Thursday, January 26, 2012


When I was replaying the moment of impact in my mind Tuesday night, this is what came to mind.

Those good old fashion Batman sound effects, with big letters and bright colors. And, of course, exclamation points!

Accidents are weird, and scary, and so very disorienting. I have always dreaded the thought of an on-highway accident. With everyone going 60-plus miles an hour, no collision is going to be good. I gotta say, I got lucky.

Yeah, I know, how lucky is a car accident? Well, if this crosses the southern California highway accident off my life's list, lucky indeed.

I was only hit by one car, not several, and the car was tiny (even if it was careening into me at high speed), no one else was in the car with me, and the impact was on the passenger side. All fortuitous events.

In my peripheral vision, I caught the sports car coming straight at me, across the lanes, perpen-fucking-dicular. "Holy shit" went through my mind as I kept driving, pulling my car to the left, into the next lane, to try to avoid the collision, but it was impossible; the small car's backside flipped around and caught most of its passenger side against the front passenger side of my car.

It all happened so fast, yet there were a few seconds there that slowed down, simultaneously. I know that doesn't make sense, but that's how it felt. A second or two telescoping down into just a few thoughts, "We're going to crash." "This could be it." "Hold on." "Oh shit, what about Cappi?" and it was over. I found myself coming to a slow stop in the second lane of the highway, frantically checking my rear-view mirror to see who was going to now rear-end me.

But no one did, instead the cars that had screeched to a stop to avoid the accident started to find their way around my wrecked car, and the big black man who had pulled his giant SUV over to the shoulder to see if everyone was okay, gave me the thumbs up with a question in his eyes. "Are you alright?" they seemed to ask. He then smiled when I respond back with my own raised thumb, that yes, yes, I'm okay.

I am really not hurt at all. I am totally shaking, but I am not bleeding, there is no broken glass, there are no broken bones.

I am fucking okay!

I am so incredibly happy. I am alive and fine. Confused but fine.

The dude in the sports car seems okay too.

He walks over; he is visibly shaken, and there is some blood on his hand, but he too is so relieved, and relieved for me as well. He puts his hand on my shoulder, a kind-of fatherly gesture. The first words out of his mouth are "I'm so sorry. It was totally my fault. I lost control of my car."

Well, yeah, that much I know, but thank god the guy isn't going to try to flip this around or be a dick about it, or not admit guilt at the scene of the accident, which everyone tells you NOT to do. But of course, it was, it was his fault. He was sideways on the freeway, that's generally considered a no-no, and rarely goes unnoticed.

I figured he had already called 911, but asked just to make sure. "Um, no, no, I haven't." He is really more in shock than me (which on some level seems impossible), but does make sense, seeing as his last 5 minutes were more dramatic than mine. His car is completely bashed in and facing the wrong way on the freeway. His front bumper headed straight  into traffic, which is steadily making its way around us by now.

So, okay, I need to make the call. Damn, it's hard to press even the large keypad buttons of the iphone while shaking like this. I succeed and am told there are already CHP on the way. I then very shakily call my husband too. He doesn't answer. I leave a message. I was on my way home from work, on my way to get my toddler from preschool. He needs to pick her up!

By now I can see a highway patrol car trying to make its way down the median by the center divide.

He arrives. And knows what to do. It's such a relief that me and this stunned man next to me are no longer in charge.

He sets up cones, his lights are flashing, we've got the left two lanes closed down. He asks if I can move my car; and although it does still start, there is no moving the car with the front right tire bent at that angle. He tells us to get our licenses, registration, AAA cards, insurance cards, etc.

Two more CHP officers arrive. We've now got three cop cars with lights a-flashing. I'm feeling a lot safer cruising around the freeway lanes with them there. (As an aside, it is very strange to be walking around the fast lanes of the freeway while traffic whizzes by at 65 miles an hour. Especially when they're all craning their necks to see what's going on.)

One of the officers, a woman, takes my statement and sort-of becomes my accident mentor. She has me breath, re-tell my story, verifies that she understands it correctly. She explains more than twice that the fast lane is lane 1 in these types of situations, and the slow lane is lane 5. (I fuck this up a lot in my statement apparently.) She explains I'll need to retell the story to my insurance company probably a few times. She coaches me a bit. Slowly explains what will happen to my car. What will likely happen after that.

I try my husband again. Still his voice mail. I text him. Nothing.

A tow truck arrives. It drags the sports car into the fast lane, closer up to my car. We wait on the other tow truck.

My CHP mentor takes me aside and gives me some advice. "You're going to be sore. There is no way around it. That sort of impact will make you sore. Here's what I suggest. You go home. You take an Aleve. You get in a hot tub. You drink a big glass of wine."

I really like her.

I text and call my husband again. Nothing.

She offers to drive me home.

Really? It seems kind-of weird. But the tow truck is still not there, and I need to get my child from school.

"Wow, that would be great." She tells me to grab what I need from the car, so I do. My car is full of stuff. I look around and settle on grabbing the fruit I bought at lunch and my yoga mat. I already have my purse.

So there I am, with my purse, groceries and yoga mat, getting into the front seat of the CHP car. Just leaving my car sitting in lane 2 of Highway 8 westbound.

It feels wrong and strange. But I have the number of the tow yard and my purse (and my completely intact body!), what more do I really need?

Let's go officer #16728. (I never did get her name.)

I climb into the front seat of the cop car and direct her to my house. She actually asks if I mind if we break the law a bit, speeding on the highway. How corny, I know. But it provides levity.

We're soon at my house, I climb out of the car with my stuff, happy to be alive and anxious to get my daughter...

To be continued.........


Mom c said...

My heart is pounding. Thank God you're allright... love, Mom C

Me, You, or Ellie said...

BETH!!!!!!!!!When was this, oh my God! Congratulations on .. well, living.. and also on finally replacing your jeep (please tell me you weren't driving t's car)

I can't tell you how much I love that your needs in that moment were fruit and yoga. You're so cool.

How's the seatbelt bruise?


Pat said...

Glad you are alright, and that you will get a new car.
Love, Mompa

MB said...

So glad you're OK, Beth. Yikes! xo

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Beth! Holy Moses, kiddo. That's big. The I-8? Haysus.

I'm so glad you're okay, and I'm so glad you're so lucky you're okay -- that interstate gets *cars* on it.

I love your cop-friend and your fruit but I do *not* love the guy who rammed into you.

I can't *wait* for part 2.

YAY for your intactness!

Sheesh, man.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. What kind of sports car was it?

Pickles and Dimes said...

Holy crap! I'm so glad you're all right!

I know exactly what you mean about "time speeding up yet slowing down." When I got hit 2 weeks ago, I remember seeing the car in my rearview mirror and thinking, "That's not right.." before the guy slammed into me. In reality, it was probably less than a second from me seeing him to getting hit.

Hope you're not too sore today!

Leisa Dreps said...

You got that right about accidents being disorienting. I can still clearly recall the strange feeling of time going into slow motion a few seconds before my car almost hit a tree a few years back. It made me realize the value of life and how it can easily end in an instant.