Friday, July 14, 2006

Near Death Experiences, Part 5 (By Moat)

Update: I've now changed the post title 3 or 4 times, trying to capture the essence of stupidity evidenced in this post, should anyone stumble upon it after I'm gone. ;-) This is part of a series of near-death related incidents in my life. Others may be found here, here, here and here.

In The End, Brian suggested that he might like to hear another "Gwynne-Almost-Drowned" adventure story. I'm afraid I'm truly out of those, but I do have a "Gwynne-Almost-Drove-Into-A-Moat-And-Drowned-Us-All" adventure story. So maybe I'll share it. I don't usually share this with just anyone, so pull in close and I'll speak quietly so that nobody else can hear. ;-)

Let's preface this story with a prayer. Forgive me Father, for I knew exactly what I was doing and I did it anyway (Luke 23:34...sort of). I am not proud of this story, but it qualifies as a "blogworthy" response to Brian's request. Maybe this also qualifies as the corporate discipline of confession. In a sense, this is also a response to Rach's request to share "ways I have been blessed." All I can say is, before you do something stupid like this, please think twice and ask yourself, "do I feel lucky today?"

At any rate, here we have more excerpts from the Long and Boring Travelogue of the Trip With Excessive Luggage (extra links to prior excerpts just in case you have run out of sleep-aid pills):

First, we have The Car (this is just back story to fully appreciate the rest of the story)...

We went to pick up our rental car, and they had our reservation waiting (amazing!), an “upgrade” even, which made me examine the meaning of the word. It was a small (“economy”) diesel stick shift just like I had reserved. I’m not sure where “upgrade” fits in. And as it turned out, we might have been able to carry the car to all of our travel destinations. In fact, I’m sure it weighed less than my luggage. And then, well, and then we had to actually figure out a way to fit my luggage (oh sure, and his) inside the car. I’m glad I did well enough in geometry and calculus and linear programming to figure this all out (well, okay, I flunked linear programming, because I did not understand its applications, which were now clear). But eventually, we worked out the formula that maximized the amount of stuff we could stuff into a Yugo (or whatever kind of car it was…it was small and it was left behind by the Cold War is all I really know). My beloved husband (MBH) insisted that I ask for “another” upgrade, to an automatic…HA! "Did you forget you are in Eastern Europe…your homeland?! We’ll be doing real good if we don’t have to pedal, honey…so please just get in, sit down, hold on and shut up!" (okay, before anyone chastises me for being a disrespectful wife, I did not really say those things...I just thought them ;-). I became the designated driver for the trip, even though I could not read the signs. We would later test the car’s capacity by adding more passengers and more luggage.

And now the story...

Preface: MBH had scheduled a reunion with his childhood friends in Croatia, many of whom he had not seen in 30-40 years. He and his best friend had been planning all of the details for months and finally, the big day arrived...

We enjoyed the reunion as planned, with about 12 of MBH's childhood friends, and his surviving relatives in Senj (5 of his closest relatives had died or been killed in the war since our last visit). The Big Party was at a small local pub that shut down for our private party. We enjoyed a barbequed pig and a lamb. MBH made me take pictures of both heads as evidence. They are very proud of their barbequed animals in Croatia.

This party was very fun, even for me in a room full of smokers who all seemed to be yelling above one another the entire evening, in a language I do not understand. I enjoyed their traditional Croatian singing though (by the end of the evening, I even "knew" the words), and I "danced" polkas with MBH, his brother and his nephews. We sang and drank wine and danced until about 2:30 am and then went back to his nephew’s house for more drinking and singing. Somewhere along the way, I lost my senses.

