too many words by laura lemay

Near death on muni

On Saturday, I nearly died.

I was at this party that my friends Eric and Susan threw, where we were all in this big open Muni train car in the city, riding around, singing Christmas Carols drunkenly at the tops of our voices and being very, very cold. (Muni, for those of you visiting from outside the area, is the San Francisco public transportation system. Buses and trains and whatnot.)

At one moment we had paused to turn the car around, and to let some people get off and visit the bathroom (did I mention that we were drinking a lot? It was very cold).

Muni cars run on electricity. They have this big arm thing that pushes up to hook against electrical wires that are strunk up over the street. To change directions, the Muni driver has to move the arm from wire to wire, or rotate the big arm so that its facing the other way. To do this, there is a rope attached to the end of the arm, and a big (100 lb or so) lead weight on the other end to help pull the arm downward.

So I was sitting in the car by the rail, facing front, chatting with Eric and Susan. All of a sudden, Eric and Susan’s eyes got really big. “What?” I asked.

Then I heard a thud. I turned around, and it seemed that the lead weight had crashed into the side of the rail behind me. I dismissed it and turned back.

Eric and Susan were gasping in panic and saying “oh my god” repeatedly. “What?” I asked.

Eric and Susan explained, between gasps, that the driver had lost his grip on the lead weight, and it had swung loose, toward the middle of the car. Directly towards the back of my head. Eric and Susan said it happened so fast they coulnd’t even move to react.

The weight had missed me by a foot or so. If it had hit me, it would have caused a great deal of damage, if not taken my head clean off.

This would probably have spoiled the mood of the party.

I am told that getting one’s skull crushed in doesn’t hurt much, unless you are unlucky enough to regain consciousness. I have decided I would rather not find out what it feels like.