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Writer's Block: Close Call

Accidents happen all the time, and often we walk away miraculously uninjured. What has been your closest call with avoiding serious harm in an accident?

Probably when I was a passenger riding shotgun in a friend's car in a Chicago suburb in 1972 and a big 18-wheeler hit the car on my side. It buckled in but we were spinning on the ice and it didn't buckle in enough to crush me. I wound up uninjured.

I recall a very spacy view of the entire situation watching it hit, watching the slide. I was not in control of the car but I remember balancing so that I could bounce way off to the left when it did, in case it crumpled in so far it'd mash my legs. I had a seatbelt on but it was not one of those shoulder harness ones and I was considering getting out of it to squish to the middle out of its way. But the dent didn't quite reach my legs. I think it was because the ice was so slick we skidded again once hit.

I was taking that into account while thinking about it, watching in slowed-time and thinking it through rather than screaming. The driver screamed. He thought I was crazy for not screaming. I did not see how screaming could remotely have helped.
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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 22nd, 2009 04:22 am (UTC)
Hmm. Screaming tends to be involuntary, I think. ;)

The most serious car accident I was in, where I t-boned some guy who was turning left without looking, I said "oh, shit" without thinking about it at all. Only time I can remember ever swearing out loud.
May. 22nd, 2009 04:56 am (UTC)
Might be. But at the time I didn't care if I lived or died and was very cold.
May. 22nd, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
How people react in those sorts of situations tends to be pretty random, unless they've had prior training. I remember reading one article that claimed 25% are calm, 25% freeze, and 50% panic. *shrug* Wouldn't judge the friend for screaming, at any rate.
May. 22nd, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)
I think I'm in the freeze category myself.
May. 22nd, 2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
Not a bad response considering what some of the hairy situations can be. For one thing it means you're not going to distract the driver if it's something like an accident -- "calm" and "freeze" both mean keeping quiet and not jogging his elbow.
May. 22nd, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
Yep. And any response can be gotten over with exposure to that sort of situation, or training.
May. 22nd, 2009 11:46 pm (UTC)
True! The only thing that was odd about me was that I was so young and didn't have any training in the usual sense -- just from reading a lot and being so scared all the time on the schoolyard there was nothing left over for serious emergencies.
May. 22nd, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)
*nod* It's not that odd, though--some people just have it, even with nothing. I was more referring to the fact that even the people with the absolute worse responses can be trained out of it, even without exposure to actual danger.
May. 23rd, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
Yep. That's very true, I've known people who overcame either the freeze or the panic reaction once they understood it and trained to deal with a particular danger. That seems to have a lot to do with it.
May. 22nd, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks for those figures. I feel a little less freakish for being in the "calm" category. I tend to fall into calm in most dangerous situations. Even if it doesn't look as if there's anything I can do, there's usually at least something minor that may mitigate it if I think clearly. I just wind up thinking clearly.

I get the most scared when it's not something deadly. When it's something social that really in any tangible sense isn't going to make a big difference either way, or when it's some kind of suspense situation that drags out for a long time not knowing what'll happen next. Not when it's an emergency, that tends to make things very clear even if it's just "Oh. I might die. Well, if I do then I'm going to find out what's next and the rest of things don't matter all that much."

I didn't judge him for screaming. It's more that he judged me for not screaming and that I creeped him out after that.
May. 22nd, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
Also I can think back to some other close calls where not at the time but some hours later it hits me like a ton of bricks, once the danger's over and being that upset and scared isn't going to put me in more danger. There's usually a backlash of some kind.
May. 22nd, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
Ah, OK. *shrug* Seems weird of him, but some people are like that.

Anxiety responses are pretty often disproportional to the actual threat. It's usually considered a disorder, but it's pretty common, and most people never seek treatment.

You're lucky in that you don't panic when things get really dangerous. Not so much in the backlash (some people don't even get that), but still. It's the sort of thing that's kept a lot of people alive.
May. 22nd, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC)
I don't mind the backlash. I think of it as not stuffing the reactions if I had any -- and some things I just don't get one, it's more often if it involved people and some bad judgment on my part in the first place not seeing it had gotten that bad that I'll be that shaken afterward.

At the time, when I was a kid, I was afraid that I was insane and would be caught being insane and locked up for life without having actually committed any crime other than being different. So any reaction that wasn't what other people expected would leave me feeling self conscious afterward, but I still couldn't bring myself to pretend to panic when there's real danger because my common sense would tell me that was a really dumb thing to do that could get me killed. Say, by distracting that idiotic driver.

I avoided him after that, his reaction bothered me. I'm sure he thought I avoided him because of his bad driving.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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