There are many times in your life, as you get older, that you realize the limits to your stupidity have no bounds. One such occasion happened when I was in my early twenties.
I had my first car, an orange VW Beetle that we bought off my brother in law. Not having much money at the time as we were only married for a year or so, and had welcomed the birth of our first son, I was learning how to service my car. It was a Sunday morning and we were living in Dronsfield on the edge of the Peak District. It was a mild and sunny morning and I was just completing an oil and spark plug change to the beloved Beetle.
The orange monster was a 1500cc delight and had proven its worth dealing with some of the worst snow in recent history. The reliable beast had been buried under a snow drift next to the garage for two days and when I dug it out it started first time. I also remember it bringing my new born son home from the hospital in heavy snow and it managed to climb up the very steep hill whilst others fell by the wayside. In truth I had quite a soft spot for the car, but that was about to change as it was to bite the hand that fed it.
I had just completed the service and was feeling quite pleased with myself. I started the engine and went to see that everything was as it should be. The fan belt was flying around the triangular system of wheels and it purred, slight exaggeration, like the well oiled machine it was. Being Sunday morning I was being passed by folk making their way to or from church and all seemed well with the world. I am not sure why, but gazing at the fan belt seemed to have a hypnotic effect on me. It was the same feeling that one gets when standing on a cliff edge or on a bridge, some sort of irrational attraction. What would it be like to jump? On this occasion the question was, what would it feel like to touch the fan belt? Now clearly you can see where this is going and you are questioning my sanity, as I have done ever since. Just thinking back brings a strange feeling over me and make me shudder inside. Yes I did it! I reached out and touched the moving belt. My hand and arm were thrown forcefully around, my thumb struck something and was then forcefully thrown out of the machine.
Clarity comes slowly to the truly stupid and luckily so does pain. I grabbed my hand with my other hand and a hot flush of blood seemed to move upwards from my feet until it reached my head. I dared not look at my hand. I felt numb for a few moments, but as the warmth progressed above my hand it was accompanied by excruciating pain. I was aware that I still had my arm, it could so easily have been torn off, but I was unsure about my fingers and hand. Still grasped by my other hand the pain was unbearable, but as a family were walking past I dared not scream. I held it in, held my hand and staggered up to my apartment and my, not so long suffering, wife.
Inside I couldn’t tell her what had happened, not could I explain my stupidity. Somehow I had to release my injured hand to check what damage I had done. I really couldn’t believe it, but my hand was still there, complete. The real injury was the thumb, but apart from agony there seemed no other damage. The pain was violent and constant and I found the only relief was running it under cold water. The real damage was to my psyche. I had again, discovered that there are no bounds to my stupidity and somehow I had escaped with my life and body intact.
It has had a profound effect on me ever since in the form of it becoming an aversion. I no longer can face any moving mechanical apparatus without feeling ill. Luckily this has not impacted on my employment over my life, but has meant I no longer service any machinery. My fallibility has been tested on many other occasions before and since but my luck has still held. There truly is no fool like an old fool!