I ran this photo back in May with some basketball tournament photos, so I hope that either everybody is so hung over they won’t bother to read the page on New Year’s Day or that they have gotten to the age where their short-term memory has gone blank.The Happy New Year sign was on our living room window.
I never was fond on New Year’s Eve
I don’t have a lot of fond memories of New Year’s Eve. I never cared much for parties and particularly didn’t like to be out on “amateur night,” when the streets had drunk drivers roaming around. One night in particular, and I remember it as New Year’s Eve, but I can’t swear to it, I was on my way home when I rolled up on a fresh wreck. Car vs. utility pole with the vehicle on its side and the wires sparking all over the place.
STAY IN THE CAR
Somehow or another, I managed to convince the people in the car to STAY THERE. As long as the car isn’t on fire or about to explode, you’re a lot safer inside. The metal body works like a Faraday Cage, with the electrical charge riding the surface of the vehicle. If the occupant gets out and gives the power a chance to use his body as a path to ground, things get ugly. If you can’t jump completely clear of the vehicle, then you are better off waiting until the power is cut off.
I don’t know if I had to load my camera in the dark and in the excitement, but I didn’t get the end of the roll of film engaged in the takeup spool and it slipped off when I hit the advance lever. I was clicking away like mad, but there was no film being pulled through to be exposed. After the power had been shut off and the victims transported, I left. I’m not sure how long it was before I checked the camera and discovered my mistake, but by the time I got back, all I was able to shoot was a mugshot of a car with a power pole on top of it.
I never loaded a camera again without reaching for the rewind knob and making sure there was resistance, indicating that the end of the film was firmly on the takeup spool.
Let’s put another myth of rest: your rubber tires won’t keep you safe. I worked a cherrypicker that tangled with a power line. The voltage was high enough that the charge arched from the steel rims of the huge truck tires to ground, melting the rubber. One of the workers had the good sense to stay on the truck. The other panicked and tried to get down. He evidently had one hand on the truck when his feet hit the ground because all that electricity found him a more convenient path than having to arc through the air. THAT was an object lesson you don’t forget.
We had an elderly woman, Helen, living across the street from us who enjoyed Southern Comfort and shrimp cocktail. We invited her over to ring in the New Year with us. I had just poured the first drink and reached for the first shrimp when I got a call from the office: a rare winter tornado had swept though an RV park on an island in Lake Okeechobee near Belle Glade. There were reports of injuries and power lines down. It was late, but could I get somebody out there and back in time to make deadline?
I knew where the park was and I knew I was sober, so I saddled up and drove 50 miles through driving rain, dodged arcing power lines, shot off enough frames to show that SOMETHING had happened and jetted back. I made deadline with some not-so-memorable photos, but sometimes that’s all you can hope for.
So, I am going to be as happy to be sitting here at home on New Year’s Eve, hoping all that ammo our neighbors are shooting up into the sky will come down on them and not rain down on our house.