Turning 21

25 11 2008

Just before I turned 21, I realized it was the last “milestone” birthday I would have until I turned 65 and could retire. At 15, you could get a learner’s permit, at 16 a driver’s license. At 18, you could vote, buy cigarettes, porn, and get into some clubs, and at 21, of course, you could finally drink (legally, anyway). But nothing awaits you between 21 and 65 except a few drops in your insurance premiums, a realization that I found to be rather depressing in the weeks before my twenty first.

Of course, I was no stranger to alcohol prior to my 21st birthday. (You might recall my tale of overindulging in Zima during high school). My parents had allowed me to have wine at home after I turned 18, and I had a few friends of age who were kind enough to share their libations. Looking back, I drank a lot less once I could legally do so–I suppose the thrill was over by then.

But my 21st birthday was memorable for uncommon reasons. A week or so before my big day, my roommates parents came for a visit. My roommate had been fighting a bad cold for most of the semester and decided to ride back to our hometown with her folks to see her regular physician. I was heading home the following week for a family wedding, so I’d be able to give her a ride back to school.

The day before I was to head home, I was sitting in traffic, in my roommate’s car, when I felt a pretty hard bump from behind. I looked in the rearview mirror–there were no other cars.

“What the hell?” I thought. Then I heard a moaning noise from beside the car and looked out the window. There, alongside the car, laid a very bloody man and his very smashed bike. I’d been rear-ended by a bicyclist. The poor guy’s nose was obviously broken, his front teeth had gone through his upper lip, and he had road rash on every inch of exposed skin. I wanted to call an ambulance, but he wouldn’t hear of it. I offered him a ride, and he insisted he’d been enough trouble already. He did take a rag I offered to press to his bleeding face, and he pushed his battered bike off down the street.

It wasn’t until the next day, when I was loading my suitcase into the car for the drive home that I noticed that one of my roommate’s taillights was cracked. I felt bad that I hadn’t filed a police report, figuring that a new taillight probably cost a few hundred bucks. But, there was nothing I could do to change it then, so I went on my way.

The drive home was about three hours. I had great weather, made great time, and just as I got close to home, a light rain started to fall. I was less than a half mile from my roommate’s parent’s home, coming into a double curve, when I saw a truck up ahead lose control as he rounded the first turn. I slammed on my brakes and came to a stop, he was crossing my lane several car lengths ahead and heading straight for a utility pole. Inches from hitting the pole, he corrected, popped back onto the pavement and was suddenly headed straight for me.

I was already stopped and had no time to do anything but brace myself. A loud and very solid crash followed, and suddenly the car was filled with smoke from the airbags that had deployed. I was disoriented, looking through the broken windshield I realized I had spun 180 degrees from where I started. All I could think was that I needed a cigarette and the pack I’d had laying in the console was nowhere to be seen.

“Are you alright!” a panicked voice said. I looked up and realized it must be the driver of the truck–a teenaged kid who was running from the direction of the smashed truck that now rested against a car that had been parked in someone’s driveway. I didn’t know, actually, if I was or not. My first thought was my teeth–did I still have them all? I ran my tongue over them, and satisfied that they were all there, suddenly felt the skin on my arms burning, and intense pain in my right arm.

“Fuck no, I’m not alright…” I said, noticing the blood on my white shirt, “I think my arm is broken.” I got out of the car and walked around to see fluids pouring out from under the buckled hood. The windshield was broken, the bumper was half gone, revealing a mass of hanging wires, bent metal, and styrofoam. One of the fenders was peeled back like a banana peel. The hyperactive driver was running around shouting “They’ll cancel my insurance now! Two wrecks in one year! Im cancelled!”

Other traffic started to back up, and someone was nice enough to call my roommate’s house. An ambulance arrived before my roommate and her mom got to the scene, and I refused a ride to the hospital–not wanting to worry my friends more than necessary. After a shower, I realized there was glass stuck all over the tops of my hands. The deploying airbags had blown my hands off the steering wheel and through the windshield–burning my forearms and breaking one of my elbows in the process.

After an 8 hour trip to the emergency room (an $1,100 visit that involved a nurse removing the glass by simply covering me with surgical tape and ripping it off as if she were waxing me), I went home with a neck brace, an arm sling, and a bottle of pain killers and muscle relaxers. Two days later, the soreness had really set in. I could barely turn my head, use my right arm, and the airbag burns had turned into wet, oozy scabs. And it was my 21st birthday.

