Close Encounters of the Bottled Kind


When I was in my twenties I used to regularly utter the phrase: “I won’t live to see 30.”


Given my propensity for excessive living, that seemed a rather likely bet. At the time I made this morbid claim with a certain pride. I was living the rock n roll lifestyle and would go out in a blaze of glory (or puddle of puke) like Joplin, Hendricks, Morrison or Moon.


I enjoyed drugs, but I always knew that alcohol would be the vehicle that would carry me into oblivion. I liked to drink and could never quite get enough. I would drink until everything was gone or I passed out.


And I had many close brushes. More often than I care to recall I awoke to find myself caked in vomit, lying on a saturated pillow with chunks of gorge dried to my face.


Even then, in my sheer recklessness, I knew how close the reaper had passed. Every time it happened I would feel an icy shudder pass slowly down my spine. After all, the stories of the rock gods of that era tended to end in said musical deity drowning in his/her own bile while passed out.


But God obviously had other plans for me. Despite my every effort to end my life eternally, he spared me and slowly weaned me from my self-destruction. It has been many years since I’ve woken in that state. Looking back, it seems like a different person living someone else’s life, and in many ways that is true.


I really thought that I was past the place where I had to worry about death by beer. I thought this right up until a few weeks ago.


Right before the holidays I was driving from Frederick to York to pick up my girls for the weekend. I didn’t have any plans for weekend debauchery. No keg stands with kiddos in my future. I was anticipating a couple of days of ice skating, Uno and charades, when out of nowhere my old nemesis and lover struck.


In this case the front end of my car.


As I was hurtling down the highway at sixty miles per hour, a case of beer flew out of the back of a Subaru station wagon and collided with my brand-new VW Jetta. I had no time to comprehend what was happening, much less swerve. I felt and heard a loud thud, felt the car lurch and skid, and began braking.


By the grace of God I was able to successfully navigate to the shoulder of the highway without injury, at least to my person. The car was a mess (to the tune of $6500 worth of damage), but I was alive, breathing and thanking God.


And now that my heart rate has returned to a less frenetic rate, I find the irony really funny. God spared me yet again from death by beer. I’m not sure that I have any profound conclusion to draw from this episode except that it didn’t make me shudder. There were no icy fingers stroking slowly down my spine. There was no moment of terror.

You see, had that case of beer been the instrument that carried me from this world, I would not have been headed into some dark oblivion. Rather, I would have been carried home to a reunion with both my earthly and heavenly fathers.


And that would have been a heck of a funny story to share with them both.