Emergency on 200 North!
No one could miss the wails of the town’s shiny new ambulance, but on that terrifying day I heard the call of a different siren.
I was eight years old when I had my first brush with fame. Actually, it was more of a collision, and it taught me some valuable lessons that I’ve never forgotten.
It was July of 1976, which meant my ninth birthday was only a month away. My family lived in Bountiful, Utah, a bustling town not far north of Salt Lake City, on a street evocatively named 200 North. My Cub Scout den had just finished rehearsing the flag ceremony we were due to perform at a big pack meeting later that week. Five or six of us piled into our den mother’s station wagon outside the big white church in the heart of our neighborhood. It was the middle of a bright day. My house was only a few blocks away, Mrs. Benard insisted in seeing us all safely home.
We chattered noisily on the short ride. I was the first stop. Mrs. Benard pulled over to the curb across the street from my house, in the middle of the block. I got out on the passenger side, then edged out in front of the car to try to see around it before crossing.
Apparently I didn’t look hard enough, because the moment I stepped past the station wagon into the street there came a big roar and a screech of brakes. The world went upside-down crazy. I flew through the air, bounced on metal, tumbled around, and slammed against pavement, though I couldn’t have put those sensations in any kind of chronological order.
Mrs. Benard ran to me, ashen-faced, as did the woman driving the car that had just hit me. My mother, having heard the collision, hurried out of the house. The three women helped me to the front lawn and laid me down, fussing and fawning all the while. I was stunned but did not appear to be seriously injured. I was sore all over, especially my knees, and one of my sneakers bore a mysterious tire print, but that was about it.
Mrs. Benard went inside to call an ambulance, just to be safe, while the distraught driver inspected her car. It was a new Lincoln Continental, and it had taken more damage than I had. The hood was dented pretty good, the antenna was bent ninety degrees, and the windshield was spiderwebbed with…