Sadly, I’m a superstitious person. I feel compelled to throw salt over my left shoulder every time I use it. I never light three candles in a row. I avoid placing my wife’s purse on the ground. I never place hats on beds. I open car doors with my left hand. No, none of it makes any sense but that’s just the way I am.
I can’t really say why I open cars with my left hand, I just do. I think it’s because subconsciously it’s a way to show the vehicle respect. My left hand is weaker. I don’t so much as grab the handle as I do gently introduce myself. I’m counting on this vehicle to transport me, safely I hope. Of course, I’ve had a few cars I’d open with only my feet. Just kick the handle. Obviously, I never expected much from them and yet they never tried to kill me.
So it’s a little before 9am. I’m heading to the office, loaded down with a 40-lb camera bag and gigantic Gitzo tripod. The sky looks nasty, a sort of yellow-green I remember from growing up in Wheaton, Illinois. Weather like this typically means a strong storm cell is coming. What’s weird is that there’s no wind or humidity, no blast of cool air from the approaching front.
I hear a few cracks of thunder in the distance. This is very unusual for September in SoCal. It’s getting closer, much closer. It sounds like a giant is running full speed towards my house, each step more deafening than the last.
Ok, enough of this bullshit. Time to get in the car. I park next to a big palm tree and sometimes use it to hang stuff as I load the car. Although bird poop used to be a problem, a few clips of Airsoft BBs has long since cleared the upper fronds of the feathered offenders. Still, no one parks there but me.
Like always, I reach for the car’s handle with my left hand (plus, my right is full of camera gear). Our long-term BMW 550 GT has a keyless entry systemsimply touching the car with the key in your pocket will unlock the doors. All the hair on my arm is standing straight up, sorta like rubbing a balloon on your head and the subsequent static charge that ensues. That’s weird.
I can’t recall the next several seconds except for the sensation of flying through the air and looking up at my palm tree, exploding. I’m flat on my back as this unfolds. How the hell did I get here? I roll out of the smoking bushes and watch the tree go up in flames. The entire thing is on fire, all 80 feet of it.
My son runs out and starts screaming. I cannot hear him nor can I remember his name. I know who he is, when and where he was born, what his favorite food is and the first girl he kissed. His name however, is not in my directory.
I was struck by lightning.
I watch things unfold like a video with no sound. Neighbors scurry around with hoses, burning palm fronds floating about, the smell of ozone, news crews shoving cameras in my face. My left hand has been lightly scorched, like a powder burn. It smells like burned hair.
I was struck by lightning.
Although some might think I was unlucky, I think it’s the other way around. Had I opened the door with my right hand, that big metal tripod might have served to amplify the charge, bisecting my torso like an electrode. Or what if I had a big, metallic keychain in hand? I bet that would have stung.
The after effects of this ordeal have been amusing. I seem to have misplaced words for common objects (my son being one of them). I could not find the word for fork, baseball, bullet nor the name of the BMW I was driving. I know what these things are, I simply forgot their names.
For a while I was referring to the 550 GT as C-17. Like the aircraft, the 550 can carry a big load of cargo and has a big rear hatch. No, it can’t fly but it is pretty damn fast.