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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Day I Almost Died (of both mortal peril and humiliation)

I almost died in a freak accident once. Seriously. And it was VERY freaky, let me tell you. The funny thing about it, is that besides being a near-death experience, it also falls into the "most humiliating" category as well - which is close to, but not exactly the same as the "most embarrassing" category.

It happened back when I was a young, know-nothing newlywed. We moved into the second story of an old Victorian home/turned apartment building. Ironically, although I was over three hundred miles from where I grew up, there was someone previously from my home ward (church) living on the same block. We'll call him "Raul". Raul was from another country, and had a strong accent. He'd also left his family to live an "alternative lifestyle" and was living with his significant other, working as an artist of fine (and VERY strange) paintings in a similar Victorian three houses down, on the other side of the street. We didn't talk much, but I often saw him trotting around in his cut-off jeans and clogs. Typically with two different, multi-colored socks. He was a character, but an extremely nice person.

One day, I came home in the middle of the afternoon to find I didn't have my house keys. Normally, the outside door was locked, but by some stroke of luck someone had left it open. I went inside even though I didn't have my apartment key, and decided I'd just hang out till Rusty came home.

But then I went upstairs. As I went to sit on the window seat overlooking the veranda porch roof, I got an idea. That porch roof wrapped right around to our window! AND, our window was open because we had this big, old air conditioning unit my brother had loaned us sticking out of it. I could just walk around the roof to our window and be home-sweet-home.

Did I mention they'd been re-roofing the porch that week? Yep, it was a nice, shiny, blue metal roof I stepped out on in my flip flops and nylon shorts. As I made my way around, I noticed my flip flops didn't provide much traction, so I took them off. That was fine at first, but by the time I got to my window my feet were starting to sweat from the warmth of the roof. Sweaty feet + metal roofing = not-so-good. Just so you know. But I'd made it, and there was my window. All I had to do was open it up and climb inside. I was a genius.

So I grabbed onto the window and lifted it up. But there was a problem.

It seems the roofers had needed to take away the board supporting our air conditioning unit to put on the new roof, meaning the window was the only thing holding it in place. Meaning, as soon as I opened the window the huge, giant, so-heavy-my-very-buff-hubby-could-barely-move-it-alone, borrowed, air conditioning unit started to fall.

It was reflex. I obviously wasn't thinking. I reached down and grabbed a hold of the stupid thing. And then a strange and unusual phenomenon occurred. One moment I was standing behind the it, and the next moment my feet flew out from under me and I was lying underneath it holding it above my head with my palms up.

Did I mention how heavy it was?

And can I draw your attention back to the fact that I was lying on a hot metal roof in NYLON shorts? Oooo, how about the fact that directly beneath me was a flight of cement steps? Did I mention that?

And I was sliding. And not only would I land on those steps, but the huge, giant, oh-so-heavy, ac unit would land on top of me. I was going to die. (or be seriously maimed for life)

In my desperation, I happened to notice that the new roofing had left a small gap between the roof and the siding. In that gap there was a rusty old nail sticking up.

I hooked my big toe around it. (Thank heavens I'd taken my flip flops off, or I might not be here to tell you this hair-raising tale).

Momentarily I was saved, but the air conditioning unit was so heavy I knew I couldn't last too long. What to do? Try to move? Nope. Every time I shifted I started sliding again, and I knew that if I slid too far the angle would be wrong and the nail wouldn't stop me anymore. Wait for Rusty? Impossible. My arms were already shaking from the strain of the ac unit, and it would be at least an hour before he came home. I had only one option left.

I would have to yell for help.

Can I just say that this was one of the hardest things I have EVER done? I did not live in a nice neighborhood. I felt like an absolute fool, and I kept thinking of all those stories about city people who ignore cries for help. But I also knew I was about to die, so finally I started yelling.

The ridiculous sound of my voice screaming "HELLLLPPPPPPP" will forever remain in my memory. When I modified it to "I'M GOING TO DIE IF SOMEONE DOESN'T HELP ME" I knew I was truly desperate.

And then I remembered Raul. Who was always home. So I started screaming "RAUL!!! RAUL!!! IT'S JENNY VALENTINE! I'M STUCK ON THE ROOF! I'M GOING TO DIE! HELP ME PLEEEEEEASE!!!!!" (Isn't it nice that I had the chance to give my identity to the world in my moment of desperation/humiliation?)

