Auto-Biography 16: Bad Vibrations

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

I was one with the universe. Everything around me was aglow in the summer sunlight, twinkling with a profound luster. I was floating serenely in my VW bug through the time space continuum. My consciousness was wide open. And then, in an instant, everything went black.

I was 22 and deep into Transcendental Meditation. I’d just spent three days meditating at a Cistercian Monastery near Dubuque, Iowa. Out there in the middle of the cornfields, behind the stone walls, I’d discovered a world of quiet, calm and peace. In other words, there wasn’t much to do but meditate. And the free food wasn’t bad either.

I decided to check out Eagle Point Park before heading back to Iowa City. I was cruising down a residential arterial street in my ’63 Beetle in an unfamiliar part of town, entranced by the play of the sunlight on the dappling leaves of the giant elms overhead.

The last thing, I remember was gliding into an intersection (was that a flash of red on my right?). I remember confronting the profile of a 1969 Ford station wagon dead ahead.

Everything had been so perfect; I couldn’t integrate this highly un-synchronous intrusion into the continuum of my bliss. I momentarily contemplated the possibility that my expansive self would just float through the apparition and re-assemble on the other side of the hulking Ford. Like the shutter of a camera, everything went black.

Some indeterminate amount of time later, the iris of the camera opened again, but only to a pin-point. What had been a seemingly infinite expansion of consciousness outward in every direction was now replaced by the most narrowly focused fragment of awareness I’d ever experienced.

I found myself sprawled on the pavement in the middle of the intersection. A voice screamed inside my head: “Get out of there!” In a rush of adrenaline, I somehow managed to crawl or slither to the nearest curb. I rolled onto my back in the soft grass.

The shutter iris opened slightly wider. Now my back screamed at me; it felt like Hank Aaron had mistaken my spine for a baseball. Another f-stop and I began a rudimentary self-diagnosis. I could see all my limbs. Surprisingly, there wasn’t any blood. But as I worked my way downwards, I realized I couldn’t move or feel my feet.

The idea of spending my life in a wheelchair pressed on my mind like a suffocating weight. I looked up and saw concerned faces staring down. I turned my throbbing head to look at the intersection. I saw the Ford with its crumpled front fender. My VW was nowhere in sight. Had it magically floated though the obstacle and left me behind to confront the Ford?

I remember telling the ambulance crew my concerns about my spine’s health. Once they scooped me up in the clam-shell board and loaded me inside the meat wagon, blackness reclaimed me.

I remember little of the hospital except the on-call radiologist’s annoyance at having his Sunday golf game interrupted. The next thing I (vaguely) knew, I was discharged. I was totally shocked and confused. I needed to stay! Where was my doctor father who always met me at the hospital after childhood accidents and made sure I got proper care?

Feeling had returned to my legs, but my brain was totally scrambled. I was not ready to get kicked out of the hospital.

A cop took me back to the station. I sat dazed in the lobby. I had no idea why I was in Dubuque or how I got there. Holding my aching head, I felt a big lump under my long hair.

I was living out a nightmare. Everything I looked at triggered an intense memory of a prior dream, provoking and endless flood of deja-vu. Or was I actually dreaming while being awake? I couldn’t tell. Acid was nothing compared to this bummer.

Eventually I remembered about the monastery and someone came for me. The monks put me straight to bed. After a couple hours of deep sleep and a plate of home-made cookies and milk, I at least partially returned to the world as I had remembered it.

I had missed the stop sign. It had been obscured by a parked truck and I was a bit spaced-out from my meditation marathon. When my bug slammed the Ford at a 60 degree angle, I ejected and struck my head on the way out. My back bounced off the wagon, leaving a tell-tale dent (on the car). The Ford was totaled. My VW came to rest in a gas station a block away; surprisingly it only needed new front-end sheet metal.

I eventually got over my undiagnosed concussion, and I backed off on the long meditations. Unaltered consciousness had never looked better.

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Paul Niedermeyer Paul Niedermeyer on May 13, 2007

    CasterOil: No, that's not my VW in the image. The damage to mine was strictly in the front. I assumed it was totalled; when I went to get my personal things out of it, I realized it was driveable. I ripped off both front fenders and bumper, tied down the hood, and drove 60 miles back home. The frame and suspension were totally fine. I found an abandoned donor car for a new hood and fenders. Drove it for another year like that. I had hit the Ford right on its front wheel and suspension, which bent things beyond repair on it.

  • Confused1096 Confused1096 on May 17, 2007

    I can relate. In 1997 I was driving a Geo Prizm hatchback through an snow storm. I remember the car starting to fishtail on the bridge, then I was asking the nice ER nurse where I was. I am SOOOO lucky to be alive.

  • IBx1 Everyone in the working class (if you’re not in the obscenely wealthy capital class and you perform work for money you’re working class) should unionize.
  • Jrhurren Legend
  • Ltcmgm78 Imagine the feeling of fulfillment he must have when he looks upon all the improvements to the Corvette over time!
  • ToolGuy "The car is the eye in my head and I have never spared money on it, no less, it is not new and is over 30 years old."• Translation please?(Theories: written by AI; written by an engineer lol)
  • Ltcmgm78 It depends on whether or not the union is a help or a hindrance to the manufacturer and workers. A union isn't needed if the manufacturer takes care of its workers.