Getting drunk and dancing the night away was out of the question. Booze and painkillers are a no-no combo, and I could barely move my groove thing, let alone shake it. But, a few friends and I nonetheless went out to celebrate with a nice dinner at the local hibachi steakhouse. Someone told the chef it was my birthday, so he singled me out during his cooking performance. When it came time to toss the shrimp, he gestured like he was going to pitch it toward me. I thought he was joking, but apparently he mistook my neck brace for a fashion statement and shot a shrimp my way. I moved with all the grace I could muster to catch the flying shrimp but I was stiff and drugged, and it was all for naught–the shrimp slapped me in the forehead before falling to the ground. The room erupted in laughter.

So while many people can recall their 21st birthday (if they have any memory of it at all) as a time of drunken partying, mine will forever be the night I was bruised, burned, and broken with a shrimp sliding down my face.

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16 responses

25 11 2008
love_bites

What is this I spy? An actual post? Be still my beating heart.

25 11 2008
Peter Parkour

That is a killer story. The old shrimp to the forehead stick. 😛 Brutal… brutally hilarious. 😆

25 11 2008
The Vinyl Villager

Love, dear, look around. I think you’ll find a few more. 😉

Peter–looking back it is! (you keep showing up in my moderation cue for some reason??)

25 11 2008
The Incredible Woody

Aw, poor Villager! I think you still have some milestone birthdays. 40 was a lot of fun for me!! And, ouch, a broken elbow – that makes my skin crawl…

A shrimp on the forehead is better than other places it could have ended up. Just think about what the priest might have done with that shrimp!!

25 11 2008
The Vinyl Villager

Woody…bad mental image to have with my coffee this morning…bad!

25 11 2008
joanharvest

Such terrible things happened to you on your 21st birthday–yet I laugh. Sorry!! To top off a day like that with a shrimp thrown at your head–well, that just takes the cake!!

25 11 2008
Big Hair Envy

Dude. There was some SERIOUS bad karma around you back then. I hope that has changed:)

After 21, there was 30. It sucked. Then, there was 40, and IT WAS AWESOME. Personally, I don’t relish the thought of turning 65 any more than I relish gouging my eyes out. However, it’s better than the alternative. I just hope this old body can hang on for the ride!!!!!

25 11 2008
Little Miss

That is friggin hilarious! Seriously. I had tears from laughing so hard. I must be twisted in the humor department. The shrimp shot was the best.. no, being rear-ended by a bicycle… no… it was ALL funny.

25 11 2008
Jason

No way! What a terrible story. I didn’t find it nearly as funny as Little Miss did. The shrimp thing was funny, but the rest? I guess my sense of humor is underdeveloped.

25 11 2008
The Vinyl Villager

Joan–yeah, I couldn’t believe he actually threw it!

Big Hair–I used to have really bad “Car karma” period. I might have to write about that. 30 was good, I got a trip to Vegas and a new convertible. Maybe I can look forward to 40.

Little Miss–I think its hysterical looking back on it. We must both be twisted.

Jason–naaa, you just aren’t twisted like we are. LOL!

25 11 2008
Tammy

Heeeelarious! OMG – were you just a walking bullseye during that time? I’m sure it major sucketh at the time, but how effin hilarious it is now!

Oh and that soreness a couple of days after the wreck – my hubby coined the phrase “I feel like a bag of smashed assholes.” Whatever that means, but I think of that whenever someone is sore and hurting all over.

25 11 2008
Helena

Oh nooo!!! What a 21st birthday. It’s a terrible story but I can’t help laughing picturing that shrimp on your forehead. Oh well.. at least it’s a birthday you’ll never forget.

25 11 2008
cuteasasa

So much fun to read. As bad as it was, I’m so glad you got to hang onto all your teeth. I was so expecting the guy on the bike to be in the same emergency room. If you decide to embellish some day, go for that angle.

25 11 2008
Alan

Wow. And you turned 21 how many years ago? I can’t even remember that long ago. I turn 40 in a few weeks. They say the mind is the first to go…so maybe that’s my problem. 2 accidents in one day? And on your birthday? What are the odds of THAT??? That’s fuc$#@ed up!

26 11 2008
The Vinyl Villager

Tammy–yeah, I pretty much was a disaster when it came to cars in my younger days.

Helena–despite the drugs I was on, it was one of my more memorable ones.

Cuteasasa-Im glad you enjoy! That would have been funny (seeing the bike guy at the ER)

Alan–happy birthday a little early. You’re really not supposed to remember your 21st birthday if you celebrate it correctly. Actually, the bike hit me one evening, and the truck hit me the next day.

28 11 2008
Queen of Planet HotFlash

Holy Shit Batman

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