In a few months, I’ll have reached the 27th year since a car accident woke me up to the reality of stupid risks. I was never a huge risk-taker as a kid; instinctively I knew that my luck was pretty terrible and that any kind of real gamble was very likely to backfire spectacularly. That didn’t keep me from losing my temper on occasion and end up taking those risks anyway.

This story isn’t so much about me, though. There was someone I met early in my life, a short little brat by the name of Seanna. She and I clashed a lot in grade school; she was intensely straitlaced and by the book. So much that our usual conflict was more around my behavior and her tendency to want to report every little dumb thing I did straight to my parents who were doing volunteer work at the school. My parents quickly disabused her of that idea, though, by telling her that if it was something important for them to know the teachers and staff would let them know.

So, yeah, we didn’t get along well but Seanna was a pretty constant (if ulcer-inducing) fixture in the background of my life for all of grade school. Junior high changed that– with the number of students being maybe a rough 4x what grade school was like, we didn’t exactly have constant contact like we’d had before. Nevertheless, she was there in the background, and that continued into high school.

That ended in late 1993. Homecoming night, our junior year, it all got cut short.

She’d been in the back of a pickup truck with a bunch of friends. They’d been partying a few hours before the school-hosted homecoming event. I don’t remember if alcohol was involved, but I know none of the people in that truck were wearing seat belts. Not that it would have mattered; she was in the back of the truck, in the cargo bed area. The driver had been doing left/right swerves with the truck on the main street in town and lost control. While I don’t precisely remember if they collided with a tree in the median or if they’d flipped the truck and launched the passengers into the tree, I do know for sure that not one of them survived the impact.

Seanna had been a model student in a lot of ways, but it only took one blatantly stupid risk to end everything.

I’m not sure precisely why this old story came to mind when I woke up this morning. Perhaps my brain was thinking of all the people out there doing stupid things during our current health crisis.

We’d had our arguments in the past, and we were never friends, but that still took the wind out of my sails that night. Perhaps I regret that I never could sit down and talk with her and work things out? Who knows.. I certainly made sure to wear my seatbelt every time I got into a vehicle from there on out.

That’s what saved my life seven years later in a pretty nasty passenger side impact accident where I ended up touching the windshield glass with my forehead even though I was wearing my seatbelt. I wouldn’t be writing this right now if I hadn’t been taking the proper precautions. I get it, you’re young and you feel invincible; there’s a thrill to pulling the arm on that one-armed bandit. Sooner or later that sort of thing does catch up to you, though– or to someone you know.

You can’t take all the risks out of life– someone may well just drive through the front of your house and plow through you– but you can be smart enough to minimize the risks that are 100% stupidity on your part.

-- Firehawke