Memories of Close Calls — Some Too Close


Whew! That was a close call.

How many times have we said that over our lifetimes? I suppose almost all of us have had some experience that almost went terribly wrong, but didn’t.

The terrible floods down south made me think of how some folks suffer from disaster and some don’t. As Randy Newman says in his great song, “Louisiana: 1927,” “Some people got caught in the flood. Some people got away all right.”

Well, all of my really close calls involved automobiles, one of the greatest machines ever invented, but also one of the more dangerous.

The first close call I don’t remember because I was a little more than one year old but I heard my Mother tell the story so often, I almost feel I can remember it.
It was probably in early 1943, because I turned one in November, 1942. Mother was driving to the grocery store, I believe, and I was with her. This was long before seat belts and infant restraint seats. Someone ran a stop sign and plowed into the side of our car, flinging the door open and tossing me into a roadside ditch.

The other car jumped the ditch without crushing me and I was underneath that car. Mother said that every time I tried to raise up, I burned myself on the car’s hot muffler. I’m sure I was crying my lungs out, not only from the mental shock of being flung through the air but because of the burns.

Well, Mother said that some young man in the crowd that quickly gathered, crawled under the car and brought me out, not too much the worse for wear. So that was one heck of a close call, I will say. I was lucky that I wasn’t killed when I landed. A broken neck seems a likely possibility in retrospect. But I didn’t even break a bone. (In fact to this day, I’ve never had a broken bone.)

I was also lucky that the other car’s wheels didn’t go down in the ditch and roll over me, otherwise I would have been a sweet but brief memory to my family.

The second close call was many years later. I had just dropped off my first wife after a date and was driving through her Gentilly neighborhood in New Orleans, to get on Elysian Fields Avenue. I was in a tiny 1968 Fiat roadster, with little body protection.

So as I’m approaching an intersection, two guys in a big pickup truck come roaring through a stop sign when I’m about two seconds from the intersection. There’s no doubt their big vehicle would have made mince meat of me and my little Fiat. If I’d left the house two seconds earlier, I wouldn’t be here to write this column.

The third close call also involved cars and it was my fault. When my first wife was pregnant with Becky, my beloved first born child, I was driving home after work and was approaching a high-rise overpass. I looked down to find a cigarette pack on the seat (Yes, I had the bad habit in those days.) When I looked up I was right on top of a car that had been abandoned, with its lights off, on top of the overpass. I smashed into the back of the car, and even though I had a lap seat belt on, my head hit the windshield and knocked me out for a time.

When first responders got there, they said I had just come to and was walking around my car, coming very close to falling over the rail of the overpass.

But, aside from some stitches in my face, I made it through that fine.
Mary says all my close calls turned out right because of my guardian angel. That may well be true. I just hope that for the rest of my life I won’t be putting him to such efforts as I did years ago.

Hope all of your close calls are minor ones, my friends.

3 thoughts on “Memories of Close Calls — Some Too Close

  1. Mr. Darby, I would like to say, respectfully, that was not “luck,” but God’s miracles that saved you in all three situations. As a new subscriber, I would also like to say I enjoy your articles very much. You are an awesome writer! Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you, Loye. I suppose we all have a purpose in life, directed by God. I believe mine was to father my two daughters, both wonderful registered nurses, who have brought much comfort and compassion to their patients over the years. They specialize in oncology and understand the emotional devastation of cancer because their mom died of cancer 17 years ago.

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