THEY say that before you die your life flashes before your eyes, a Big Brother-style showreel of your best bits. I have often wondered how they know this. Seances, probably.
It must be awful finally to remember in which programme you first saw that man who was in that thing, but not be able to say because you are now dead.
Sorry for the morbid thought. It was prompted by one of my surprisingly infrequent brushes with death. It may appear unlikely that a man as accident-prone as myself is rarely confronted by mortality, but my mishaps are usually minor, if frequent.
For example, only yesterday morning I had a minor mishap. What I did not realise at the time was that it would turn into a more serious threat to my wellbeing.
This story features, as so many do, a cup of tea and a bus. I was due to work an early shift. An early shift to me is what most people would call an ordinary shift – a nine-to-five slog involving traffic-clogged journeys to and from work and a lunch break taken at exactly the same time as everybody else. I don’t know how you do it.
I got up, made a cup of tea, showered, dressed, and drank my tea. I was a model of early-morning efficiency. And then I went to wash my cup and it all went horribly wrong.
There was a teaspoon in the sink, and I had somehow managed to leave it in exactly the wrong place. The water hit the spoon, and it was then deflected into the air making a textbook arc straight for my light blue shirt and turning it into a piece of modern art.
I chuckled. “Ho, ho,” I said, as I removed my sopping wet shirt. “At least my daily mishap has already happened. Argh! I don’t have any ironed shirts.”
I set up my ironing board and started the pointless time-sucking job of temporarily removing creases from a clean shirt. Seconds were ticking by, but at least I would just about make it to the bus stop in time. Years of practice have taught me exactly what time my bus will arrive at the stop.
“Oh,” I thought, as I arrived at the stop. It turned out that the bus arrives three minutes earlier at that time of day. I had missed it. “Silly me for thinking that the spoon incident was my daily mishap. THIS is my daily mishap.”
I started to walk. I would have to get the train to work instead. It was annoying, but not the worst thing. Assuming it was on time, I would arrive at work five minutes late, giving my colleagues the gift of less time with me.
The sun was low in the sky as I reached the corner of my own road again on the way to the train station. I checked the road for oncoming traffic, as directed by the Green Cross Man.
The sun was in my eyes, and I looked across the road, seeing a boy wearing the same school uniform as my own son. I wondered what he would have been up to at that time of day, then I stepped into the road without checking again.
That was when the car hit me.
My life did not flash before my eyes. The only thing that flashed before my eyes was the sun, and the strong awareness that I had just been hit by a car, and I was not sure how long that state of affairs would continue.
It must have lasted only a second, but time really did seem to slow down. It hit me in the leg and I felt it buckle, but I did not fall over. Instead I was pushed along the road as my palm hit the bonnet.
Luckily, the car was driving slowly after having just taken the tight corner into my road. If I had been a few feet further down, I might have been in more trouble.
Shocked, I shouted out a bad word. But the impact had been so minor that nobody had noticed it apart from me and, I would like to think, the driver.
And so, all any onlookers noticed was a forty-ish, respectably dressed man screaming out an expletive in the street for no apparent reason.
Embarrassed by the whole business, I fled. I can only hope that it does not appear in my end of life showreel.