By Dom Cioffi
Some memories are burned so completely into your psyche that any recall of them immediately conjures up exact nuances of the moment they occurred.
Many times this is because the particular memory was accompanied by an intense injection of adrenaline at the moment it occurred.
That was certainly the case for me many years ago when I was sitting at home one morning watching my father shave.
We were having a casual father/son conversation when the phone suddenly rang. My father assumed it was his office calling so he instructed me to say that he had already left.
When I picked up the phone, an odd adult voice asked to speak with my father. When I relayed that he had already left for work, the man on the phone informed me that he needed to talk to him urgently because my mother had been in an accident and was being transported to the hospital.
I distinctly remember where I was standing when those words vibrated through the phone and into my ear.
Panic naturally ensued as I told the man to hold on. I then scurried into the bathroom to relay the message to my father. He ran to the phone, had a brief conversation and then frantically told me to get dressed.
The next thing I remember was standing at the entrance to the local hospital’s emergency room as a gurney flashed by that had my mother strapped to it, complete with IV fluids and concerned paramedics.
One of the medics approached my father to explain that my mother had been t-boned by another vehicle while pulling onto the highway. Her car was totaled and she was badly bruised, but she would not suffer any lasting injuries.
For weeks afterward she was in obvious physical pain (being rammed by another automobile at high speed can be jarring to the human body). But the pain no one could see was the lingering fear that she harbored when it came to driving again.
It took some time and a lot of anxiety, but eventually she regained her confidence behind the wheel.
Now, I’m not sure that this incident genuinely had a lasting impact on me, but I have referenced it over the years as a possible reason why I have always been a focused driver. That is not to say that I’m overly cautious, but I do believe that I am hyper-aware of my surroundings when behind the wheel.
I’ve always felt that this point combined with an offensive driving approach is what has allowed me to travel virtually unscathed for over 30 years.
However, all that changed this past weekend while I was making a casual trip to grab some take-out sushi.
I had just picked up my order and was readying to pull out onto a busy street when a great song popped up on my car radio. The song was “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock – the one where he samples Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.”
The rap he lays over the dual melodies tells the story of a summer romance from years’ past. I was no more than three lines into the song when my brain started reminiscing about one of my own summer romances.
“Isn’t it funny how some songs speak to exact moments of your own life?” I thought to myself as I pulled out into traffic, smiling broadly over my recollection.
And then out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a fast-approaching car. I slammed on my brakes and skidded to a halt.
But it was too late.
While I sat stationary in the road, the other vehicle came screeching toward me with brakes engaged. Had there been another 5-feet of room, it would have only been a close call. But there wasn’t.
The small sedan’s front right bumper slammed into my truck’s left front bumper. Given that my trucks sits high off the ground, it only sustained minimal cosmetic damage. The sedan, however, ended up with a dented front quarter panel and several smashed lights.
After we exchanged information, I headed home, unscathed physically but oddly shaken up by the experience. In fact, I spent the next several hours experiencing fairly intense stomach cramps and unabated anxiety.
Eventually the feelings waned, but I did have a new appreciation for the mental anguish that people can experience when they’ve been involved in a bad accident.
This week’s feature, “Birdman,” starring Michael Keaton and Ed Norton, just happens to be a bad accident waiting to happen. Keaton portrays an aging movie star who invests his life’s savings into a Broadway play in hopes that it will revive his career. Unfortunately the project seems doomed from the start.
While this film may look subdued on the surface, I can assure you it is one of the most interesting and unique projects of the year. There are so many layers and so much to chew on that I spent days running the story through my head.
If you’re in the mood for a movie that is really different and that encompasses some of the year’s finest acting performances, definitely give this one a try. It is a true example of what great writing and great acting can produce.
A high-flying “A” for “Birdman.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]