I’ve been trying to justify this post as travel-related, and I’ve finally decided that it is simply because I still view being in Alaska as an adventure I’m on. Even though I live here now, I came here as a traveler, and I haven’t lost those first feelings of awe about being here. So, what I’m wondering is whether I’m a super lucky person, or if my life is like the movie “Final Destination” and I need to watch my back.
In 2006, I got hit by a car, lost a front tooth, had to be evacuated from a flood in the bucket of a front-end loader, and wrecked my car.Here’s some background info: I tend to be a bit of a train wreck. I lose stuff, I trip over my feet, I get weird driving tickets, I hit “reply to all” when I don’t mean to, blah blah blah. I certainly can’t live without health insurance. But in the past few years, I’m beginning to wonder if my normally small “disasters” aren’t somehow becoming a lot larger — or if I’m just really lucky. I freak out when I think how close I was to missing the tsunami in Thailand (a mere day or two), or the bombings where I stayed in Paharganj, Delhi (a month or so). So missing those was lucky, for me. But the last part of 2006 sort of shook me up. Here’s how it went:
On July 5, one month exactly before my wedding, I was riding my bike to work when I was hit by a car. The 86-year-old driver didn’t see me (or hit the brakes) until I was on his windshield. Surprisingly, I suffered only a clean break on my right ankle. The bummers: I was a food server, so making money the rest of the summer was out, I got a ticket (!) even though I was on bike path, and my fiancé was working on a boat in Bristol Bay, so my friends had to scrape me off the pavement, shuttle me to doctors’ appointments, and keep me company while I popped Vicodin and watched DVDs for the remainder of the summer. And of course, there was the whole getting-married-in-a-cast thing.
Two weeks after our wedding, my husband moved to Canada to go to school for a year, and I left Anchorage for Seward to start a new job. On our last day together I visited the dentist for a routine checkup on a root canal I’d had done the week before.Long story short, the front and center bottom tooth was pulled and I returned home bloody, gap-toothed and lisping. This is how I said good-bye to Lael and started my new job.
Eventually, the cast came off and I got a bridge over my gap. I lived in a tiny log cabin up Exit Glacier Road, where the Resurrection River rushes down from the glacier and the mountains. I didn’t think much of all our steady rain in October until my boss called one morning to let me know they were closing the bridge to town due to flooding. I decided to head to town, and puttered around getting things ready for the day. All of a sudden there was a banging on the side of my cabin. I figured it was a moose, but it kept on knocking. I opened my door to find muddy river rushing under my cabin, which was on pilings. There was no getting out by car, so I did what any level-headed adult would do — I called Mom (in Seattle). Between her and a friend, I managed to get a rescue orchestrated: I was picked up and carried out in the bucket of a front-end loader.
The next day I waded across 100 meters of thigh-deep glacial river, complete with chunks of glacier floating by. The foundation under my cabin was being eaten away by the current, and the building had a sharp tilt. I threw some clothes in a backpack, stowed my computer and files in an unaffected neighboring cabin, and waded back out. It was several days before I could return, and then I had to move so the foundation could be replaced. At least it never collapsed or flooded inside, so I didn’t lose anything. Check out the photo below: that’s after the water subsided, but it dug a huge channel. Look closely and you’ll see my neighbor’s car nose down.
And that’s not it: I took the driver of the car that hit me to court earlier in the summer, got the charges reversed, and won a very small settlement. On the very same day that money was deposited into my account, I drove the 126 miles from Seward to Anchorage on the windy, icy highway. 30 miles from Anchorage, my car slid out of control and careened through incoming traffic to slam into a guard rail. I was lucky not to have a head-on collision — two other people were killed a few miles from there that same day. I did lose a few seconds and had a huge knot on my head — and my car was totaled. That settlement went right into a new vehicle.
At least that was in December, and thankfully a new year started.
So, here are some numbers:
Number of crises — 3
Number of frantic messages left on my husband’s phones at school and on the boat — at least 5
Number of times death was averted: 2
Am I really lucky? Or just normal?