How I Nearly Became Part of History
I've been fascinated by the Roman Empire since I was a wee lad. So on a business trip to France in December 1997, I took time off to visit some ruins in Orange -- an amphitheater and triumphal arch constructed in the first century AD That night, as I dined in Avignon, I read my tourist's guide and discovered that the famous aqueduct at Pont de Garde was only twenty kilometers away!
It was a clear and windy night with a full moon. Either under its influence, or that of a half-bottle of Chateauneuf de Pape, I decided that I would just drive out there and see what could be seen.
When I arrived at 9:30pm the parking lot and tourist facilities were deserted, and the road to the aqueduct was chained off. I could see clearly by the full moon, so I walked up for a closer look. As walked towards this marvel of ancient engineering, gazing at it in what a charitable friend later said was "childlike wonder" but others characterized as "an idiotic daze," the solid stone road fell out from under me. What I had taken to be a shadow in the road was in fact a meter-wide gap between the modern bridge and the aqueduct.
I skinned my shin, banged my back on the ledge, and plummeted two meters to land on my feet in the bottom of a trench. Overhead to my right, I saw the narrow stone bridge where pedestrians are supposed to walk.
I painfully climbed out of the trench, then jumped right back in to retrieve my rental car key and climbed out again. X-rays later showed that I had cracked a rib, but I got off lightly. The trench could easily have been ten or fifty meters deep, in which case I would have been pruned from further contributions to the gene pool.
I hope my daughter is more levelheaded!
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: Jim Buchman