03 July 2015

July '85: When Tina Turner sang me through the gates of Heaven

Yes, I did think it was a sports car. 
The summer of 1985 found me preparing to embark on my LDS mission. I'd completed a year and half of study at the BYU and I was home for a couple of months, earning some mission cash. I was working again (I'd worked there during high school but I was no longer required to where the 'elf' outfit - let's not speak of it again) in a Scandinavian imports store in what was then Snottsdale Scottsdale's answer to Rodeo Drive (if Rodeo Drive were populated by Gilbert Ortega Indian jewelry outlets). I'd roll in to work on those summer mornings in my super sweet Honda Civic 1300FE, with the sounds of the B52s blaring from the cassette deck. If you're wondering what the "FE' stood for, it was not 'Ferrari Engineered. It was, wait for it, Fuel Economy. My teenage delusions led me to believe I was driving the coolest sports car ever. These were the same delusions that led me to a most unfortunate "Urban Cowboy" phase earlier in the 80's. You would have thought I would have learned a thing about delusions from that hideousness alone, but I did not.

While the B52s were my morning jam, my musical accompaniment on the way home was usually Tina Turner and her career restoring album, "Private Dancer." Even then, I was wickedly susceptible to ear worms and in the summer of '85, there was no escaping Tina. So on a hot July afternoon thirty years ago, I was on my way home from work, listening to Tina, with my open can of Pepsi (I know, I know, Pepsi. I was 18. Chalk it up to teenage foolishness) ensconced between my legs. That was what we called a cup holder in those days. Cars did not come with the pre-requisite 79 cup holders like they do today. We had to improvise.

As I was heading northbound towards an intersection, listening to Tina demand "Let's stay together," I noticed that the car heading westbound was going to blow through the stop sign that only the east and west bound drivers had. At that moment, everything slipped into that slow motion, suspended animation that any of you who have been in a car accident may recognize. Within seconds, this little Fiat convertible T-boned me in the passenger side of my car and sent my Civic spinning into the yard of one of the houses lining the street.

The force of the accident slammed me into my door, knocking me unconscious and causing some other fun, albeit minor injuries. Of course, I didn't know that. The force of the accident also slammed my legs together, causing the open can of Pepsi to explode like a volcano, covering me in its carbonated goo. As I began to come out of the blur, I couldn't, or wouldn't, open my eyes. I felt like I was covered head to toe in something wet (the aforementioned Pepsi) and all I could hear was the raspy voice of Tina Turner imploring that we stay together. It struck me as odd that she just kept saying, 'Let's stay together.' I thought because I couldn't open my eyes and wasn't feeling anything that I was dead and that Tina was the lead 'Welcome' songstress. This was an answer to prayers because I was really hoping that the chorus of heavenly angels would be a little more peppy than the Mo'Tab. I, at that point, was delighted with how things were turning out for a dead guy. I mean Tina Turner leading an angelic choir. I'd had a pretty awesome life up to that point. So if was the way I was going out, it was time to just wait for my name to be called or for someone to say, 'Go towards the light.'

And then, the pain kicked in and my eyes sprung open. I could no longer hear Tina. I heard sirens. I was not dead. Dang it. What followed was a delightful chat with the police and paramedics, including my refusal to be treated on scene because 18 year olds are invincible. I wasn't invincible as my visit to our family physician proved the following day. I was wrecked but I was in far better shape than my totaled car. For the car, it was fatal, but for Tina, not so much. I managed to pry the cassette out of the tape deck because priorities.

As the car was towed away a couple of days later to be parted out, a part of my youth went with it. It was time for me to grow up. I was leaving for a two year mission in what was then a matter of days. I had no idea what was ahead of me. The growth. The challenges. The tests. The joy.

I hear the first few notes of "Let's Stay Together" today and it's July 1985 all over again. It was the summer I straddled the line of adulthood with marginal success. It really did kick off my trip into adulthood. Thirty years later, I'm appreciative of the lessons of that summer.

And I'm still hoping that when it is my time, Tina is there to sing me in.

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