How’s this for an odd job: See my wonderful wife Susan works for a company that does all sorts of presentations for trials and such. She hears of a lawyer representing a client paralyzed in an auto accident who is looking for a male between 6′ and 210 pounds and 6’4″ and 230 pounds to serve as a body double for a video/photo session demonstrating an aspect of the vehicle’s restraint system.
So since I fall well within those parameters (currently I’m 6’2″ and 217), Susan calls me yesterday to see if I’m interested in the stand-in gig. I say sure and when she gets home she gives me the where and when: today at 2 p.m. at a facility in the San Gabriel Valley that specializes in the storage and presentation of large-item evidence.
I arrive about a half-hour early and by 2 p.m. all the interested parties are there and introduced and not very much long after that we’re taken through a door where I see the vehicle â€” a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder and I learn that the accident was a solo crash back in 2001 up somewhere off Highway 395 in the region of Lone Pine. A bad one. Apparently the vehicle rolled several times, ejecting the driver. The roof is crushed in and it’s hard to imagine the 6’4″ 230-pound client being ejected out of the driver’s side window, whose opening had been severely misshapen and minimized in the collapse of the truck’s roof. Horrible. It’s almost as hard to imagine how he survived.
The argument the client’s lawyers are making is that the seatbelt failed. And after the legal team onsite does some prelim examinations and observations and discussions my job is to climb in behind the Pathfinder’s wheel and go through several iterations of pulling the seatbelt across and latching it, all the while being photographed and video’d for evidence to be presented in court.
Beyond the strangeness of getting into a totaled vehicle whose last occupant is now a paraplegic, it was eerie for two more reasons. First, I wouldn’t have been able to sit in the driver’s seat if there hadn’t been a sunroof. The roof had caved so bad in the rollovers that my head was sticking two-thirds out of it once I got situated. Second, it’s a 1997 Nissan truck whose dashboard is practically identical to my 1997 Nissan truck. So it was very weird seeing a destroyed version of the same speedometer, tachometer, climate controls, stereo, ashtray and such.
Then there were the personal aspects. A Tim McGraw cassette still stuck out of the deck and there was a BofA ATM receipt showing a balance of $467 in the bank. It left me thinking how lives can be so drastically and dramatically changed in an instant.
Anyway, I did as I was directed and the cameras clicked and rolled and by 4 p.m. I was cut loose with a thank you and a nice check for stand-in services rendered.
I drove home very carefully. Tried to look at the dash as little as possible.