My Human Bobsled Story, or, The Night I Probably Got Brain Damage

Guest Columnist Tony (of Minimizing Productivity #1 – Comedy Rankings fame) put down his grain alcohol and stopped reading Wikipedia articles about the preferred sexual positions of confusingly ethnic but probably central / southern american guerrillas (note, not gorillas, you sicko) long enough to write up a wonderful pitch for a new Winter Olympics sport.  Enjoy.

- Don

December 13th, 2003. It was the Saturday before finals week of my first semester of college at Indiana University. I just finished knocking out a computer-based exam for my K201 course and felt a ton of weight lifted off of my shoulders. I just finished my first college final and I was ready to celebrate.

As I began walking back to my dorm on that fateful Saturday evening – a 2-mile hike because I was too broke to afford a semester bus pass – I grinned as I saw snowflakes falling from the sky. It was the first snow of the year. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew whatever celebration I did would have to incorporate it.

Arriving back in my Briscoe dorm, I caught the elevator up to the 11th floor, then found my roommate working on a final of his own: a paper for his Composition course. He saw my look of accomplishment on my face – similar to the one he usually had after he plowed some of the ladies on our dorm floor – and closed his books to announce “Let’s get hammered.”

Our dorm refrigerator isn’t exactly ideal in size, considering that there is room for either a 6-pack of beer or half-gallon of milk but not both, but we prioritized our meals appropriately: all of our food (chips, sandwiches, Chex Mix, and so on) was strategically arranged throughout our room, while the alcohol was properly chilled in the fridge. I popped it open to reveal an unopened half-gallon of Jim Beam – a personal favorite of mine at the time, mainly because it was dirt-cheap and got me remarkably drunk, two key ingredients of binge drinking on a budget – along with a bunch of cans of Keystone Light, nectar of the gods which was available at the college-friendly price of $11 per 30-pack.

As I started pounding shots, my roommate began funneling beers with the handy-dandy beer bong I constructed out of plumbing pipe and an oil funnel purchased at a local home improvement store. Since this was before texting really took off and Facebook was still just an idea of some nerd at Harvard, we opted to invite our friends through good ol’ AOL Instant Messenger. Yes, AIM. As more invites went out, more of our fellow freshman friends joined, bringing more and more cheap booze for what was probably the final time we’d party together before leaving for the holidays.

Everyone had their own priorities that night. One guy chugs a bottle of rum. Another mixes his Kamchatka vodka (read: dirty potato water) with a bottle of Powerade. A group of girls form a circle on the floor and sip their beers while playing Kings or one of those mediocre drinking games. The quiet, obscure guy stands in the corner of the room and works on his six-pack of Labatt Blue. Good times were had by all.

Soon enough, we came to the conclusion that we needed to do something crazy together. Something we hadn’t done before – something we could brag about to all of our friends back home when we left for Christmas vacation. Making use of the snow was a given, but nobody had any bright ideas.

“Hey guys,” I brilliantly suggested, “There’s a fair amount of hills across the street, right? The elevation from the tennis courts to the corner of 17th & Fee is fairly steep. Let’s get some sleds and do some drunken night-sledding!”

It wasn’t an awful idea. Not a particularly great one, but it had some potential. The problem, though, was that college kids like us didn’t really prioritize sleds when it came to stocking our dorms – we had zero sleds among the dozen or so of us in the dorm room. We also were at a point where we were too drunk to drive, and also sober enough to understand that fact, so driving six or seven miles to the closest Wal-mart (during a huge snowfall, no less) was simply not an option. Realizing that I was a solid five or six drinks ahead of everyone else, it was at that moment that I came up with a solution for my idea, which transformed the original suggestion from mediocre to both brilliant and the worst idea of my life.

Preface: in the early 2000s, the United States Postal Service gave out free shipping supplies to anyone who requested them, under the assumption that they would get their money back from the people using the USPS shipping services. When I used to sell stuff on eBay to make a quick buck, I got a ton of free boxes, shipping tape, stickers, and whatnot from the USPS. A few months prior to this evening, I ordered 30 rolls of shipping tape, 100 boxes, 50 padded envelopes, and a handful of other goodies from them, with the intent to make some creative dorm room furniture. Some of the boxes were used to make some extra chairs; others were used to construct a coffee table for our daily games of euchre. We even used some padded envelopes for extra cushion in the seats – everyone was impressed with our creativity.

Back to the story. I looked around the room, noticed the box of shipping supplies, and had an epiphany. “Guys, guys, guys – hear me out guys. I have all of these shipping supplies. Guys. I have a ton of shipping tape – it’s slick on one side and adhesive on the other. Guys. And I have a bunch of padded envelopes, too. All of you guys can tape the envelopes to my chests and legs, then wrap me up in the shipping tape. I WILL BE YOUR SLED! You can ride me down the hill! Guys. What do you think?”

By then, most of us were intoxicated to the point that communism would have sounded like a good idea. The transformation began. Using six 250-foot rolls of USPS shipping tape, along with about a dozen padded envelopes, everyone covered me from my ankles to my shoulders like a goddamn mummy. My arms were taped to my sides; my legs were taped together. After my friends poured a few more shots down my throat for me — the final count was 21 shots of whiskey — we ventured into the hallway to go outside. It was at this point that we realized our problem: walking around the dorm at midnight on a Saturday would likely result in running into an RA, who would take one look at me before calling the university police (IUPD). We acknowledged this issue, and looked at our options: (1) take the stairs on the side of the building, or (2) haul ass to the elevators and then out to the tennis courts. I mentioned before that we were on the 11th floor of my dorm, and I had no interest in hopping down about 200 steps with two pounds of bourbon in my system and wrapped up like the worst Christmas present ever, so we opted for the latter choice.

