Saturday, January 11, 2014

Freezing in Place and Almost Dying

When I was about 23 years old I was driving though a city of about 100,000 people during the winter. The interstate was dry and clear north and south of the city, but there had been snowfall in the city itself. It also turned out there was black ice on the road, which of course I did not know about.

I found out about it, though.

My car hit a patch and started spinning. I have never been one to panic, but I had never been in a situation like this. My response was something I had never experienced before.

Time slowed down and everything became very clear. There was no fear, just a feeling of astonished disbelief. I hit a snow bank on the side of the road, my car rolled over on its side, then its top, then on its side again, then came to rest.

I got out of my car, which was still running with the headlights still on, pushed the car onto its wheels, got in, drove it back on the highway, and continued on my way.

Later on I found out what I experienced is common. Some men panic in combat. Others freeze. I’m a freezer, not a panicker. Unfortunately, freezing can get you killed as fast as panicking, The military even teaches soldiers that some freeze, and to expect it, and how it handle it.

I remember reading that one soldier in Vietnam said he could see the bullets coming at him, because everything for him was in slow motion. I believe it.

When the planes hit the WTC, some of the people on the lower levels turned their computers off before leaving. I know why. It was the disbelief, and the moving too slow, which is freezing – the opposite of panic.

When I was 12 years old a large dog started chasing me in the dark. I froze. Even at that age, I was a freezer, not a panicker. To this day I have never panicked in my life. I freeze, understand that is my nature, and at least now know how to handle it.

Why some freeze and some panic I don’t know. Perhaps some freeze in some situations and panic in others. It helps to know which one you are. It could save your life.

1 comment:

knowethnaught1 said...

Interesting. I too have rolled a car and experienced somewhat the same thing.

I was on a dirt race track and getting cockier as the day went on. After flicking the back of the car a bit far out on one corner the inside wheel drove up the inside berm and flipped me over onto the roof. I wasn't going fast and didn't feel like time slowed but maybe it did as I tell people that is was a "slow roll over". On second thought, if I was going slow, the car probably wouldn't have rolled. I do vividly remember thinking as I went over "No way, it can't be this easy to roll a car" and being disappointed that my fun was ending.

I am known to be very calm in emergencies. If people are freaking out and screaming I'm the one checking that there is no more danger, people are safe, help has been called etc. It's almost scary how calm I can be.

I put it down to another experience when I was young (8 or 9). My father, his friend and I were out alone in the jet boat, going down a river. We went through some shallow water that headed towards a corner at the base of a large cliff. The motor stalled near the end (no steering) and we hit the cliff at about 25mph. My fathers face hit the windscreen and his front teeth went through his lip (lots of blood but not too serious), his friend broke his ankle. The boat started sinking but rested on the bottom after half filling with water. I was fine thankfully but absolutely terrified, crying hysterically "don't die dad" etc.

In that moment while I thought the world was gonna end the other two stayed perfectly calm and everything turned out fine.

Unlike me, my sister is the opposite. She goes into panic mode and just screams.