Within moments I heard the most beautiful sound in the world. It was Raul's clogs clomping down the street as he yelled in his weird accent, "Jenny?! Jenny Vahlenteen? Wehr ah yooo? It's Raul! I'm cooming, I'm cooming!"

To this day, I have never experienced relief like I felt at that moment. It sometimes makes me emotional when I think of how lucky/blessed I was that Raul lived down the street. Within moments he (and an entire entourage of other interesting individuals who lived in his house) were with in sight, running down the street. Someone grabbed a ladder from somewhere, while I yelled instructions to Raul on how to get to me. In no time at all he was out there on the roof (barefoot) hefting the ac unit while some stranger on a ladder made sure I didn't fall as I stood up. It was a beautiful thing.

I don't know if anyone can really appreciate what this experience was like for me, but it really gave me some perspective. Sometimes we do dumb things. The Lord can't stop us from doing them, but he can send his angels to help us make it through by prompting us to do things like take off our flip flops, providing old rusty nails, and old friends.

And I would also like to say that I'm really happy to be here, because seriously - I almost died that day.

42 comments:

Alison Wonderland said...

That's a fantastic story. It remminds me a little of a friend of mine who went to a movie alone and started choking on his popcorn and spent a minute debating in his mind whether to embarrass himself by getting someone to give him the Heimlich or just to die. But when it came right down to it I'm pretty sure he would have called Raul. (He managed to cough it up on his own.)

LisAway said...

PHEW! Sheesh. I'm only just now starting to breathe again. Oh man. Really, if Raul hadn't lived there and you hadn't thought to call his name, and shout out yours. . . Oh man. I'm so glad you lived to tell the tale.

I have a sort of similar story I'll have to tell some day on my blog. Not quite so interesting as yours but I probably would have died.

Stephanie said...

That was a good story Jen. Nice to read on your blog after my Christmas hiatus. :)

Amy said...

Okay, here's the thing. I am laughing my pants off in my office right now! I really loved the part where Raul yelled your name with his accent.
I'm snorting and cracking up over this one.
Hope you don't mind if I link to this one from my blog, but the world must hear this story!!!

RazZDoodle said...

that. was. hilarious!

Kelly said...

Geez louise...I had forgotten that story. It gives me the chills to hear it again. Did Rusty actually EVER get that he came once AC close to being a widower? Thanks be to 'Raul.'

And you are now a celebrity in my eyes if Amy Lawson reads you, comments, and LINKS! Wow, I am glad I know you! :)

Sue Q said...

Well. Yours was a life worth saving. And the Lord certainly works in mysterious ways. I'm sure Raul answered your prayers as well as your shouts!

Amy said...

Who's Kelly? Because I love her.

Jen said...

Thank you for this laugh. And for not dying so you could have an awesome blog with periodical limericks.

Annie Valentine said...

Wow! I've never heard that story...except at EVERY CHRISTMAS PARTY AND BIRTHDAY AND BAPTISM OUR FAMILY HAS EVER HAD SINCE THAT DAY.

Still, I'm usually glad we didn't lose you.

Machen family said...

I'm so in love with Raul and his friends right now! I was afraid this story would have an unhappy ending, but you made it through!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Wow. And sometimes our angels don't have quite the wings and wonder we might expect, huh?

Machen family said...

OK I can't get your funny story out of my head! I'm imagining Raul as an exotic Richard Simmons... thank you for sharing your story. Gracias Raul for saving our little Jen.

Claire said...

How do I order myself one of these Raul's of which you speak? I could use one, cos i'm always getting myself in to a pickle.

Beeswax said...

I'm so glad you named him Raul.

Wehr ah yooo? Hee hee.

You are a funny lady.

Barbaloot said...

I laughed for a minute, then remembered you almost died and it got less funny.
But only for a minute cuz I like how Raul talks.
Oh-and I'm glad you're alive. And that you now know I'm not a middle-aged grandma:)

Jen said...

Wow - this is my first time checking in (BECAUSE I CAN'T BLOG AT WORK!!!) and I just found out some really awesome people read (or have just read) my blog!

Amy - Yeah, I totally hate to be linked, because who wants blog-attention, but what the heck - LINK AWAY BABY!! (And Kelly has unfortunately privatized, but she deserves the love).

And everyone else - I'm glad 'Raul' is finally getting his props. He totally deserves it. (And thanks for saying nice things like "glad you didn't die." That really makes my day :)

Bevy said...

