Thursday, June 11, 2015

Breaking the silence on a Thursday

So all day I’ve been thinking about how I could best break my blog silence and write a post about the fact that in less than two weeks, I’ll be moving to Cambodia.

On my drive back to Knoxville today, I thought of all the ways I could sum up such a random and unexplained move. I thought of opening with an inspiring story about the day I first realized I was capable of traveling on my own (it was a beautiful day in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas and I found my 19-year-old self staring at hundreds of paper kites that had gotten trapped in a tangle of power lines).

I thought of explaining all the thousands of intimate reasons that had been building over the last year that radically shaped my perception of what is most valuable in life and what should be prioritized. I thought of simply saying that though I had many reasons, at the same time I had none at all and that was the beauty of it.

While I was thinking all of these thoughts and driving peacefully along the interstate, suddenly a huge cloud of thick dark dirt engulfed the road. A tree came crashing down in the lane next to me, nearly hitting my car. I rolled to a stop on the left-hand shoulder, along with a few other cars. A handful of people jumped from their vehicles and ran to the right-hand shoulder, peering down into a densely wooded ditch. It quickly dawned on me that something, someone was in that ditch.

I scrambled from my car and ran to the guardrail next to two other bystanders. About ten feet down the hillside lay a flat-bed semi-truck, the cab twisted and buried in the undergrowth. My heart was racing. I saw a man in a yellow shirt halfway down the hill, on the phone with what I assumed must be 911. Everything I learned years ago in a Wilderness First Responder course came flooding to my mind. My certification had long since expired but weirdly I call out in a strong calm voice, “does anyone here have any sort of medical or emergency training?” Two guys look at me like I was either an angel or insane. Please say yes, someone please say yes. Surely I can’t be the only one who has any training. My training was years ago and was a joke compared to most WFR courses.

No one answers. No one moves. It’s clear that someone needs to check on the driver. Yellow shirt man climbs back up the hill, so without any clear plan, I take off down the hill, wading through poison-ivy-galore to get to the cab. Quickly, a scrawny guy in a blue shirt follows me. As I make my way to the passenger-side of the cab, I see someone disappear around the front of the truck, trying to get to the driver-side. “He’s moving!” mystery man shouts at me. I relay the message to the yellow shirt on the phone. I can see the driver sitting upright in the cab, faintly moving his head. I knock on the window but he doesn’t respond. Then his lips move and I see mystery man emerge by his door, talking to him through the glass.

Behind me, a husband and wife from the farm nearest to the interstate peek through some barbed wire to ask what happened. They heard the crash from their house. I watch as mystery man talks to the driver, who is alert but not quite coherent. He shouts for the driver to unlock his door.

Immediately I start running through the ABCs of emergency care. A: Airway, check. B: Breathing, check. C: Circulation, I guess. After all the driver is moving. D… crap, what was D?? My flip flop slips and I realize I’m standing in a growing pond of gasoline. Beside me, some strange round piece of debris is smoking ominously. E: Environment. I might not be the best judge, but again, my voice shouts out without me, “unless this truck is in danger of catching fire, DO NOT MOVE HIM.” Mystery man grunts his acknowledgement. “Ask him his name, keep him talking.” Who is this strangely calm person inhabiting my body, standing in a pool of gasoline at the bottom of a ditch shouting clear-yet-unqualified emergency advice for a wounded semi-truck driver? Surely not me. Blue shirt is still standing beside me, helplessly.

We can’t get around to the driver-side, so eventually I decide to climb halfway back up and relay messages to the police who just showed up. “Yes, he’s alert, he’s moving, they got the door open.” An ambulance pulls up and I decide to climb back up to the roadway and watch.

About ten more bystanders have gathered by the guard rail, swapping equally pointless stories.
“Did you see it? I didn’t see it. Is he ok? I heard he’s moving.”
“I didn’t see it, I pulled over though!”
“We were going the other way and had to stop! Is he ok?”

I watched as the police, EMTs, and a crowd of good ole boys (ball caps, boots, and some even shirtless) carried the driver up the hill on a backboard and loaded him into the ambulance.  Afterwards the men all shook hands, clapped backs, and congratulated each other on their great work of standing around. One guy turned around and I caught a glimpse of a handgun sticking out of his shorts. Who in the world brings a gun to an accident?!?! Two other guys (one shirtless for no apparent reason) shook hands and concluded the event with a hearty “great to see ya again! See you at the rodeo!”

I quietly slipped past the ambulance and crossed the highway back to my car, shoes still soaked in gasoline. I drove home absentmindedly scratching what I’m sure will be poison ivy. What a Thursday.

So there you have it folks. I’m reviving my blog. Oh yeah, and in two weeks I’m moving to CAMBODIA!!!!!

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