Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the car crash that nearly ended my life.
I was sick (it would later turn out that I had pneumonia) but I had flown out to Minneapolis to present some TV boards to my client's CEO anyway. I was the only one at the agency who the CEO would see and getting on his calendar was like getting on the Pope's. So, sick or not, I went.
Flying back to New York, my flight was delayed for three hours. I had thought about leaving the Minneapolis airport, taking a car-service and checking into the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, about an hour and a half away. But just as I was leaving the airport, my flight cleared and we'd be taking off in an hour.
So I boarded my flight and moaned the whole way back. When I landed at LaGuardia at midnight, it was raining and the taxi line was hundreds of yards long.
Combing the line were gypsy cab-drivers. I went with one to his 1995 Lincoln Town Car. I knew I was making a mistake (the driver was walking barefoot) but I was desperate to get home.
We were driving fast west on the Grand Central. I was just about to tell the driver to slow down when we spun out of control and crashed headlong into a concrete barrier, then rebounded off that barrier and crashed backward into another one.
I was, thank goodness, wearing my seatbelt, but was knocked out anyway. I woke up and it was snowing in the car the white particulate that's spewed when an airbag inflates.
My driver's face looked like Chuck Wepner's after 15 rounds with Ali. I climbed out of the car bleeding from my hand and aching, waiting on the shoulder of the highway for a cop car or an ambulance.
An ambulance came first and I turned down his demand to take me to the hospital. Somehow the idea of going to a hospital in Astoria held no appeal to me. My bloody driver called me another car and that car took me home.
I toughed it out a day at home, and then went to my doctor who sent me to the hospital. It took me about six months to fully recover.
It's five years now, and naturally, I'm five years' older. I finally feel better, and finally don't get the chills when I drive by that section of the Grand Central. Though about twice-a-year I have a bad dream about the accident and wake up with a collision that takes my breath away.
I drove a lot this weekend. I hit four of the five boroughs and dodged 40 or 50 seriously homicidal New York drivers--you know, the guys that make left exits from the right-hand lane with no turn signals at 87 miles per.
I don't take anything for granted now.