Driving back to the nephew’s house required use of The Car...and making room for 5 passengers. Due to the drinking, I really should not have been driving, but justified doing so by the size of the car (almost like pedaling a bicycle), and the fact that it was 2:30 in the morning (no one else would be on the road). Besides, we really didn’t have far to drive, but it was too cold to walk. So I drove against my better judgment, and we came within millimeters of driving into the moat that surrounds the Old Town (his nephew lives inside the old medieval town and parking is just outside the thick city walls, across the moat; there is no curb to stop one from driving into the moat if one so chooses). It wasn’t until we left, after even more drinking, that we noticed our tires were perilously perched dead center on the edge of the concrete cliff! Another 1/4 inch (yes, I realize I've just gone from metric, what is our system called?) and gravity would have taken over. We laughed about how close we came to the edge without even knowing the cliff was there. And then, for reasons I can’t possibly justify, we got back into the car and (with a stick shift, parked on a slight grade pointed downward into the moat) backed up and drove home. Only angel’s wings kept us from going into that moat, or getting hung up on the cliff, either way causing severe damage to the rental car! I can hear the rental agent now, in perfect English, “Insurance declined? Initial here please.” I figured if we were in an accident in this car, we’d be in no shape to worry about insurance; obviously, I hadn’t considered all of the possibilities. Plunging into a moat is now at the top of my list. I promise never to do this again!!

The next morning, we were up early to go visit MBH's friend, to say good-bye. What a hangover! That moat wasn’t sounding so bad after all. I haven’t felt that bad since we drank Tequila and smoked parsley (really, parsley…don’t ever try it; the headache is unbearable), and rode our bicycles down the stairs in our apartment back in college…ahh, but what a proud moment that was. His friend was happy to see us and offered us food and tea to overcome the hangover. And then he brought out his gallstones (no joke…he even took them out of the baggie for a closer view) to show us why he had been hospitalized recently. I nearly lost it on the nice white lace tablecloth. He said that if he died tomorrow, his wish to reunite with his best friend had made him a happy man…how sweet! But I felt as if I might die today…right here on his dining table.

Before anyone could die on the table, we said our good-byes to family and friends and off we went…to play tourists for a few days. But the wind was fierce for our drive along the Adriatic Coast (busses and trucks were banned from the road due to the high winds). The curvy road along the cliffs above the ocean was dangerous enough without wind (and did I mention the hangover?)! Several times, I thought for sure The Car would be hurled off the cliff to experience wingless flight! And the people drive like maniacs, as in most of Europe I suppose, passing on blind curves, tailgating and speeding double the posted speed limit…the kind of driving seen in movies where vegetable carts go flying! The aggressive driving makes up for the fact that they are driving embarrassingly small cars. My knuckles were white and my muscles tired by the time we stopped for the night. But somewhere along the way, the hangover finally dissipated…a silver lining in every cloud.

Thank God for His Mercy!



At 4:07 AM, July 15, 2006, Blogger Rach said...

You can smoke parsley? Does it do anything? (not that I aiming to try it but I have an innate curiosity anyway!).

Glad the moat didn't get you!

At 9:55 AM, July 15, 2006, Blogger beth said...

Wow. The things you learn! This was definitely blogworthy and opens up the whole "Wild side of Gwynne" possibilities that I had not previously considered. :) Glad everyone was ok though!

I guess if you can smoke cloves parsley isn't a big stretch. But...why would you want to?

At 12:37 PM, July 15, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Sure you can smoke it, but like Beth said, why?? We were just being silly and made a giant "joint" out of the first thing in the kitchen spice rack that we figured wouldn't kill us (dried parsley...the fresh stuff doesn't burn well ;-).

Beth, that's pretty much it...the whole wild side. What happens at the moat, stays in the moat. ;-) And I don't drink tequila anymore, so that pretty much rules out riding my bicycle down the stairs. ;-)

At 3:51 PM, July 15, 2006, Anonymous Brian said...

Hooray, stick shifts!

The gold standard of learning-to-drive. One of my first trips was to drop my father off at O'Hare in a stick shift. I was so proud to make it home undamaged and un-stalled!


At 4:43 PM, July 15, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

One of your first trips? That was brave! I had to learn on a stick shift also and had to take my first (yes first, there were more, for reasons we don't need to discuss ;-) driver's license test in a manual transmission VW bus (BUS!). And I stalled, and I damaged. But now, I much prefer a stick shift, so it's like second nature.

Yes, parsley. Will you people please stop asking me this?! It was stupid, okay? 8-}

I think my next post may just be a list of all the Stupid Things I Have Done in My Life so we can get this over with. ;-)

At 11:13 AM, July 17, 2006, Blogger beth said...

Ooh, see, all that stupid things you've done is a great, and very blogworthy I might add, topic. :)

At 4:16 PM, July 17, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Beth, if only it were so easy. I'm afraid the list might run on ad infinitum. ;-)


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