Sunday, October 08, 2006

One Year Anniversary of a Buick Century's Passing

One year ago today was a momentous event. There I was, driving along a highway early one Saturday morning. Normally, a teacher would have been better suited to being at home, snug in her bed on such a day, but I had graciously given up my slumber to proctor the SAT at the high school in my district. Little did I know that evil was afoot.

There were few cars on the road, typical of an early Saturday morning in the Cities. I was in the right-hand lane, only a few miles from home, when I noticed a semi barreling down at a fast speed in the left lane (here you can imagine ominous music for the soundtrack, slowly building in intensity). He passed me, but as we were nearing an intersection that had just turned green, he was forced to substantially slow down for someone coming from a stop right in front of him. My lane was empty, so I was coming upon him again, thus passing him on the right. I decided I didn't want to stick around in his blind spot for long since I knew he wouldn't be very patient behind a slow car. Few drivers are.

Right when I was nearly parallel with his cab, I suddenly found myself screaming as my car lost control -- he had turned right into it at 60 mph. If you know me, you know I am not typically a screamer. So much so that when I was in a dinner theater a few years back and was forced to scream from offstage on command, I was unable to do so and someone else did it for me. But that day I became a master screamer! I rivaled the ring wraiths from Lord of the Rings in piercing quality and shrillness. The semi scratched along my left side and since he hit my front left side, he set me into a spin. The only thought going through my mind, as my scream filled my car and my frozen arms gripped the wheel, was that I hoped he wouldn't throw me into traffic, as I could no longer control my car from the damage it had sustained.

After a nice spin or two, I landed miraculously in the median of our four-lane highway. There was just enough grass for my car to rest in the median. Just ahead of my car was a sign I missed by a couple feet. And then the median widened and dipped, so I would have been more likely to roll. Just before where I landed, there's just a small median of concrete, and if I would have been thrown there, I could have been in oncoming traffic.

So I found myself in the midst of my first car accident. As soon as I realized my car was at rest and I was no longer in immediate danger, I reached for my purse and grabbed my phone to call Eric. I was shaking noticeably as he picked up, suspecting nothing. He answered with a delighted, "Oh, my baby is calling to talk to me!", whereas I could barely wait for him to finish to blurt out, "Eric, I've just been in a car accident. A semi hit me. I'm fine, but you have to find someone's number so they knows I'm not going to be there on time!" While he said he admired my dedication to my job, he was confused why shock didn't keep me from being responsible.

Fortunately my door opened enough for me to get out, and my body, other than some bruises, had sustained little damage. I have been receiving continuing treatment for my back since then, as it was sprained from the impact. When there are days where I'm tired and worn and my back is especially acting up, I just remember the accident and how favorable it was to me. And my back is getting steadily better, so those self-pitying thoughts are further and further apart.

The semi driver had pulled over down the road. Our only interaction after the accident was when he walked over to gruffly ask, "Where are we at?" so he could relay it to the person on the other end of the phone call, presumably the police.

The police officer arrived and took my account first, then took an unusually long time to talk with the semi driver. The driver, 24 years old, corroborated my story, admitting he just hadn't seen me there. Unfortunately for the driver, while he did have insurance, he didn't have a license. From the officer's account, it wasn't clear whether it had lapsed or if he didn't have the proper license for the rig he was driving, but we were told that was of no concern to us. We were allowed to go after about an hour, while the other driver was in the back of the patrol car; there was no way they were going to allow him to drive without a license. He had been transporting cattle, so the officer was slightly at a loss how long it would take to track down someone qualified to drive the truck to its destination. For good measure, he was going to test the driver for substances to ensure it was simply human error, and not an intoxicated or drug-influenced accident.

Our car was totaled and counted as a loss. There was some nostalgia as I parted with that car, but she served us well in the time we had it. After all, she protected me to the end. Since every car needs a nickname, our Buick Century had been My Precious, in homage to Tolkien and his literary tome. It seemed appropriate that in the end, it had to be destroyed so that I could go on.

And lest you think my Century was poorly made, I'll have you know that, according to the police report, while my car received 'severe' damage, the semi sustained 'moderate.' That's right. I didn't mess around with any small vehicle for my first accident, and My Precious packed a wallop in her death throes.

My father-in-law's birthday is today as well. One year ago, in response to the accident, he said, "The best birthday present I could have gotten today was Faith being okay." After all, not too many people get to tangle with a semi and then walk away.

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