Christine Columbus

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      If You Choose Not To Wear A Seat Belt.
      Published in North Hennepin's Community
      College Magazine
      Under Construction in the Spring of 1996.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If You Choose Not To Wear A Seatbelt 
 
Where do I need to turn?  Ipeered through the accumulation of rain drops on my windshield. It wasthe first time I had driven my new car in the rain. Swish! The wipersfinally slid by and cleared the rain drops off the windshield. Isignaled my left turn and set the control on the intermittent wipers upa notch.

I was less than a quarter of a block from the intersection when the stoplight turned yellow.

          What to do? Can I make it? I stepped on the gas pedal. Oh, no!

          A car approaching from the opposite direction sped up to make the light, too.

          “Shit!”

          Noway would I be able to turn in front of that idiot. I slammed on mybrakes. From the sound of it, he slammed on his brakes too. His carslid towards the middle of the intersection. I turned my wheel sharp tothe right.

          Tires squealed; metal crunched loudly.

          I came to a dead stop. The sound of the crash was still reverberating in my head.

          Ipushed the door open, jumped out of my car. I did not try to move mycar out of the driving lane. I did not shut off my car to lessen therisk of fire. I did not activate the four-way flashers.

          I ran to the front of the car to inspect the damage. The whole front end was smashed, but the engine was still running.

          My legs felt like rubber. My stomach muscles tightened up. I had a hard time focusing my eyes and my body shivered and shook.

          “Are you okay?” someone asked.

          “I’ll go call for help,” another voice said.

          Thedriver of the other car walked toward me and stopped less than a footfrom me. He was in his late twenties with dark curly hair and browneyes. He had a slight build and wore a brown suit jacket over a whiteturtleneck sweater along with faded jeans. He placed his hand on myforehead and began applying pressure.

          “If I help you, do you think you can make it over to the curb?” he asked.

          “Yes,” I said. What a weirdo.

          “Can I pray for you?” he asked after I sat down.

          “Sure,” I said with very little enthusiasm.

          He placed his other hand on the top of my head and began mumbling words.

          As he rambled, I thought: AmI going to die? What’s his religion? He might not be praying to the GodI believe in, but then again what if his is the right God?

          “Am I bleeding?’ I asked when he had finished praying.

          He nodded his head yes.

          Twofire trucks and a police car appeared on the scene. Two fire fighterswalked over to where I sat. The driver removed his hand from my headand walked towards the police officer.

          Sure, he gets to tell his side of the story while I’m stuck here with these firefighters.

“Were you wearing your seat belt?” a firefighter asked.

          “No,” I answered, “but I feel just fine. I’m cold and I want to go home.”

          A firefighter brought out a blanket wrapped in a plastic bag.

          Kind of cool, disposable blankets, perfect for picnics.

          One firefighter worked on attaching a compress to my head.

          “May I see your license?” a police officer asked.

          “My purse is at home. I was just coming from volleyball and I never bring my purse with,” I said.

          “I’ll have to call your name is then. What is it?” The police officer asked.

          “Chris Columbus,” I answered.

          “Can you spell it?” the officer asked.

          “C-h-r-i-s C-o-l-u-m-b-u-s,” I said.

          “Were you wearing a seat belt?” the officer asked. “Is the car register in your name?”

          “No, I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Yes, the car is register in my name.”

          The officer shook his head and walked away.

          “It’s just a small cut and she wants to go home. She appears to be fine,” the firefighter said to the ambulance attendant.

          Theattendant walked over, removed the gauze and looked at the cut. Heplaced the compress back on my head. “Was she driving that car?” heasked pointing in the direction of my car.

          “Yes,” someone answered.

          The attendant placed a neck collar on me and called for a back board.

          Is this guy nuts or what?

          “I just want to go home,” I said.

          “Were you wearing a seat belt?” the attendant asked.

          “No,” I said.

          Theattendant put the blood pressure cuff on my arm and he secured the backboard straps around my head, chest, arms and legs. The attendantsplaced me on the stretcher and secured the last strap.

          “Don’t move,” the attendant said.

          As if I could.

          “Just a minute,” the police officer said.  “Do you have insurance identification card of evidence of a policy?”

          “No, I don’t buy my insurance agent is Pat and my insurance company is Westbend.”

          Hewrote the information down and said, “I’ll give this information to theother driver and if there are any problems with it, you’ll havefourteen days to provide proof of insurance. In the future, carry thatinformation at all time or you could be fined.”

          “Done?” the attendant asked.

          “Yes,” the officer said as he dropped something on the stretcher.

          I looked at the police officer with a puzzled expression.

          “It’s a twenty-five dollar ticket for not wearing your seatbelt,” the police officer said.

          I smiled as they placed me into the ambulance.

          The inside of the ambulance was blinding. I closed my eyes. The attendant took my blood pressure.

          I realized I had to pee.

