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Parting Glances: Vesna, Susie: sweet & sour!

By | 2018-01-15T23:52:43-05:00 May 10th, 2007|Opinions|

I’m sitting in a popular Somerset Mall Chinese restaurant where I’m distracted by two unrelated improbabilities: an astounding free fall record I’m reading about in a paperback I just bought, and a waitress named Susie who persists in calling me ‘honey’ this, ‘honey’ that, over servings of Won Ton Soup, Sweet & Sour Pork.
The book (“180 fascinating Questions and Amazing Answers about Science, Health, and Nature”) blew my mind away when I read its title: “Can You Drill A Hole Through Your Head and Survive?” (Simon Rogers, ed.; Skyhorse Publishing, 2007; $12.95)
I’m probably to blame for Susie’s billing and cooing because, hoping to get attentive service in a very busy place, I order by Power-of-Positive-Thinking: “I take it you’re the young, attractive, personable, intelligent waitress who’s going to efficiently take my order.” (Her first ‘honey’ is barely audible. The next ten come with increasing articulation as it gets nearer to fortune cookie time.)
Reading “Drill-Hole” pages between soup (the bowl could easily serve three) and Sweet & Sour dish (enough for two Pekinese doggy bags), I come across this Q&A: “How big a fall can a person survive?” Indeed? I muse, sipping my Oolong tea in Zen-like koan contemplation . . .
Turns out the distance is 30,480 ft. The lucky, lucky person to eventually land in Guinness is stewardess Vesna Vulovic, who in 1972, age 22, survived a terrorist bomb planted (sound familiar?) aboard a JAT DC 9 flying from Copenhagen to Belgrade. Crew and 29 passengers perished without a trace.
(The Vesna entry is followed with a less spectacular item — nonetheless quite memorable, considering the party’s age and, one supposes, senior citizen’s determination to beat acrobatic odds: “A 102 year-old woman survived after toppling from her fourth-floor balcony in Turin. Fortunately, her fall was broken by a children’s playhouse.”)
Intrigued, wanting more details about Vesna (worried too that waitress Susie — mistaking me for a straight, wealthy, aging lothario — is either about to kiss-me-quick-it’s MSG, or ask me for my cellphone number) I hastily pay my tab, deducting 10 cents for each ‘honey’ endured. I can’t wait to get home to go online. I find . . .
Vesna survived in the JATDC 9 fuselage wreckage. She later told reporters, “The man who found me said that I was in the middle part of the plane. I was found with my head down and my colleague on top of me. One part of my body with my leg was in the plane and my head was out of the plane.
“A catering trolley was pinned against my spine and kept me in the plane. The man who found me, said I was very lucky. He was with Hitler’s troops as a medic during the War. He was German. He knew how to treat me at the site of the accident.”
Was Vesna, who later married and after ten years, with no children, divorced, lucky? “No,” she claims in a 2001 interview, “I’m not lucky. Everybody thinks so, but they’re mistaken. If I were lucky I would never had this accident and my mother and father would be alive. The accident [notoriety and publicity] ruined their lives too. Maybe I was born in the wrong place. Maybe it was a bad place.”
Over my next-day Sweet & Sour leftovers (apropos I suppose to the subject matter) I wonder how my own life might have been lived differently if I had survived a six-mile tumble like Vesna? Oh, yes: my fortune cookie: “Hear with your ears but listen with your heart.” (Honey!)

About the Author:

Charles Alexander