With the pot nearing $550 million I dropped a few dollars on Powerball tickets on Wednesday. With the odds of winning the jackpot at one in 175 million, some may say it’s foolish to throw away $2 on a ticket. But not me. I know I can win. And even though the odds are 175 million times worse than the ones he faced in “Dumb and Dumber,” I can’t help but share the sentiments of Jim Carrey’s character Lloyd by saying “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
I wasn’t always so overly optimistic. As a lover of numbers, I knew I was more likely to be struck by lightning, while being bitten by a shark in Kansas as I listened to a lecture extolling evolution, than I was to win the Powerball grand prize. But all that changed nine years ago when I experienced the most painful and traumatic event of my life.
It was a beautiful, sunny September afternoon and I was heading from Snowmass to Aspen, and was about midway between the Rodeo Lot and Highway 82, on Brush Creek Rd. The late summer sun was high in the sky and I lamented losing my sunglasses earlier in the day. As the cab of my navy colored pick-up warmed in the day’s rays I reached for the air conditioning, but then stopped as the environmentalist in me thought better. Instead, I decided I’d just crack my window a little and let in some clean, cool, fresh mountain air. Boy was that a mistake. Next thing I know my left eyeball exploded and I was writhing and driving in agony.
The pain was unlike anything else I have ever experienced. My socket seared and burned as if I had just been jabbed with a hot poker. Not knowing what happened, I did know my left eye was blind, in intense pain and I felt lots of liquid running down my left cheek. I covered my eye with my left hand and with my good eye I tried to stay focused on the twists and turns of that mountain road.
I knew I had to pull over before I killed myself or someone else. To my right was a guardrail and there was oncoming traffic in the uphill lane. Finally, after I saw a small break in the traffic I shot across the other lane and stopped safely on the shoulder of other side of the road.
As I sat there suffering, I was as scared as I have ever been. I lost my eye, I thought. Something struck me square in the eye and with all the liquid I felt running down my hand I knew my eyeball was gone. As I sat there knowing I was lucky to be alive, I knew I had to asses the damage. I grabbed the rearview mirror with my right hand and turned it towards my face. As I looked in the mirror using my right eye I hesitated before pulling my left hand away as I readied for what I was about to witness. As I pulled my hand down I couldn’t believe what I saw. My eyeball was still intact for the moment. I should have known it wouldn’t hurt so much if it was completely gone. It was incredibly red and I couldn’t see out of it, and my tear ducts were gushing like geysers, but I still held out some hope for saving it. The light of the day burned my eye even more, and I quickly closed it and covered it with my hand. A little relieved and rushing with adrenaline I had to get out of the truck. As I looked back for my phone, there on the seat sat the culprit. Curled up like a shrimp cocktail was a dead yellow jacket. I had been hit and stung in the eye by a bee while traveling at about 35 mph. What are the odds?
After finding my phone, I called my woman in Woody Creek and as quickly and calmly as possible I explained to her what had happened. Grasping the gravity and seriousness of the situation, she was on the road before we hung up. Now the only thing to do was wait.
I figured it would be about 15 minutes before she got there. I stood by the truck bent over with my hand over my closed eye in ablaze in pain. It was then that something special happened. Somehow, despite the shock and pain I was overcome with a calm, quiet cool and was able to endure the endless amount of time it seemed to take Tara to get to me. She was there in 10.
When she rolled up in my 1979 Dodge Aspen I just jumped in and off we went. I told her to drive as fast as she safely could and if the cops tried to pull us over we would explain what happened when we got to the hospital. Knowing we would soon be at AVH, I decided I would take a chance and do something I had not done since the pain initially shot through my eye. That something was blink. I wanted to know if my eye was still holding together and the best way to find out was to try and blink. So I successfully tried the quickest of blinks and was happy my eye was still holding up. But I did notice a new pain in my eyelid brought on by the blinking.
So I blinked again and once more I felt the same strange pain. So I blinked again and I figured out what was causing the pain. The stinger was still in my eyeball and the back of it was scratching the inside of my eyelid. In case you missed that let me repeat it. The barbed stinger from the bee was still lodged in my eyeball and every time I blinked I could feel the back of the stinger scrape the inside of my eyelid. To this day it still gives me shivers to think about how that felt.
We got to the hospital and I immediately made my way to the emergency room. With my good eye I surveyed the situation. Fortunately, it was a weekday during the off-season and things looked pretty quiet. I walked up to the desk and when the doctor asked how he could help I said, “I think I’ve been stung in the eye by a bee while driving.” His eyebrow raised and I could tell he did not believe me. It must have been my cool, calm demeanor. He had someone take me and Tara to the “eye room.”
I wasn’t waiting long until a smiling face appeared. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a nurse or doctor, it was a guy with a computer wanting my insurance info. After he left I waited again. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to me Tara went out to see about getting some help. Not long after she left she returned and the doctor and nurses followed. After taking one look at my eyeball the doctor knew I was right about being stung in the eye. Mere moments later, with a lengthy cotton swap in each hand, along with the dexterity of a surgeon, the doctor gently plucked the stinger from my eyeball and as he did he said, “Never seen that before.”
With the stinger removed from my eyeball, I felt a million times better. Everything was right in the world. After a brief stay to make sure I had no allergic reaction I was released from the hospital.
Although I’m no mathematician, I figure the odds of getting stung in the eyeball by a bee, while driving with a window barely cracked, at a relatively high rate of speed, on a winding mountain road, on the same September day you lose your sunglasses, and surviving somewhat unscathed has to be at least 1 in 275 million.
As I look back on the events of that afternoon I’m not sure if I won or lost the lottery that day. But there is one thing I do know: Despite the odds, the most unlikely events can happen.
It’s also worth noting that it was Lauren Holly who told Jim Carrey during “Dumb and Dumber” that his chances with her were one in a million. Despite the odds they were married two years later.
Whether the odds are one in a million, or one in 275 million, even the most unlikely of events can happen. Unfortunately, I had to be stung in the eye by a bee to find that out. Nonetheless, it explains why I play Powerball.
Contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org.