November 21, 2001


My step-grandfather Andy was an astoundingly stupid man, likely the stupidest person I have ever known. It is not surprising, then, that Andy died in the manner he did. However Andy’s death was not merely the result of stupidity but rather stupidity combined with stubbornness, senility, and remarkably bad luck, although the latter is open to debate.

Here is what happened: Andy pulled into a service station to get gas but in doing so failed to park close enough to the pump for the pump to reach the gas tank. Not realizing this, he got out of the car, tried to use the pump, discovered that it didn’t reach, then got back into the car, presumably to move it closer to the pump.

Unfortunately Andy neglected to shut the driver-side door before starting the car again. This was his fatal mistake. Well, it was either this or his decision to drive with his left leg partly outside the vehicle. It depends how you look at it. In any case it is undoubtedly true that the location of Andy’s left leg forced him into an awkward spread-eagle position, which made it difficult to control the vehicle as he pulled forward – or rather as he careened forward, for that is what Andy did: he careened.

One can always claim that luck either is or is not on one’s side. Andy’s death is a case in point. For while it is true that he avoided hitting any oncoming motorists, it is also true that he struck a succession of parked cars. A glass-half-full person would say that Andy was lucky to kill no one but himself; however a glass-half-empty person would consider Andy’s death proof of grave misfortune. For the purposes of this account, I will stick to the facts and leave such determinations to you, my reader.

After smashing a final parked car, Andy jumped over a curb (or rather his vehicle did, for there is some question as to volition), then sped across a series of lawns, leaving toppled fences and broken ornaments in his wake.

Oddly I cannot recall what Andy finally crashed into. I suspect it was a wall of some kind. At any rate Andy was no longer inside the vehicle when this crash occurred, and thus it may not be correct to say that it was he who did the crashing.

Also I have always assumed that Andy fell out of the car by accident. Certainly this is how the story was told to me. However, it occurs to me now, as I consider the final moments of Andy’s life, that his so-called fall may in fact have been a jump. Unable to swing his left leg into the car, Andy may have decided to abandon ship, as it were, and follow the leg out.

Whatever the truth, and perhaps it is better that we cannot know, Andy died in a seemingly impossible manner: he ran himself over.