Thursday, 6 September 2012

REWIND: A Fork In The Road



Originally posted on Y360  18th October 2006
Reposted on Multiply 22nd January 2008

I was thinking recently about events that change your life, or ones that change it's direction. Anyone who has been reading my blogs for sometime will remember I have a deep interest in Quantum physics, in particular the MWI (Many-Worlds Interpretation). Before you all start panicking, that's not what this blog is about, well not directly anyway. There are branch-points (known as quantum events) where any decision point that has at least two outcomes, creates a universe for each possible path. If you have trouble with the concept, let me point you in the direction of the film Sliding Doors. It shows the two paths a woman's life takes depending on the outcome of a single incident, arriving at a tube station to catch a train home, or missing it. Although primarily it revolves around the woman's relationships, the concept of the 'two paths' is demonstrated fairly well (except the ending, which is a cop-out).

So, to get to the point.....I was wondering recently which event in my life had the greatest impact, and what different outcomes there possibly were to it. The incident that was most obvious in this context was something that happened in my teen years.

In 1976, a year after leaving school, I had no job and was basically just wasting my life. At the time I lived in a small town called Burntwood, not far from Lichfield (the nearest town of any size).  I went around with a group of friends who were all into motorcycles. I hung around with my good friend Steve a lot. He had a motorbike, which had been bought for him by his parents. I, of course, didn't have one. So, I used to go around on the back of Steve's bike. We got up to a lot of stupid things, along with the rest of the gang.  On that fateful day, we had arranged to meet up with the rest of the gang in Lichfield at our favourite hang-out, a transport cafe with a great jukebox and lots of fruit-machines (one armed bandits for those who speak different English). We took the usual route, down a long, winding country road called The Abnalls. Now, because of the twisting nature of the road, it was impossible to get up too much speed. We were going around a left-hand curve in the road and.......BANG!!! For a few seconds the world was spinning in all sorts of directions, then I landed on the road. A car coming round the bend in the opposite direction had hit us. The driver, it turned out later, had been drinking and was over the legal limit by a considerable amount.  Had we hit the car head-on, I am convinced the result could have been more serious than it was, however Steve's reflexes must have been extremely fast, must have seen a brief glimpse of the car and turned the bike. It hit us at an angle, and spun the bike. Somehow, I lost one of my boots (it was never found) and my crash-helmet came off.  Luckily no head injury.  We were taken to hospital, where it turns out that Steve had only a simple fracture of the right leg. He was plastered up and sent home within a day. I spent six weeks in hospital. My right leg below the knee was ripped open from knee to ankle (my guess is that the wheel-arch of the car ripped into my leg as the bike spun). My mom told me later that when she arrived and saw it, it was like walking into a butcher's shop. Strangely, I remember looking at my leg after they cut off my jeans and thinking it looked ok. I guess it must have been shock. All the ligaments, tendons and muscle were damaged and needed reconstruction. The surgeon's opinion was that I was very lucky not to lose the leg below the knee.  After six weeks in hospital, I spent a further six weeks in plaster. In all it took about two years before I could walk normally again. All credit to the specialists at Lichfield GeneralHospital. They patched my leg up so well, I don’t walk with a noticeable limp and with the help of some skin grafting, you wouldn’t know to look at the leg just how serious the injury was.

The other thing that made this an important point in my life was that a couple of days before the accident, feeling I was going nowhere in life, I had gone into the careers advice office for the British Armed Forces. After talking to them, I had more or less decided to sign up for the Royal Air Force. I was due to call back to sign the initial papers the following week.  The accident put paid to that, I would never have passed the physical examinations thereafter, because of the injuries to my leg.

My life as it is now, although there have been a lot of other 'decisional' points, is probably most attributable to that point. There were four major branches in the 'quantum event' that was the accident. The obvious one is the one I have experienced. Alternatively, I could have died on the day.  I could have lost part of my right leg and become a cripple.  The final outcome is that (for any one of many reasons) we did not meet that car on that road, no accident occurs and I join the RAF. According to the MWI all of these branches exist and from them a multitude of outcomes have occurred. For better or worse, I'm kinda glad I experienced this path. I have had an eventful life, and compared to the alternatives, quite a good one.

Hope I didn't confuse you too much with all this talk of multiple universes.  The main point was to demonstrate how one thing can set off a chain reaction of events that change your life completely.




12 comments:

  1. LOL cool post Mitch an interest of mine as well, there are so many forks in the path of my life I dont think any one in particular had any more influence than another, just the journey of life;)

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  2. That was interesting. Our lives certainly make surprising turns. I often think if I had not gone to Switzerland to work, I would have married a cockney or something similar instead of speaking Swiss German all day, having a Swiss German family, cooking Swiss German etc. etc. On the other hand I might not have got interested in computers, in photography, in writing, and a lot more. No accients, thank goodness, nothing serious, just broke my left arm twice, but the bones were screwed back together. 7 hour Operation to dig out my undevelopped twin, but that is another story.
    Anyhow if you had made it to the RAF and ended up in Afghanistan or Iraq who knows what might have happened. And you definitely would not have taken so many fantastic photos.

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    1. Even if I had served in the RAF, I don't think I'd have still been serving by the time those two conflicts came around. I'd have probably done a ten year service.

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  3. Great writing. As luck would have it, late one night, I caught a tv science show and became entangled in the mysteries of quantum mechanics, the double-slit experiment, the Copenhagen Interpretation and, of course, the MWI. All fascinating stuff as is your story.

    One thing can indeed lead to another, and there are branches in almost every moment in life, some perhaps mundane. Others more significant. In 1975 England was experiencing a shortage of social workers and I was offered a job in Newcastle-on-Tyne. And one in Saginaw, US, which I took. Had I landed in England my life would have been very different, and sometimes I wonder how. Of course, for the Many Worlds people, I did, and am enjoying photography in the UK and Europe and....but one never knows.

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    1. Yes, Quantum physics is endlessly fascinating. I can bore people to death talking about it. LOL.

      While I've never heard your voice, I can imagine approximately what you sound like, but your story about nearly taking a job in Newcastle brought up quite a funny mental image of you speaking with a Geordie accent!!! LOL.

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  4. Nice to get to know you better. I'm glad you're reposting these.

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  5. Very interesting post, Mitch. As I was reading it I thought how many forks have been on my lifepath...
    Have a nice day!

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  6. an amazing story!
    my daughter says everything happens for a reason...

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  7. I'm glad you reposted that one, I don't remember it from 360 or Multiply so for me it was a new read thanks. I knew a little about this theory, but no much, and sometimes I think I have lived a lucky life because there have been times when I've realised things could have (and maybe did) turn out very differently and I could have ended up injured or dead. Nice read Mitch :-))

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  8. This was very interesting and I enjoyed reading it. Glad you fully recovered from your injuries.

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  9. MWI is one of my favourite interests Mitch. This is a facinating read indeed. I have many many thoughts on this subject and others. Thanks for a great real life read.

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