Thursday, March 12, 2009

My brushes with death – Part 1

They say that many of us have a near-death experience/incident most days of our lives. We don’t see them all the time, but they happen all the same. That speeding car that just misses you as you cross the road is easy to spot. It would have hit you if you tripped while running across in front of it. The car that pulls out in front of you, but you are far enough back to avoid or brake. What if you had not slowed momentarily half a mile ago, you would have been straight into it. The falling slate in a storm, the items dropped from scaffolding on a building site (come back the building boom!). If we stopped to analyse each situation, we would see how tenuous our existence on this planet actually is...we would also get nothing done and probably go insane.
Our business has us out and about a lot. To me, this is better than being chained to a desk all day. We do however get into more potentially dangerous situations.
We put up a lot of mileage, with a high proportion on smaller roads and are sometimes under pressure to make appointments.
We visit building sites regularly.
We make arrangements to meet total strangers with nothing more than a contact mobile.
We visit homes where there are dogs (and on one occasion, snakes, but that’s for another day!).
We walk farms where we come into contact with cattle and other farm animals.
We visit vacant homes.
The last one may not seem so threatening, but on one occasion, in the 1980’s, I was doing a valuation for the County Council on an abandoned house on College Avenue. I had a key to the boarded-up house and entered it around 11am. This is a built-up area and I did not feel unsafe. As I peered around in the dark, trying to make use of the limited light that came through the boarded windows, I saw what looked like a dead body on the floor. I squinted more and as my eyes adjusted, I saw a man lying on his side, fully-dressed, with bloodstains on the floor, under his head.
This was pre-CSI days and I had recently done a CPR course, so I went closer to see if he was really dead. As I leaned down to see if he was breathing, he sat up, grabbed me and asked why I had hit him. He had a bad cut on his head and there was broken glass all round. Mindful of the fact that there was a broken bottle nearby, I assured him that I had not hit him, that whoever did was long gone and asked why someone in a suit and tie would attack him!
This last point seemed to sink in. He asked me what the f... I was doing there. I told him I was valuing it for the council. He stood up, brushed off his clothes, cursed the council, pushed open the back door (which was unlocked), shouted “See ya ‘round” and staggered off, dazzled by the sunshine.
Shock was starting to make my hands shake, so I made my exit by the front door without seeing the rest of the house. I told the council to get someone to secure it properly and when they were there I went up again to value it.
In those days in provincial Ireland, drink was the drug of choice. Today unfortunately, the substances abused are very different. Instead of being hung-over, my nearly assailant might have been well-pumped and the outcome much worse for me than a fright and a funny memory.

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