The time I nearly died in a BMW 3 series.
I was 18 and full on beans, bursting from the pub above Fulham Broadway tube station and slipped handsomely into my BMW 3 series - a clenched fist of power. The German whip fit me like a great suit or a pair of well-worn Doc Martins. At six-foot six it certainly didn’t feel silly or out of place to be have such a car at my tender age.
Rewind a few hours. My plan was to escape London before the afternoon traffic and be at my parent’s place surrounded by bacon sandwiches and DVDs by sundown. Warm up the AGA mum I’m coming home.
What turned out to be a quick drink with friends turned into a melee of ADHD and black sambuca shots but knowing I had to drive I sadly was stickily on the Red Bulls, which to be honest after sinking 4 cans of that syrup was probably much worse than slamming shots all afternoon.
Unable to leave the party alone I managed to convince a close friend to peel off and Houdini back with me to the countryside for a weekend of well, nothing.
A quick loo break, phone off the table and in pocket, coats on, quick nod to each other, double thumbs up, let’s do this. High fives all round; and we were surfing down the escalators, over the road and feet first into my sweet ride within seconds.
It was dusk by five and it felt like it. The pitch-black night sky leaked sticky ink all over our visuals and only the bright lights of the dash lit our faces as we bumped along the M1.
Before long it was our junction, my mix tape had only been repeated twice so we couldn’t have been driving fast as those CDs only held 45 mins of music and my parents lived quite far north back then, okay Northants but that’s pretty north for a dude that’s never really left Kensington.
Coming off the motorway we get a call from my friend in the next-door village, my wingman to this adventure, drunkenly took the call and agreed we should meet for a drink before entering my country compound. Little did he know the anxiety I had about missing dinner with the folks and the wrath of my dad for being a no show.
So off we went, taking the back routes, the only thought for me was the first pint of the day and a crisp camel light, cutting through country lanes with reasonable speed in the dead of night when all of a sudden, it happened.
Shit. Where are the brakes?
The back wheels locked as we took a tight corner, the swings to the left being anchored by its now dead legs – we are still travelling forward, and fast. Using my rubbish skiing skills to try and sled the car into position we wiggle and speed down the lane; powering the wheel in the opposite direction, back and forth, like a steely eyed captain navigating his crewmates through thousand-foot waves.
With all my efforts the car does not correct itself and we are headed to the point of no return, a T-junction.
We both know it’s coming. I try teasing the breaks again and they still don’t respond. Trying to remember the pumping break action I was taught in drivers-education plus class (a handy addition to the standard driving skill set) I give up and slam my left arm against my friend as we hit the verge. We brace. Our whole world is turned upside down. We dart into the sky and twist in the air like a second row trying to ballet. Like a navy cannon missile we explode into the air heading straight for a large oak tree and slicing sideways in the air we hit the tree head on and almost pause. I can still remember the flashing kaleidoscope sky, land, sky, land as we spin in the air. Then a thawing moment, all moving in slow motions as we both screamed for our lives and the car’s insides, coins, lighters and what not were thrown around the mid-flight like a gravity free zone.
We drop with a thud.
The crunching of iron and steel shook the ground and still sung in our ears. We’ve landed on our side, driver’s side in the ditch, whereas my friend is suspended in the air, still strapped in. We look at each other in silence.
Then the car moves. Steely yawns, slowly aching itself into the landscape it has just found itself, slipping peacefully into the verge it has chosen to lay its head for the final time.
Now landed, and safe, we start to laugh. A mad, open mouthed cry, wet eyed, laugh of life, a laugh that couldn’t believe that we were in one piece, that we had just survived something bloody serious and that this could only ever happen to me.
Scrambling to undo the seat belts we were free to roam around the car which in the dark was desperately disorientating. Within moments some people roll up asking if we are okay to which my response was, ‘yes, we’re cool, just a bit worried about the engine, we can’t get out without turning the power on’
To which their response was, ‘yes well, be careful lads, there’s liquid spilling out of the car so don’t light anything up’
Oh my good god. Stunned silence I think the word for it is. We didn’t know what to do.. We had just survived rolling the beamer and now we were going to be burnt alive. This is not how I planned my day. And as if by magic I hear the comforting sound of my mum calling my name from the road. She is up at the window, on tip toes tapping hard to see if we are moving. She sees me and I flash her a smile to know we are okay. She’s crying.
I have no idea how my parents found me, or how it happened but they were there for me.
I think it was my dad, master risk taker that he is, who made us get out of the ditch as soon as he saw the cars blood spilling out. Emergency services in Hi Viz jackets with radios were shouting commands to the upside down kids. A little flick of the key to get the power on and the window that wasn’t slammed into the ground eased open and we climbed out of there like we were in a scene from the Jurassic Park franchise into the arms of paramedics and police with the fire brigade on standby.
I’ve never been so proud to pass a breathalyser. Black ice in November, a serious danger you can only experience yourself and your instincts truly kick in. It honestly came from nowhere.
That 3 series BMW saved my life.
If it was not for the strength in the core of that car, we would have been crushed, ripped apart by the tree, and then squashed into the mud when we eventually found the ground.
I never saw or drove that car again – it left my life as fast as it entered but I always give a knowing nod of quiet gratitude whenever I pass one on the (extremely) careful drive home.