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How it feels to watch your car explode

How it feels to watch your car explode

University of Kansas senior Maddie Theisen tells the story of the time she watched her car explode.  

At the end of her sophomore year, Maddie Theisen, a senior studying strategic communications, was driving home to Minnesota for the summer when she got lost somewhere in Missouri, and wound up in an accident that caused her car to explode.

I see a pheasant walking across the road as I’m going 80 miles an hour with a semi next to me and cars lined behind me on a two-lane highway.

There was no way I could slam on my brakes.

The bird was flapping its wings and looking like it was about to fly away, but next thing I know, I nail it.

I looked in the rearview and just saw feathers, no animal, which was strange. I decided to pull over in what felt like the busiest gas station, with everyone staring at me like I had sixteen heads.

This guy, a classic stereotype of a Missouri farmer, looked at me and said, “Miss, you know you got a pheasant in your Beamer?”

“Excuse me? What?”

I ran around to the front of the car and there was a pheasant hanging from my headlight. At this point, I was bawling. It was disgusting. 

I walked into the gas station and people were trying to help, but we had no clue what to do. When I went back outside, the same man offered to help and, bare-handed, took this bird out of my grill.

“You got a big one,” he said, throwing it in the back of his truck. “You don’t want it, do you?” 

My front light was busted, so I sent my dad a video of it all. After making sure I was OK, he replied with, “Just try to get home before dark.”

From there, I made it home in good time with my family waiting for me and a wild story under my belt. Luckily, we unloaded my car that night.

The next morning, I dropped my best friend off at her house down the street on our way home from a workout class.

Up until now, my car had seemed fine. But, as I turned the corner with my house in sight, smoke started coming out of my air vents and filling the car. I rolled down the windows and parked it at the bottom of my driveway because I thought the engine had died or something.

No one was home and no one was answering the phone, but a worker at the house next door suggested I move away from the car. 

The smoke was getting darker and darker and surrounding the car, so I went across the street with him and called 911. Next thing I know, I’m yelling to the operator, “It’s on fire, it’s on fire, my car is on fire!”

Car explosion

Maddie Theisen's car explodes the morning after she hit a pheasant while driving on a highway. 

Windows were shattering. Tires were popping. I was bawling again.

The tree next to my car caught on fire and now I was panicking that my house was going to catch on fire and my family would hate me. 

Even on a late Wednesday morning, neighbors were coming out of the woodwork to stand in their yards and watch what was happening.

The car had a full tank of gas and two quarts of gas in the trunk, which sounds ridiculous now, but luckily, we live close to a fire station and the firefighters got there in under five minutes.

It took two fire trucks and 20 minutes to put out a fire, which started from wire damage in the front end when I hit the bird. 

Person 1: Do you do the vegan wrap here?

Person 2: We can do the chicken wrap with no cheese?

Person 1: I’ll take the Beyond Burger please. 


Person 1: Oh my God! I feel like I know you somehow…

Person 2: Yeah, we went to high school together. 

Person 1: Oh! *walks off*


Guy 1: Is the black market even real? Has anyone ever been on it?

Guy 2: I tried once but I couldn’t figure out how to get on.


Guy 1: I stayed up until 2 am watching Disney plus

Guy 2: I told my girlfriend I fell asleep but I was actually watching the Mandalorian.


Girl 1: How long have you guys been dating?

Girl 2: Since the summer, well actually for like two years but it’s a long story.


Girl 1: Who are you looking for?

Girl 2: This guy, wait I found him. Fanny pack boy. He flipped off my professor after a test and ran out of the classroom.


Girl 1: How did you choose KU? 

Girl 2: Honestly, I flipped a coin. 


Boy 1: Did I tell you? I think I had a threesome this weekend.

Boy 2: Woah, hold up. You think?


Boy 1: I was born a Phi Delt.

Boy 2: Please don’t ever say that again.


Girl 1: How do you get your boobs to look like that?

Girl 2: I don’t ever wear a bra? I don’t know. 


Girl 1: I just really want a guy to bend me over you know?

Girl 2: How do you know? You’re a virgin!


Guy: Sometimes I wish I could just be a dog and sleep all day. 

Girl: You wake up at like three every day. 

Guy: I know.

Girl: So…

Guy: So does that make me a dog or something?


Girl 1: I wish I was a little bit taller.

Girl 2: I wish I was balder.

Girl 1: I wish I had a...wait, wait, wait balder?


Guy 1: Let’s slap dicks

Guy 2: You ever pee and it feels like throwing up?


Woman 1: *holding baby* He would have been safer at the Hawk

Woman 2: Oh absolutely.


Girl 1: I would never date that guy.

Girl 2: Well, it depends how much money he has.


Girl 1: I’m going to the doctor to see if I have bronchitis before I hook up with him again.

Girl 2: Yeah that’s smart so you don’t give it to anyone else. 

Girl 1: No I mean I want to make sure I infect him.


Guy 1: I'm cutting some of my unnecessary costs, starting with Juuling.

Guy 2: Ight man, good luck.

Guy 1: Actually I might just start chewing


Guy 1: How was work?

Guy 2: My manager was chastising me for not dressing up in a Halloween costume, she doesn’t understand I’m strictly here to get paid.


Guy 1: I am so tired of this week, man

Guy 2: Dude it’s Monday

Guy 1: I know


Person#1: I want to be on the first ship to mars

Person#2: Not me, I doubt they have Wi-Fi

Perons#1: Yeah but at least they’re evolving up there. We’re all just devolving.


Girl 1: Um, I don’t eat pig.

Girl 2: You eat bacon all the time, bitch.


Guy 1: You better get going. 

Guy 2: Yeah, see ya. I’m off to get some Adderall.


Girl 1: Are you home right now?

Girl 2: Yeah, why?

Girl 1: I bought a cat


Girl 1: I just don't understand what fishing is for.

Girl 2: I don't know. Food, maybe?


Guy: I’m just gonna have to like carry an entire box of spiders up the hill tomorrow.

Girl: What?

Guy: Yeah, just like a hundred spiders in a box.


Guy 1: Sometimes ya just gotta give yourself a haircut.

Guy 2: Dude, you shaved half your head. That’s not a haircut, that’s a mess.


Girl 1: Can you eat fruit raw?

Girl 2: How else are you supposed to eat it?


Girl: That class is killing us. ​But they say rest is for the dead.

Guy: Well, at least we'll be rested.


Girl: She's not in class this semester

Guy: Maybe she's dead

Girl: Or studying abroad