I nearly died this morning. Then my mother nearly died. This has not been a good day.

Posted on 11 Jun 2009 at 5:23pm

They say things happen in threes. I think it’s probably man’s desire to find patterns where there are none. But I have to say the last 24 hours have been pretty miserable. In fact, they’ve nearly killed me. Literally.

Everything started off comparatively benignly. First, I started to get a cold. Then, the thunderstorm last night knocked out my power and my satellite reception. One of my receivers came back on but won’t it actually change channels anymore. Wonderful. A TV on one station is pretty useless, so I gotta get new receivers.

Then this morning, I almost drowned. The whole story after the jump.

The rains, as everyone in North Texas knows, were damned severe this a.m. When I tried to let the dogs out this morning, they balked at the torrential downpour. It took a lot of coaxing to get them out the front door for a quick tinkle. Then it was my turn to brave the elements on my short car ride to work. I ran to my sporty little two-seater, backed out of the driveway, and headed west.

But less than a block from my house, everything stopped. My street, rather than being slightly wet with a few inches of rain, turned out to be the focal point of a flash flood. I would later see how the sharply-sloped driveway to the north of the street funneled rainwater in rapids-like river down to the street, while directly across from it — with my car unfortunately positioned in its path — the sewer opening tried to absorb more water than it could. The result: At the precise point where I found my car, the water peaked to about three feet in depth. It was no match for my low-slung hotrod.

It never occurred to me the water could get that deep, that quickly. Just 30 feet ahead, cars parked on the side of the road were safely above the flood plane, unaffected by the raging waters. No, it was a narrow area that was being deluged, and it happened to be where I was.
I noticed the nose of the car dipping but was unprepared to see a wave of filthy brown muck crest over my windshield as I drove barely 5 mph. It was like a cheesy special effect in a B movie. Just as I wondered whether I should back up, the dashboard lit up like NORAD on 9/11. Battery light, engine light, everything. A sea of red and orange and yellow glows. What next was inevitable, but still surprised me: The engine died. Caput. My fancy German motor, designed to suck in air like a Dyson vacuum cleaner, had sucked instead gallons of bilge water. There wasn’t a chance. It died and it wasn’t coming back on soon. Talk about flooding your engine.
But the flooding, I knew, was only temporary.
Only it wasn’t.
I began to hear the slow trickle of water before I could see anything. I glanced to the floor boards and there, almost imperceptible, was a trail of liquid, osmosing under the door and around my feet. I saw it on the passenger side too.
“Damn,” I thought. “That’s gonna ruin the carpeting.”
Then I stopped thinking about the carpeting and started thinking about my life.
The water outside the car was getting even deeper and did not seem to be in a hurry to abate. In fact, the “trickle” of water I heard started to rush in even faster than I could have imagined. I could no longer merely lift my feet to keep them dry — the water was touching the bottom of my seat.
This is when I began to panic.
I won’t lie — I was scared shitless. I fumbled for my cell phone to call 911. “All lines are busy; do not hang up; stay on the line and your call will be answer by the next avail…” I couldn’t wait. By the time the call went through, I could very well be submerged. I looked vainly through my contacts — who to call? What was I taught about being in water inside your car?

I started hyperventilating. I have known people who drowned inside their cars; I did not want to be one of them. But it seemed increasingly likely that that is exactly what was about to happen. The water kept rising, my seat is now submerged and if it doesn’t stop, I will be inside a metal coffin in the middle of the street. I can’t roll down my windows — they are electric. So I force open the driver’s side door.

It opened with less effort than I would have expected, although I may have been overcome with a spasm of strength. I grabbed a few things — for some reason, I was obsessed with saving my lunch — and waded, sternum-deep, through the brackish murk, debris floating by me, as I struggled to get to the curb (which was itself under water above the sidewalk level). I sought shelter in the porch or a neighbor I didn’t know and called people — my boss, my parents, the cops, my insurance company, a tow truck. The rain is still pouring down in noisy buckets; thunderclaps are near deafening.

The flood waters receded before they came back, once again submerging my car almost as deep as it had been. When the level was low enough, I rescued a few items from the car.

Eventually, I make it back to my house where I shower to get rid of the foul swell of proto-sewage off my body, and my publisher braves the streets to pick me up. (My commute in the morning is six minutes; it took us more than 20 to get back once he found me.) My dealership later informs me it will probably be a total — no chance of salvage.

Then my dad calls. I figured he was checking up on me. Yes, but there was more.

As many of my friends know, in October my mother had what we thought at the time was a stroke — so severe, she was in a coma for two days. We later learned she had a brain tumor in her right frontal lobe that had to come out.

It was a stressful period, as we didn’t know if they would get it all, and whether the stroke (really a seizure) would come back. The surgery was successful and things were looking up.

Only not. For a few weeks — and I only learned this a few days ago — mom has had some mini-episodes. One happened while I was on the phone with her. So she was in the hospital today for an MRI.

That’s when she had another seizure — about on par with the first one back in October, I was told. Scary as shit. Again.

Not much to report on that one now. Mom’s in the hospital for the night, I’m stranded at home without a vehicle (no rental car from my insurer!) fighting a cold with a broken TiVo. And I heard an hour ago that Dallas actor and playwright Steve Lovett has passed away.

Forget 9/11. For me personally, 6/11 will forever be a day I’d rather forget.

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