The Other Tool That Can (Help) Save Your Life

Of all the tools we imagine can save our lives, precisely zero of them will do that.

A tool, after all, is just an inert artifact. A tool is only a device that is put into the hands of an operator. Writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the aftermath of the miserable murders of 59 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, one Jesse “Evil Doesn’t Kill People — Guns Kill People” Berney wrote, “Calling what happened an act of evil is just one way to point the blame in another direction than the gun culture and lax laws that enable it.” (October 3, 2017)

In other words, Jesse says, people act in an evil manner at almost any time and for any reason, but it is their guns that actually do the killing. We’ll never be entirely able to rid the earth of evil, Jesse says, but we could get rid of guns. His solutions are “universal background checks and a ban on all assault weapons,” as if we haven’t heard those lame ideas before, and his coup de grace: keep guns “out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

Jesse’s story is like every other weak wuss’ excuse, the guy or gal who says, “The gun just ‘went off’ by itself … and I, therefore, am not responsible.” Brilliance upon brilliance.

I passed a car upside down on the Interstate the other day, passed at about 75 mph, and I didn’t stop or even slow down. It wasn’t the first car I’ve seen upended beside a road.

My friend Ben Rodgers Lee died in a car that overturned in LA — Lower Alabama — on October 7, 1991. Ben probably wasn’t driving in a particularly safe manner when he hit a bridge abutment and his car flipped. Other traffic stopped, but people didn’t succeed in helping Ben out of the car. Ben, you see, was a heavyweight even after bariatric surgery. (Still, at 350 pounds, Ben could climb a tree like a squirrel.) That day, Ben, who was always well-armed, was carrying cases of ammo to his pawn shops, and when his car overturned, it caught fire.

So, here’s Ben with a handgun strapped to his hip and, if I know or knew Ben, a couple more stashed in the car with a folding knife in his pocket. And the force of his 350 pounds upside down against the seat belt was simply too much pressure. Especially if he panicked a bit, smelling smoke.

It’s certain the people who gathered and saw him burn inside his car panicked when they told the police they were afraid to approach because the powder inside the ammo cartridges had begun to cook off and explode.

I wasn’t present when Ben died, and have related his story as well as I recall, but the one tool that could perhaps have helped save his life wasn’t his handgun or a knife, now tucked impossibly tight in his pocket. That tool would be a simple seatbelt cutter. One should be in every truck and car; maybe this tool ought to be mandatory just as wearing a seatbelt is mandatory.

Of course, in an upside-down car, things will be rearranged inside. “Rearranged” as in nut-case crazy, and before you go pulling at glove boxes or whatnot, you’ll have to stop and think, try to remain calm, because as soon as you open a lid, everything is going to spill. So, I think a seatbelt cutter attached with Velcro to hold it in place is a lifesaving idea.

And then, as soon as you cut the seatbelt, you’re going to spill in an upside heap and you may need to break a window to get free. You’ll be disoriented, too. I’ve watched videos online about window-breaking devices and some of them even work … meaning some don’t, but a seatbelt cutter does work and it’s a simple tool that can help save your life. It might even have helped save Ben’s life.

A seatbelt cutter is just a tool, but if you carry one in your vehicle, you’re a step toward home free. The last place you want to be if your car should begin to burn or if there are bad guys approaching is stuck upside down in the seat unable to move or defend yourself and care for your family. And seatbelt cutters are cheap. Cheap insurance.