          “So,” the attendant said. “I see from your ticket that your name is Chris Columbus. I bet you get a lot of kidding.”

          “No, not at all.”

          The attendant smiled.

          “Why are you guys doing this to me?”

          “We’re always this cautious when someone hits the windshield. You could have neck or back injuries.”

          “Did I hit the windshield?”

          Theattendant looked into my eyes with his flashlight. “Yes, you hit thewindshield. You didn’t see it? Your forehead left a big circularimpression in the upper left hand corner.”

          Hetook my blood pressure again. “When you are unrestrained in a car andget into an accident, you usually smash against the windshield or theinterior of the car with a force of 4,500 pounds. That’s like jumpingout of a three-story building.”

          “So, what you’re trying to tell me is that I’ll have a headache tomorrow?”

          “If you’re lucky, that’s all you’ll have tomorrow.”

          “I don’t suppose you can pull this ambulance over and let me go to the bathroom?”

          “Sorry. Just a couple more minutes until we reach the hospital.”        

          I made a solemn vow to never get into another car thinking I can wait until I get home to pee.

          The ambulance pulled up to the emergency entrance and unloaded me.

          A nurse approached as we entered the hospital. “Were you wearing a seat belt?” she asked as I was wheeled into an exam room.

          “No, I wasn’t.” I was beginning to wish that I had lied and said, ‘Yes, yes I was wearing a seat belt.’

          “I’ll be right back with forms you need to fill out. The we’ll take your for x-rays,” the nurse said.

          “Could I go to the bathroom?” I asked the nurse when she returned.

          “No, we’re not allowed to remove the restraints until after you’ve been seen by the doctor.”

          Sheproceeded to ask a zillion questions, name, address, insurancecarriers, religious affiliation, next of kin, who to notify in case ofdeath.

          What a bunch of morbid questions to ask someone who feels just fine.

          Finally,I was wheeled to x-ray. They took x-rays from every possible anglewithout removing any of the straps. I felt like I was on a carnivalride—which would have been fun, if I didn’t need to pee.

          Iwas waiting for an x-ray technician to look at the x-ray when Iremembered that my house keys were on the same ring as my car keys andmy car keys were still in the ignition of my car.

          I wondered if anyone had shut off my car. Did they tow it?

          “Everythinglooks fine. We’ll undo the straps and you can get up. The doctor stillneeds to look at that cut on your head though,” the x-ray techniciansaid.

          “Fine, can you show me where the bathrooms are?”

          Onthe way out of the restroom, I glanced in the bathroom mirror and wasshocked at the dried blood on my sweater, face and jeans. Yuk!

          In the hallway the nurse approached.  “The doctor is ready to see you.” She directed me into another room.

          “Have a seat,” the doctor said motioning towards a gurney.

          Once I was seated he asked me to lie down.

          “Who’s the President?” He asked shinning a flashlight in my eyes.

          “Clinton,” I said.

          “His first name?”

          “Hillary. No, I know it’s Bill.”

          “Who’s the mayor?”

          I blushed. “I don’t know, but I didn’t know before the accident either.”

          After that, the questions became much easier.

          “I’llrelease you tonight if someone will be around to wake you up every twohours and check for signs of a concussion,” the doctor said.

          “Sure, no problem.”

          “When was the last time you had a tetanus shot?”

          “Why?” I asked.  Was this a trick question?

          “Because we need to shoot some Novocain into your head before we stitch you up,” the doctor said.

          SinceI didn’t know the answer to that question either, I received a tetanusshot before the doctor proceeded with the stitches. After the doctorfinished, up the nurse came back with the release form for me to sign.

          As I sat in the waiting room waiting for a ride, I realized that my mother had it all wrong.

          She had always said, “put on clean underwear in case you are in an accident.”

          I can’t wait to tell my mom that clean underwear is the least of your worries when you are involved in an accident.

          I’mgoing to tell my kids: If you don’t wear a seat belt, wear old clothesbecause I’m not sure if blood stains will wash out of your favoriteblue jeans.

          When the police officers asks you if you were wearing a seat belt, lie or b e prepared to pay a twenty-five dollar fine.

          Goto the bathroom before entering the car. Because no matter how much youbeg and plead, no one will release you from that back board to let yougo the bathroom.

          Keep an extra set of house keys with you so you an get back into your house once they release you from the hospital.

          Havea list of people you can call for a ride because it gets expensivecalling information for phone numbers when you’re looking for a ride athree in the morning.

          Keep up on current events so you’re not embarrassed when the doctor asks, “Who’s the mayor?”

          Knowyour medical history so you don’t end up getting any unnecessary shots.And if you have been driving for ten years without an accident you’llprobably want to increase your driving speed to 41 mph. Statistics tellus that more than 80% of all crashes occur at speeds less than 40 mph.

          Youshould also avoid going home unnecessarily because three out of fouraccidents causing death happen within twenty-five miles of home.

          Or you can just wear a seat belt.