GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
OK, so one of the places I love almost more than anywhere else is backstage, backstage maybe an hour before opening night, the big show. No one knows if it's going to work. Are they going to love us? Places. Does everybody know their places? And these big beefy fellows - belts and tools and equipment, running around measuring stuff. The lights - blues, reds, yellows - flash on stage, and each storyteller has their own ritual. Some of them close their eyes, hide in the darkest corners of the dark curtains, and others, they want their eyes wide open.
The band starts up, hits us with a few notes to let everybody know the beat is ready. You better get ready, too. Today on SNAP JUDGMENT, from PRX and NPR, we proudly present "Encore" 'cause you never know what's going to happen when you bare your soul. My name is Glynn Washington. I get to be the host. You get the very best seat in the house. We're showcasing some of our favorite stories from SNAP LIVE! episodes. We're kicking off today's episode with a story originally performed for SNAP JUDGMENT LIVE! in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Our next guest is the hardest working woman in comedy. Yes, indeed. Please, put your hands together for Ms. Caitlin Gill.
CAITLIN GILL: When I was young, it's not that I was big-boned. It's just that I had delicious emotions. I think it all started at church. It was never my scene, and I was always nervous. But every week, they had this big, huge box of doughnuts. At some point, I realized that if you are always holding half of a doughnut, it always looks like you are on your first doughnut, even if you're on your seventh doughnut. It must've been a trick I learned from watching my grandpa drink scotch.
GILL: It was all just baby fat - until I wasn't a baby anymore. All of a sudden I was in high school, where there are dates and dresses and dances and all sorts of other tortures designed for the obese and the insecure. By the time I stopped trying, I had asked 13 boys to dances and heard 13 noes. That's a baker's dozen.
GILL: I was sad 'cause I was fat, and I was fat because I was sad. Now, through all this, I did manage to make some great friends. And those friends and I decided that our - the end of our sophomore year of high school was going to be something worth celebrating. We were going to get tickets to the biggest concert event of the summer - Live 105's BFD. BFD - the concert so epic they almost swear about it on the radio. We all know what that F stands for. We went to the concert and it was amazing. We saw Erasure, and we saw the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and we saw Blur, and we saw The Cure. It was a very big deal for the '90s.
GILL: After the concert, we all left the arena, went into the parking lot and stuffed ourselves into my best friend's minivan - so full now, somebody had to sit on the floor. As we were leaving, the traffic was crazy, and everybody was hungry. So we decided to stop at a Taco Bell. Now, this decision was also made by half of the gazillion people we were just at a concert with.
GILL: So the drive-through line was little bit long. We all got out of the van, and we're just milling around in the parking lot. And when it was time to get back in, it was declared that the first to arrive back at the van would get to sit shotgun and the last would have to sit on the floor. This resulted in a sprint, which predictably, I lost.
GILL: Of course, I lost a sprint. I was stuck in a beef loaf of a body. It didn't sprint everywhere. And of course, I couldn't spend a full day without feeling like a Fatty McFat Fat. I always felt like my body kept me away from other people. This time, I literally didn't have a seat. I sat there with my sad butt on the floor of the van, sliding door open, my sad feet on the sad pavement.
And that's when the van started moving.
GILL: Now, what happened next only took about a second, but I had a lot of time to think about it. The van's moving. I should probably lift up my legs. Gee, you know, now that the van's moving, it seems a lot harder to lift up my legs. Hey, I never noticed how close that tire was to my leg - oh, my God, my legs.
The van sucked my right leg right under the tire. I flopped out of the van, and I landed on my back. I looked down to assess the situation. And I could see that my right knee had been bent so that my foot was touching my hip. But my toes were pointing right at the sky. I realized this wasn't my only immediate concern when my gaze continued downward to discover that the minivan had come to rest on my left leg.
My best friend got out of the car, ran all the way around to see what happened, and stopped short when he saw me. I looked up at him and I said, my leg is broken. Please move your car.
GILL: He ran all the way back around, he climbed back in the van, he restarted it and he pulled it off my leg. The pain I was in was otherworldly. I had not experienced anything like it before, and I have not since. I was in shock, and the shock was making me twitch, and every twitch would just send cramps down the damaged meat in my leg. And the way it was bent, there was no fixing anything until we got to a hospital, which meant that a fireman had to stand above me and use his bare hands to bend a metal leg brace to accommodate the new curve in my leg.
You know, even when you're laying on the ground grievously injured, there really is something about a man in uniform.
GILL: The rest of the night gets a little fuzzy. I remember learning that morphine is a hell of a drug.
GILL: It turns out that my leg wasn't broken, but my kneecap had gone from the front of my leg to the back of my leg. A doctor and a few orderlies took a running start and yanked my leg back into place. They braced me up. And they sent me home.
The next morning when I woke up, I would've given anything to have my body back the way it was the day before, when I hated it.
And I have never hated my body again.
GILL: I also quickly learned that crutching is a great core workout, Vicodin is an appetite suppressant and physical therapists are very serious about their work. I lost all the weight I didn't need to carry anymore. I should make it clear that I do not endorse getting hit by a minivan as a weight loss plan.
GILL: I lost 30 pounds in 10 days. That's not Weight Watchers; that's when doctors start watching your kidneys.
GILL: But as terrible and painful as getting run over by a minivan was, I would not change a single thing about what happened that day. That was the event in my life that revealed my beauty to myself. It's the beauty we all share. It's the beauty of these bodies.
As a bonus, it turns out that getting run over by minivan in a Taco Bell parking lot after a concert makes a pretty good story.
GILL: It's a story that, when I came back to school the next year, people asked me to tell over and over and over again. And I figured out that they liked it better when it was funny. And I really, really loved making them laugh.
That was half my life ago. Today, I'm a standup comedian.
I'd like to close tonight by responding to what I think must be the best senior quote penned in any yearbook, anywhere, ever - Dear Caitlin, sorry we ran you over.
GILL: Apologies accepted.
Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.