11. Do something dangerous
I’m not a brave person. At all. While some people laugh in the face of danger, I look at the face of danger and say, “Excuse me, sir, but would you mind stepping out-of-the-way? I would much rather go to that well-lit public area where nothing bad can happen to me.”
If I were to guess why, I would say this stems from my long-standing belief that danger leads to death and death is usually painful and unpleasant. Sure, it may mean I’m a big chicken who avoids anything exciting, but if being safe on my couch is the end result, I’m more than okay with that.
Every so often, though, one is forced to face inherent danger. Unfortunately for me, that day was Saturday.
For several days leading up to Saturday, my car’s brakes had been worrisome. I would drive down the road and, as I began to stop, they would make a noise. It was as much of a squeak or a grind as it was a “GrrrEEEEErrrrEEEEErrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.” I would imagine it is similar to the sound a demon would make, especially if it was trying to stop a vehicle that was going 65 mph.
While I may not be a car expert, I know that this is far from the ideal noise a car’s brakes are supposed to make. Once I heard the noise, I promptly stopped driving it exactly two days later. My plan was to take it to the mechanic on Saturday.
As I woke up early for my appointment at the mechanic, I saw that a bit of snow had fallen overnight. Everything looked bright and glorious outside. I have driven in snow many times in my life and I know for a fact that less than an inch of snow should not affect the roads. Secure with this knowledge, I hopped behind the wheel and began to drive the 1.8 miles to the magical men who would vanquish the demons from my car.
I headed down Harding Place when and was going along very nicely when I came upon some traffic. As I began to brake, my car slid to the right. I corrected the wheel, but continued sliding, finally coming to a stop at the edge of the road.
I had found a hill icier than any other hill in the history of mankind.
Each time I braked, I found myself skidding to right. I would take my foot off the brake long enough to jerk the wheel to the left and straighten out, only to find myself once again sliding to the right as soon as I stepped on the pedal. My car was out of control and there was very little I could do to fix it.
“Well, this isn’t ideal,” I said to myself. While I was keeping a cool composure, mostly trying to trick myself, inside I was screaming. This was how it would end: me dead in ’92 Ford Explorer next to a crappy Sonic only a half mile from my destination.
I looked out my left window to see a semi trying to go the opposite direction, wheels spinning as it attempted to climb the hill. It flung snow behind it, but to no avail. This hill was too slippery for the truck and I was on it in a vehicle with bad brakes. I imagined flashes of fiery explosive crashes, not the most reassuring thing in that situation.
I had done a good job controlling my vehicle when it began to get away from me. My car slid faster and faster down the hill and no braking would stop me. Then, without warning, I stopped. I had reached the bottom of the hill, hitting a well salted intersection. I loosened my grip from the steering wheel, knuckles white from the pressure as I pulled into the mechanic.
“You made it?” my wife said as I walked inside, apparently surprised at my survival. For a brief second, I entertained the thought that this was all a plot by her to rid herself of me for good. If so, it was a very good plan.
Handing the key off to the mechanic, I hopped into the car with my wife. My adrenaline hadn’t even had a chance to dissipate when she hopped back on the same icy road.
In driver’s education, they often mention keeping your hands at 10 and 2. The reasoning behind this is it allows a person to steer much more effectively. It is a good rule of thumb for drivers to follow.
My wife apparently missed that day of driver’s ed.
We headed back down the icy road with her hand at the 11 o’clock position, the other drinking a cup of coffee. Having nearly died, I wasn’t about to let that happen again.
“Please drive with both hands,” I said.
“Oh, okay,” she said, taking both hands off of the wheel to make sure her coffee was secure in its cup holder. I was sure that this was how it would end: me escaping death only to go careening into the side a tree, my body being found amongst the rubble of her Oldsmobile.
We finally arrived home. I was ready to build a bomb shelter and hide from every danger the world had to offer until the day that I finally died of old age. I was finally beginning to understand why the agoraphobic are the way that they are. Walking into the apartment, I collapsed onto the couch.
“Are you going to fix the drier?” my wife said.
I had not planned on it, but it did need to be done. When we moved into our new apartment a week before, we found that, to our surprise, our dryer plug did not fit the electrical outlet that the apartment complex was equipped with. Being the cheapskate that I am, I found that the process required unscrewing three screws, changing a cord, then screwing it back. In theory , it’s simple enough. I could save us a few bucks by doing it myself.
In practice, though, I realized that I am changing the cord of something that conducts 220 volts of electricity, thus making it the most deadly thing I could do. Being the good husband, I reluctantly stood up, walked to the drier, then stalled for the next half hour. When I had run out of good excuses, I began to work.
I changed each wire carefully. This device would be very near my bedroom. The last thing I want is for it to burst into flames, killing me in my sleep. Each turn of the screwdriver carried extra weight with it. I carefully placed the cover on the outside, plugged it in, then headed to the breaker to turn the power back on.
I looked at the breaker box. There was just a single switch separating me from certain death. I had escaped twice, but this would be what got me. I closed my eyes, flipped the switch, and waited.
Nothing bad happened. Nothing.
“Do you want to turn it on and make sure it works,” my wife said, unaware that this device could be on the verge of destroying everything within a five-mile radius.
Carefully I walked to the dryer. I stared at it, looking for any evidence of nefarious purposes this appliance might have. I turned the knob, then hit the start switch, jumping out-of-the-way in case.
All it did was tumble.
Maybe I didn’t need to be worried about any of the things that happened that day. Sure, it was dangerous, but nothing that I couldn’t handle. Maybe I’ve been living too carefully all these years. Maybe, just maybe, the world isn’t as dangerous of a place as I’ve made it out to be.
Just in case, though, I think I may get a panic room. It couldn’t hurt.
This post fulfills another goal for 2013. Check out the rest of the list of Nathan’s goals for the year here.