As I hopped down the hallway toward the elevators — remember that my legs were tied together, so walking was simply not an option — I found something in the hallway. More specifically, my feet found something in the hallway. Actually, it may not have been anything; I may have just tripped over my own feet. Whatever happened, though, I went down, and I went down hard. Without being able to brace my fall with my arms, I fell face-first onto the dorm hallway carpet, which is slightly softer than concrete. At the end of the hallway, I understand that a few fellow guys on my floor witnessed my demise and laughed at the humor, which turned to fright in mere seconds. “Hahaha, oh shit – Tony is DOWN! … wait … he’s not …….. moving ……” said one of them. They rushed to my aid, along with others from my room, to turn me over and find me unconscious, with blood gushing from my nose and mouth. I was not moving and completely unresponsive. This wasn’t good.

911 was immediately called, and the paramedics were with me shortly. Apparently they took one look at me, gave everyone an angry “what in the flying fuck happened here?” look, then cut off my clothes, because I doubt they had any interest in unwrapping 1500 feet of shipping tape. They put me up on the stretcher and finally hauled me on that elusive elevator I hoped to ride while still conscious. With ambulances blaring outside, IUPD came by to see what all the commotion was; when a police officer saw me getting placed in the back of the ambulance and heard of my story, he decided that I was guilty of public intoxication and minor consumption, both class-C misdemeanors in the state of Indiana. Call me crazy, but bleeding profusely from the face and being unconscious in the back of an ambulance seems like a pretty steep punishment for drinking, but apparently the IU police department disagreed and tacked on a few of their own fines. Such nice guys.

I was hauled away to a nearby hospital, where doctors determined I had three broken bones above my right eye, and my brain was bleeding. Before that, I had never heard of a bleeding brain, but that doesn’t exactly sound like a good thing. They did some basic reconstructive surgery, then doped me up on enough painkillers and other medication to put me in a medically-induced coma for five days.

While I was in the emergency room, the people at the hospital track down my parents and give them the delightful news that their son is unconscious with a bleeding brain, at 3:00 in the morning. They rush to Bloomington to come to my side, but keep a few things in mind:

  • It has been snowing for the past ~7 hours
  • The fastest route from my parents’ house in Terre Haute to Bloomington is a 60-mile trek on a not-very-popular highway (State Road 46)
  • When it snows in this area, the most popular major roads (interstates and major city streets) get cleared first
  • It’s 3 o’clock in the fucking morning and nobody is going to mess with it

With all of the poor road conditions mixed with the nerves of hearing the news about your son, driving along a snow-covered state road at 3am is not an ideal task. Neither one of them wanted to drive, but they knew they needed to be with me, so they drove as fast as the road conditions would allow, until they ran into the goddamn Lochness Monster. He was big and angry and blocked their path – nobody could pass without his permission, and he wouldn’t give that permission unless they gave him $3.50.

…sorry, I kinda ran off on a tangent there. The story is wrapping up soon; I promise. So, my parents drove as fast as the road conditions would allow, and eventually arrived at the hospital. When the medication eventually wore off, with a catheter inserted into a place where I wish it wasn’t, I woke up with more confusion than I had when Santa Claus took off his beard/hat to reveal himself as my father when I was three years old. I had no clue where I was, why I was there, or why my parents were by my side. They told me how I fell in the dorm, while wrapped up in shipping tape, and how it was nearly a week after my most recent memory (which was telling everyone how amazing it would be to turn me into a human bobsled).

Throughout the next couple of days, I had to re-teach myself how to eat, walk, and other basic functions. It was like my brain rebooted itself and needed to load all of the basic information again before it could figure out how to do anything; the learning curve was brief, but it was still surreal that I had to re-learn how to move a spoon from my tray to my mouth.

For the next week, I stayed at the hospital so the doctors & nurses could evaluate my progress. Thanks to high doses of meds, I slept for 18-20 hours per day, getting some of the best sleep of my life. I was eventually released, just in time for Christmas, when my aunts & uncles said I was as docile and harmless as they’ve ever seen me. Nine years later, I have no recollection of any of this, but it sounds like I was a pleasant little bastard.

I went back to the doctor after the holidays to get his recommendation on what to do next. While he said the incident should not cause any long-term effects (debatable according to some, but let’s just take him at his word for now), he still believed it would be best for me to take a semester off from Bloomington and take some online courses at home with my family. While I didn’t think his suggestion was as awful as my suggestion for my friends to sled on me, I still didn’t care for it. I told him, along with my parents, “I know I screwed up. I screwed up badly and I’ll be the first to admit it. However, I’m having the time of my life right now, and I’m not going to let one idiotic decision stop me from returning to the IU campus and graduating on time.”

I returned to campus a few days later (about 5 days before most students returned from break, but I apparently didn’t get that memo because I was too busy being unconscious), and found lots of cards and notes from nearly everyone from my dorm floor. I continued sleeping for 12-15 hours/day until the spring semester began, while finally discovering that I never actually took most of my finals. I spoke with my old professors, who were very helpful when they heard my story (which I believe omitted the part about being blackout drunk) and allowed me to retake the finals. I supremely failed each of them, yet somehow received B- grades on all four of them when my grades were posted — I’m guessing that’s the university policy on handling that particular situation.

In the end, it’s a pretty fucked up situation, but I survived with no proven long-term damage, and got a fairly entertaining story out of it. Now, even the smell of bourbon makes me want to gag and vomit, but I’m still alive, loving life, and ending this long story without a great conclusion because I don’t know what to write at the end.

Posted in Barely Interesting Non-Fiction, Guests, Humor Essays
One comment on “My Human Bobsled Story, or, The Night I Probably Got Brain Damage
  1. Banana says:

    Go me!

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