My First Dead Guy

2 09 2012

As many of you know, Maren and I recently returned from a trip to Central America where we spent time in Costa Rica and Guatemala. We saw and did lots of exciting things while we were there but one thing etched itself in my mind with more clarity than anything else – a dead guy.

I have seen embalmed and made-up dead bodies in caskets and I’ve come across the scenes of a couple of accidents where emergency personnel have laid tarps over what are, presumably, the bodies of people who didn’t fare very well in the accident, but until recently I had never seen a dead body in the state in which the person had died.

It was one of the many memorable things Maren and I saw in our trip to Central America. It may seem odd that I choose to write about the dead body I saw instead of the many other amazing things we did and saw but I would argue that this event was probably the thing that resulted in the most thought and self-reflection during our trip (with the possible exception of the staggering architecture and intelligence showcased at the ancient Mayan city of Tikal), hence it is the event that seems most interesting to write about.

***WARNING*** Fairly graphic description of a dead body below.

We were riding in a small, tourism bus from Antigua, Guatemala to a rural town named Chichicastenango. (On a related note, it seems to me that the Central American tourism minibus industry attracts some of the most aggressive drivers.) We were driving up a winding mountain road and suddenly slowed down. I looked up ahead and saw some vehicles pulled over on the opposite side of the road and I saw a backpack and a motorcycle helmet in the middle of the opposite lane. As we got closer, a body became visible lying near a motorcycle on the side of the road. I don’t remember many details about the position of the body and the motorcycle or of the surrounding area because my attention was nearly all focused on what I assume to be the fatal injury – a severely traumatic head wound that had resulted in his brains spilling out onto the road. Forgive my crassness, but the analogy that first came to my mind at the time and that still best approximates my perception of the injury is that of a partially smashed pumpkin with it’s innards spilling out.

Needless to say, it was quite a shocking image, one that remains quite vivid still. I’m not sure how other people react in the same situation and I’m sure emergency personnel and health care workers are a different story altogether but my thought process went as follows: 1. Holy crap! I just saw a dead guy and his brains. 2. Why are we still driving so fast? 3. Why are none of the motorcycle riders wearing helmets? 4. What if we get in an accident? 5. Do I feel more defensive of my worldview now? (A Terror Management Theory reference) 6. This will make a great story to tell. These thoughts cycled in my head until we reached our destination, at which point I got distracted by all of the colorful souvenirs and the pushy market vendors. Yet, even now it’s easy to recall the image of that man in the road. It’s interesting how we react to and relate to death.

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One response

13 09 2012
Chris Romney

Peter, that is really gross and creepy. I can feel my morning oatmeal a little right now. I kind of got a kick out of reading the thoughts that came to your head then. Thanks for sharing – kind of. :) -Chris

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