One of the burdens of growing old is that I’m not bouncing back from rally crashes like I used to.
As a younger man I would clamber from the smoking wreck, sympathetically pat my driver on the shoulder, then inform them I’d be off navigating for their rivals (“but do give me a call when the damage is fixed”).
Unfortunately these days I’m more likely to emerge clutching whatever hurts the most, blame everyone in the vicinity for my woes, and flinch at loud noises for weeks afterward.
My latest crash is a case in point.
I was contesting the International Rally of Whangarei with an old mate, Chris ‘Rambo’ Ramsay. His take-no-prisoners driving style has suited us well in the past but it had been thirty years since we’d competed together so I expected less flamboyance and a little more circumspection.
We ran into brake problems early on and a roadside examination showed a loose hose had bled all our brake fluid. Rambo temporarily solved the issue but was obliged to fill the brake lines with energy drink in the absence of the correct fluids. It never occurred to me that Powerade is designed to keep you going, rather than slowing you down.
We charged into the next stage and promptly didn’t make it around the first corner. The poor Corolla ploughed straight into a bank and its occupants were subjected to a 14G impact. Note – this does not mean that the damage cost 14 grand to repair. It means the jolt was akin to having 14 gorillas jumping up & down on your chest then attempting to mate with you.
Chris jumped out to inspect the damage then ran back down the road brandishing our warning triangle. He’d had the sense to go limp in his seat and let the safety harness do its work (he is, after all, an experienced crasher). I’d however foolishly braced myself against the footplate and the shock passed through my legs and gave my lower back a tweak.
I eased myself from the stricken Toyota, wincing with each movement. There appeared to be no serious injury but I suspected my pole-vaulting career was at an end. Smelling petrol in the air, I pulled the electrical kill switch out to reduce the chance of fire and sat down on the grass to recuperate.
I felt a hot shower and a topless masseuse would probably fix my aches but the attendant medics felt a precautionary check-up at Whangarei Base hospital was called for. A helicopter alighted in a neighbouring paddock and it wasn’t until we were in the air that I realised the pain in my buttock was due to the plastic switch in my pocket. I plucked out the offending item but was appalled to watch it tumble from my hand and out the open window.
Oh well, never mind.
They ran me through a battery of tests and agreed I was only bruised, not broken. But shuffling back out through the emergency waiting room I was surprised to find Rambo sitting there next to an old bloke in a pair of gumboots.
“You didn’t have to come to pick me up.”
“I haven’t,” he answered. “After the field passed through we tried to load the Corolla onto a trailer but couldn’t drive it on as the kill switch was missing.”
I feigned surprise.
“The winch handle kicked back and I may have broken my wrist.” He held up his damaged paw and I agreed it did look swollen.
He headed off with the x-ray attendant and I settled down to await his return. To pass the time, I struck up a conversation with the farmer with his head swathed in bandages.
“What happened to you, mate?”
“Well, I was working on a cattle trough when I heard this chopper fly past. I looked up and a piece must’ve broken off because something hit me.”
He peeled back the bloodied gauze to show me a red plastic switch protruding through his scalp.
“You should get that looked at,” I agreed.