In my senior year of high school, our marching band had a party at one member's house after scoring well in a competition (Cedar Springs' Red Flannel Days, for those of you keeping score at home). As the night went on and the people got more and more drunk, someone got the bright idea of playing Chicken on the road in front of the house. Four or five people would lay down in the road and wait for an oncoming car. The last person to get up and run away won.

I was watching this, judging how long you could safely wait on the road by watching the headlights against the guard rail on the opposite side. After a few minutes of this, I was ready to try. I got out there with a group and laid down so I could see the guard rail. Eventually, a car came and everybody ran off way early except me and one other guy. Then the lights hit my 'go spot,' and I got up and bustered across the road at top speed. I got to the guard rail going way too fast to stop before I hit it.

I'd never been to this person's house before, not even in broad daylight. I had no idea whatsoever what lay beyond that guardrail. I understand now, with 20-20 hindsight, that slamming into the guardrail and hanging on for dear life would have been the smart play--I hear the new artifical kneecaps are almost indistinguishable from factory equipment.

So, naturally, I hurdled it.

In the dim light of the crescent moon, I could see the top of the guard rail as I passed over it. Then the top of the embankment as I passed over it. Then nothing. I had about three hours to ponder my fate before I hit the ground. All I could think of was that scene in "The Green Berets" where Petersen steps in a snare and gets impaled on a wall of bamboo stakes. I landed in some brush maybe ten feet down the embankment, hard enough to knock the wind out of me, but thankfully nothing that would leave a mark that I'd have to explain to my parents. I stood up and considered my good fortune for a moment when I heard SNAP CRACKLE SLAM CRASH. I hit the ground again just in time to avoid getting clobbered by the other guy who'd waited about two seconds longer and jumped about ten feet farther. I climbed back up the embankment and spent the rest of the party picking twigs and stickers off myself.

The punch line to all this? I was completely, utterly, stone-cold sober at the time.

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