Friday, March 20, 2009


The funny thing is that I can hardly remember the year much less the exact date--of my death. I'm sure many people, like me, have had a close call or two. Had only one thing been different I would not be alive today to tell the tale.

My death day was a pleasant, UAE late summer's day, in September or October of 2002. There was little out of the ordinary. I was riding along on my bicycle, as I had often done on daily commutes and trips around Abu Dhabi to wherever I needed to go.

On this morning I was out on an errand at the military base where I worked. There was little traffic to speak of, especially on this off day. Riding my bicycle, I had decided to cross from one side of the road to the other, while at the same time an SUV was approaching from behind.

I judged the speed of the car and its distance away to be safe enough to cross, but the driver, it would seem, had decided to rev up and zoom past me. Midway across the road I heard the car's engine and before I could turn back to see it, I was in the air and soon thereafter on my back.

There was the sound of the collision and the warmth of hot pavement as I lay on my back in the middle of the road. That, as it were, was my death. It was quick and painless.

Of course, I didn't die--I'm here to tell the story. What saved me quite simply was my bicycle helmet. Although unknown to me at the time, my head had hit the pavement before I landed on my back. This was reported by a witness and evident in the crack on my helmet.

As far as I was concerned I was in the air then on my back. In reality, I had experienced a collision between my head and the concrete road!

The helmet lesson is less mine to learn than for others who read this story. I had always worn a helmet, perhaps 98% of the time that I was on the bicycle. The lesson for me, however, as I ponder this instance is to not take life for granted.

I don't mean this so much in the sense of the cliché to smell the roses. What I mean is that we ought to be more aware of the second and third chances we get in life.

We easily forget what are even quite pivotal events in our lives. That cycle accident was a pivotal moment for me, but I can't even remember now the exact date. The passage of time of course, causes things to fade from memory.

After the accident, I was in hospital for a week with a minor back injury. Then I had to pay the driver 2500 dirham for damaging his car! (I'm reminded now of my distrust of the UAE legal system and resentment toward the driver and his ilk!) In time I returned to work and resumed life as normal.

The second chance the helmet had given me quickly receded from memory. Since then there have even been more pivotal moments but these too have quickly faded from view.

Perhaps we should pay tribute to these pivotal moments--enshrine the date in a plaque and hang it on the wall--to be reminded that we got that second, third, fourth... chance to experience more of life.

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