How is it possible that I'm dead and still writing? Well, because I'm not REALLY dead. Several people just think I am.
So how does this happen three times?
I was in a car accident during my junior year of college. It was a pretty serious accident, and I was hurt badly. My left arm was dislocated, I hit my head on the windshield (and was wearing a seat belt, thank you very much), and was burned and bruised by the airbag.
Dazed, bleeding, and looking like a zombie, I got out of my car and went over to the car that hit me. As I hobbled over to his car, he got out holding an ice scraper (I think he was afraid that I would I either kill him or bite him).
I asked him, "Are you ok?"
He responded, "Yes, just bruised. You?""
"I can't see well, kind of a red blurriness. Also my arm hurts. I think I'm going to sit here for awhile, maybe pass out. Just let me know when the ambulance arrives."
"Umm. Ok. Wait, did you say pass out? I don't think that would be a good idea."
And I fell/sat against his car...and I didn't move.
(We'll call him) Dave thought I was dead. "FUUUUUUCCKKK!!" he yelled.
I don't really remember much until the cops showed up, but I remember that Dave kept talking (into a cell phone or himself) about how bad it was that I was dead. Remember: I'm NOT dead, but I do look bad.
So the cops show up and when the female cop (who I call Bonnie) grabs my left arm to check me. Dave never did check on me. Just assumed I was dead. So Bonnie grabs my arm, which is dislocated. It's painful and snaps me back to reality with a scream...which causes Dave to scream as he assumed I was dead and even told the cop, "He's dead, he's dead...oh my god he's dead!"
The EMTs come asking, "Where is the dead guy?"
"That's me..." I am told I said.
My next bout with reality comes when the EMTs pop my shoulder back into place. If you've never had that done, it's pleasant. No really...awesome. Try it. Right now. Call a friend, have them pull your arm out and then put it back in. I'll wait.... Ok, I won't.
Now the kicker is that a friend of mine (at the time) is an EMT, and she hears the description of the accident...including the who this dead guy might be. She figures out (when I'm not home) that it's me. She begins to panic and starts calling people. The message is essentially:
BEEEEP! "Oh my god. I think he's dead. I mean...it sounds like him in the description. Oh my god, oh my god, OH MY GOD!!!"
At this point I am in my home passed out on a couch with dried blood on my face, neck, and chest. I'm too tired to even wash the blood off.
Suddenly there's pounding on the doors, my phone is ringing, and someone is trying to open my bathroom window. I had left the lights on in my stupor.
"Hello?! Is anyone in there?!"
I stumbled to the door and opened it to shocks and a few screams (again, dried blood). My friend who is the EMT launches herself on to me and freaks out.
"You're ALIVE!!! We all thought you were dead!" she screams.
"What?" I reply. "I'm fine."
Cell phones are whipped out and people start calling other people.
"He's not dead."
"He can work the show tomorrow." (That's touching.)
"How could you make us worry like that?" (Huh? I didn't know I was dead.)
That one was pretty easy and ended quickly.
I managed to disappear off the map from my high school for almost eight years. Other than one or two people in the first four years after high school, I pretty much managed to be off the grid.
Yet, a few years ago, a rumor surfaced in the class notes. I was dead. I wasn't the only one either. Three people were given a little obit note. Problem is...only one of them was dead.
Bachelor #1 apparently died in a car accident in New Orleans. Truth is he was in a car accident, but he didn't die. The other driver did because he didn't wear his seat belt and hit another car doing 90.
Bachelor #2 died when he challenged a few guys to a fight in the New York subway system. The guys were bigger... and armed. B2 had no chance and was stabbed to death. He was convinced he was a tough guy.
Bachelor #3 apparently died in 9/11. He was crushed by one of the towers.
I' m Bachelor #3. I ended up sending in a note to say I wasn't dead. Well, this made my previous email known, which caused people to write me and ask how I survived 9/11. I tried to explain this to them. Many of my former classmates just responded by saying (and I quote), "I don't get it. How could you be in New York and in Minnesota at the same time?"