So FUNNY! Now you know that there's a scripture that says: I have put a nail in a sure place. It's in Jeremiah or something like that - look it up at blueletterbible.org. ;) Anyway, I'm thinking that SAVED you. Whenever I think of doing what you did I usually ask the Lord IF I'm being presumptuous ... He then tells me whether it's okay or not. :) So far so good!
Thank God for Raul.
Now I shared this with the two ladies here and they thot it was very exciting a true roof hanger and they were on the edge of their seats to find out IF you were saved from disaster! :)
It was funny reading outloud your call for HELP to Raul and his response was wonnerful.
Thanks for sharing ... :)

R Max said...

You can REALLY tell a good story, REALLY.

I am so glad you are alive... and blogging.

Nothing like a near-death experience to get you talking to your neighbours.

Kpetes-draggin said...

Jen, that was a hair raising story and unlike Anne, I haven't heard it before, I must miss all the family parties or something. Anyway, it is amazing the way the Lord protects us from our own self and danger-be it physical or spiritual or whatever else we get into. Mom just told me the funny story about Conan, Mira at Natalies today and the toilet. You might want to write about that one. K

vkrem1dm said...

Yeah for Raul!

What ever happened to him? I'd keep a great guy like that in my neighborhood!

Jen said...

Kerry - that's because Annie's comment was a gross exaggeration. Surprisingly.

lifeinthehighlands.com said...

What doesn't kill us makes a great story. I'm just glad it had a happy ending.

lifeinthehighlands.com said...

And since really awesome people read your blog, does that make people who read your blog really awesome?

Beth said...

It's the visual for me, and the sound of the clogs, oh, the clogs.
clip clop, clip clop.

Kristin said...

Is that why you settled in these parts, so you wouldn't have to have a giant air conditioner? Do you now have a phobia of large appliances? Ever worry about the fridge toppling over on you as you yank out the bag of frozen peas? I'm wondering what the psychological implications of this event are? Maybe in your dreams you have a knight of shining clogs?

Jen said...

Highlands - yes. If you read here you are automatically awesome.
(But if you don't comment, no one will know...)

Kristin - you are a funny, funny girl.

Melissa Bastow said...

I'm not laughing at your near death experience....really.....OK YES, I'M LAUGHING (outloud even.) And I am never going to be able to hear the word "clogs" again without thinking of a gay Raul running to your rescue in cut off shorts. The mental image is just too good.

April said...

OMGosh!!! That would totally happen to me! I'm glad you had a "Raul" there to help you!

BTW it's nice to meet you!

Kelly said...

Jen, not private anymore since no one was getting my new posts updates. That's lame. So free as a bird!

Nutty Hamster Chick said...

Glad you made it, and once heard that tragedy plus time equals humor. I think that is true in this case. And sorry I am so late commenting, the men at my house have been hogging the computers. How rude.

Jen said...

April - nice to meet you too!

Pat - That is rude. And actually, I think I was laughing about this one by the time my husband got home. I have a warped sense of humor like that.

Veronica Reeve said...

Jen, Oh my goodness. This story has Hollywood potential. If it doesn't get picked up as a made-for-tv movie I would be surprised. This is the best/saddest story ever!!I'm so glad it turned out the way it did, but, I have to know, how was your relationship with Raul post life-saving?

T said...

angels wear two different color socks sometimes... who knew?

Jen said...

Veronica - we never did travel in the same social circle, however I probably thanked him at least ten times every time we met.

T - His favorite color combo was pink and turquiose. So cute.

Natalie said...

I'm the 36th commenter?!

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

WOW.. that is so scary...really! I can't imagine holding ANYTHING with just my BIG toe!

honestly...

I'm so glad you're okay so that I could be in a funny/scary writing competition and get to know you!

Thanks RAUL...and your clogs, and your crazy accent too!

Kimberly said...

Oh wow...I can just imagine how terrifying that must have been!

chirunner said...

I found your story from Amy's blog. All I have to ask is are all you Mormon women so darn funny? I may have to convert.

Grandma said...

That was the funniest story I ever read. I also had a vision of Richard Simmons as Raul.

megandjon said...

i'm a little daunted by how many comments are already left on here! but i will post one and say--holy cow! what a story! thanks for sharing it, despite your embarrassment. it just made me day!

Tiffany said...

I could picture every single part of it and was terrified for your life.