Watch the Chickens

by P. Cesar De Los Santos | 10/26/00 5:00am

I've once heard of a corner on a road which there were continual fatalities. Drivers, despite warning signs, would speed around this corner and be killed. Finally, one of the local councilmen had a bright idea. He suggested putting chickens on the side of the road. They did, and fatalities dropped dramatically; the drivers slowed down for the sake of the chickens!

It would seem that the speedsters saw the danger of speed for chickens, but not for themselves. Why? Because inherent within each of us is this senseless idea that "It will never happen to me." It's always the other guy who gets cancer. I guarantee that every single person who died before us had the "I never thought it would happen to me!" attitude. A friend once refused to put on a car seat belt, saying, "I'm not planning to have an accident." I told him that was the dumbest statement I'd heard in my life. There has never been a "planned" accident. If it is an accident, it is not planned; and if it's planned, it's not an accident. The dictionary says an accident is "Anything occurring unexpectedly."

Sadly that's the way death and other tragedies come to most of us. If you think certain things can't happen to you, chances are that it has happened to me. For instance, these are just some of the things that have happened to me just during the past few years so you would get a better idea of what I am talking about:

1990 -- Near Death Experience: I was almost electrocuted when I accidentally came in contact with some loose wires from a massive industrial freezer. My uncle got me loose just in the nick of time.

1991 -- Fall from a 20 foot tree: It was such an awful fall that my front lower teeth just went through the area just below my lower lips, causing a tremendous laceration and a pool of blood. Six stitches.

1992 -- Dog bite: I was bitten by a dog with rabies while playing hide and seek and then got cold medicine shots on my back for a period of two weeks.

1993 -- Cut with knife while doing dishes: The knife was so sharp that it just went through the sponge that I was cleaning it with and almost cut off my right index finger. Needless to say that it was very bloody. Four stitches.

1994 -- Fall from a 30 foot tree: I was playing hide and seek at night and thought that climbing a tall tree was a good idea until the branch that I was holding to broke. Twelve stitches for a laceration on my left elbow.

1995 -- Car accident: A speeding car hit me as I was going home from school. (Thanks to God and all the milk I used to drink I had no broken bones, but it was still a painful experience.) That same year I also lost my wallet with all my personal documents.

1996 -- Broken bone: I broke the right tarsus (ankle) bone while playing basketball. I had three casts (thanks also to a bad prognosis from a doctor) over a period of two and a half months and had to stay at home for most of the time. And once again, I lost my wallet with all my Ids and other personal documents.

1997 -- Neighborhood raid: Agents from the FBI, DEA, and other federal agencies raid my (next-door) neighbor residence in the early morning hours. To my complete surprise, my dear neighbor was one of the most wanted men in America and his friend, Francisco Medina, who once visited my house, was on the FBI's most wanted list and even appeared on America's Most Wanted.

1998 -- Another neighbor featured at 1 a.m. last Monday in a program about domestic violence on the Discovery Channel beat up her boyfriend with a bottle.

1999 -- Butt injury: I had just woken up from a nap and decided to wash my face in the lavatory when the American Airlines plane suddenly descended a few thousand feet without prior warning -- sending me flying from one side of the plane to the other. Later on, it went through a lot of turbulence. I also lost my wallet twice that same year. (Since then, I haven't had a wallet for fear I may lose it again.)

2000 -- Elevator problem: I found myself stuck in Elevator No. 395 (one of two small elevators that look like coffins in Baker Stacks), not once but twice (10/1, 9:11 p.m. to 9:26 p.m. and 10/10, 5:12 p.m. to 5:24 p.m.). The minute that elevator stopped on those two occasions my whole life flashed before me, I panicked a little bit, but then I came back to my senses, followed the emergency instructions posted in the elevator, and managed to get out alive with the help of Woody & Tiger (from the Facilities Operations and Management).

So, what is the lesson of this column? Well, simply put, beware of the "It can't happen to me" attitude because doctors will fail you, pilots will fail you, friends you trust will disappoint you, and elevators (especially No. 395 in the Baker Stacks which is at least 33 years old) WILL LET YOU DOWN. The leading actor of a popular TV series put it this way, "Death is a guarantee from the day we are born. But I guess we don't think about it because we think it will never happen (to us)." How right he was.