in the left turn lane. Both drivers are out of their cars and there’s some yelling going on. I roll down my window and catch some hostile language. Both dudes look ready to go at it, only one of the dudes is much bigger and meaner-looking than the other.

I had learned many lessons from the multiple crazy altercations that I’d witnessed over the last 12 years.

Don’t try to break up fights between two dudes that you don’t know.

Don’t assume that every shirtless idiot is a famous shirtless idiot.

Always put a gag on the mouth of your concussed friends.

The list goes on. But the most important truth that night was one that I had learned without the assistance of any drama or law-enforcement.

Don’t let your food get cold.

I dialed 9-1-1. I assume everything worked out ok.


bredwine said...

For the record...

I did successfully teach J-turns to all in attendance that night....we completed 20+ without injury. The problem arises when you add a much steeper hill and a large jump at the end of said J-Turn, the situation morphs into unconcious-cussing-brady-turn...

But J-Turns do exist...

As a follow up to my career ending injury, most mornings my shoulder sounds like popcorn popping. I still have lingering brain issues, which I blame on the wreck, but the docs said are more to blame on genetics ;)

Allison said...

I was starting the think that the common theme in all your 911 encounters was Andy, but as I read on, I realized it was actually Brady. Man, it's a good thing we got out of Bryan, Tx when we did. I always thought there was something wrong with that kid. No offense, Brady. Oh, and the cussing...he used to do that all the time when you and Andy would get out of the car, or when you two weren't back stage. I think it's some sort of tick.

Jill said...

Great story, Shepherd! I no longer have to bear the shame of being the only person I knew to actaully hit a pedestrian.

My favorite well-crafted turns-of-phrase:

Poor Brady. Killed un-glamorously in a bizarre golf-cart stunt, only to have the emotional weight of his passing overshadowed by the threat of litigation.
We meet at night, so it was nighttime.

Darin Dunn said...

HA! I enjoyed this post immensely and I forced my wife to listen to me re-read the whole thing to her! Great writing and some great stories!

Seth said...

You are a Civil Servant. In my life time I have never dial 9-1-1 but perhaps it's time to start. It seems I have a fair amount of catching up to do.