This could be one reason why I don't really talk to many of them anymore. However I did find it interesting that many of my classmates were concerned. One, who I barely spoke to, even sought me out here in the Twin Cities. Since I saw her that one time, I have not seen or heard from her again.
Almost seven years later, and I STILL get people contacting me asking me how I survived...then they ask for money.
It was nice that many people seemed to be relieved that I was not dead.
Unfortunately, this leads to....
I recently received a letter from my alma mater sending condolences for my passing. As I read the letter, I couldn't help but wonder if:
A. Was it a stupid/cruel joke, or
B. Was it sent to the wrong person?
As I still donate to my college (for tax purposes), I decided I should clear this up. Again, the class notes had me dead, only this time it was much worse. I died after a long battle with liver cancer. As I used to be a heavy drinker in college, I could see many of my former classmates believing I was dead from this illness.
The first step in clearing up this mess was to call the school and tell them I wasn't dead. This, however, is not as easy as ringing up an office and saying, "Good afternoon. I'm not dead. Sorry for the mix-up." No, I got to jump through the hoops.
Alumni office, to main office, to the office of the chancellor (didn't understand that one), back to the alumni office, over to the registrar, and then finally into money central. After about ten minutes, I was ready to just say I was dead.
So I talk to Doris (I have no idea what her real name is).
"Doris," I say, "Hello. I'm not dead...but the alumni newsletter says I am. I want to make sure it is known I'm not dead as my check is coming."
"Well, we'd accept it anyway...dead or alive."
I pause for a moment. "That's nice...but I'm alive and would like to recognized as so."
Doris is quick with a snarky retort. "Why? As long as the money keeps coming we don't care if you're alive or dead. Besides, if you're dead then we contact you less."
"I don't really care about that," I quickly respond. "I just want to be recognized as alive. I have former classmates who might now be sad that I am dead...when I'm NOT."
"Do you want us to print a retraction?"
"Can you do that?" I ask.
"No," she responds as if not really paying attention to me anymore. "We could put some news about you in the next issue. That way people will see you're alive."
"Ok. How do I do that?"
"I'll send a packet. Thanks for calling, Todd."
"Actually my name...," but it doesn't matter as the phone clicks.
Ok, so the university doesn't care that I'm alive. They only want my cash. Surely my old classmates would want to know I'm alive...right? Ha ha...no.
I have a (now former) student thinking about becoming a graphic designer, and I just happen to know a really good graphic designer who was neighbor in college. I decided to send an email to Allie (not her real name) about this student and to also let her know I wasn't dead. Granted it's been almost four years since we last spoke...and we used to date...and it did not go well, but we were pretty chummy. The response is not what I am expecting.
"Yes," she writes, "Your student can write me. Would love to help her." This part I am expecting.
"Dead? That's right, I did hear you were dead. Several of us thought you died awhile ago. Didn't really have any thoughts on it. Actually a few of us didn't really care. You know how it is. Out of sight, out of mind?"
The problem here is that they "few of us" include a guy I helped out only a few weeks before I was "dead", and yet he didn't correct anyone.
And this, for some reason, saddened me. Here I was...dead for the third time in ten years...and no one I went to college with cared a fig. It makes me wonder why and how we choose the people we spend time with. I took care of the people around me in college. My house was a haven for many of them, and my services were available (How many times did I get kegs for people, solve relationship issues, or stop crazy exes at the cost of my own body?), and my schedule was always changed when needed. Yet, I "die" and on moves the world. The bard wrote:
"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.." (V,v,19-28)
All of our life is but nothing but brief play, performed by an idiot who gets his 15 minutes of fame and then is heard no more....Almost like Microfame...but I digress.
They say the only way to be immortal is to be remembered by others. As long as they know who you were and what you stood for, you can never die.
And yet, what if life is really meaningless. We are so easily forgotten. Too many of my students could not tell me what famous thing happened in 1492. (I even clued them in with, "he sailed the ocean blue in 1492.")
If people and connections are our way to truly live on and survive, then we need to find a way to break the unfortunate change to human nature: We need to live out for other people, not do what we can for ourselves.
Then again, what do I know? I'm dead. I could be wrong.