Match to Flame 204

Jan 23, 2024

I had just wrapped up a workout at my fitness/tennis club and was anxious to make it home in time for supper. The facility was located on a road that was very busy under normal circumstances, and now it was rush hour. Luckily, I only needed to make a right-hand turn into the traffic, but that was still a fraught and time-consuming procedure. Fateful decision number one: I saw a brief opening in the oncoming traffic, but it was borderline. Like I said, though, I didn’t want to be late for supper, so I made one of those moves we all do against our better judgement and zipped into the opening and got up to speed really quickly. No problem. I would now make it to the wrong place at the wrong time right on schedule. My route home took me to another road crammed with rush-hour traffic that I had to cross. It began to snow heavily, and, being back in safety-first mode, I didn’t want to make the zip-through-traffic move a second time and in falling snow to boot, so I made fateful decision number two and, to be safe, took a slightly different route that allowed me to cross the road at a stoplight. I had just gone through the intersection and was rounding a short curve when I saw an oncoming Chevy Trailblazer go off the other side of the road just ahead of me, overcorrect, cross back over to my side of the road, and slam into me head-on. I heard a horrendous noise, and everything went black. When I came to, I was just hanging in my seatbelt harness, and I couldn’t raise my head. I sent a message to my toes to wiggle, and they wiggled back. Good news. A gentleman, in front of whose home the crash had occurred, reached in through the broken window, put his palm on my forehead, and held my head up, staying with me until EMS workers and state troopers eventually removed me from the car. The kindness of strangers.

Thus began a long night that started with the emergency workers cutting me out of my car and transporting me to the emergency room where my wife, Cathy, found me on a gurney, still in my winter coat, with pieces of glass from the windshield beside me on the gurney. Many months later I would find that coat in the closet with the seat harness’s impression across the front where it had been crushed into the fabric. X-rays were taken, blood samples were drawn and checked, and slowly the most serious outcomes were eliminated. I ended up with a badly bruised leg and serious trauma and pain in the muscles in my neck and shoulders that pretty much immobilized me. I hadn’t dodged the Trailblazer, but my PT Cruiser had done its job, and I escaped the worst possible consequences of a head-on collision. We left the hospital around four in the morning with me in a neck brace, some pain pills to hold me until I could see my doctor, and looking down the road at a long, slow recovery.

So, high marks to Wolfgang Pauli’s exclusionary principle for basically pointing out that, in physics, two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time. The rule still holds. Somewhat lower marks for his failing to add that there are painful consequences to be paid by those who try. Fortunately, Chuck Ayers and I were ahead by a year with the art on Crankshaft and the penciling on Funky, so immediate deadlines weren’t a concern. That said, neither one of us was eager to engage in the effort to get the strips back to being a year ahead if we were to lose several months while I recovered from the accident. The bad news was that I was basically relegated to the couch in our family room. It’s where I spent the day and where I slept at night. It also meant that I couldn’t make it up to my studio over the garage. I wasn’t able to negotiate the stairs, let alone sit at the drawing board to ink the strips and letter them. The good news was that in regard to the writing, I was suddenly a temporal billionaire. Other than working with the physical therapist who initially came to the house a couple of times a week, I had nothing to do all day but read books, watch TV, and write. Reading books and watching TV tended to get boring and make me sleepy after awhile, but writing was something interesting that I could do all day long. And I had all day long. So I was able to get strips to Chuck as regularly as I always had. What was missing was the ability to go out and do in-person research such as dropping by my old high school to sit in class and sketch. It was this missing element, along with a way-too-close-for-comfort-near-disaster, that led me to try something that I had been contemplating for a while.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 13

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