It seems that it never ends, threats of life ending that is. Very early in this story telling escapade, I shared how I somehow escaped death as a 7 year old when I was struck by a school bus (link). I have a few of these stories to share and I was hoping that there would not be any new ones, but here I am, getting ready to share one that happened just the other night.
According to the NSC, the odds of any of us dying with the cause of death being a car crash, is 1 in 112. Apparently that statistic does not include me because I’ve had a couple of accidents that could have ended this way. I guess I’m destined to be one of the 1 in 7 who will die of heart disease or cancer; oh joy.
The Saturday began like many; we golfed. After golf, we drove over to friends’ house for dinner. When we arrived, it was about 4:30 and we all had a beer or glass of wine. Mine was a Miller 64. Dinner was spent with our hosts, Paul and Sue, as well as Sue’s parents. Dinner was good, they had cooked up some meatballs in a slow cooker all day and for the pasta, Paul shredded up zucchini into spaghetti shape – first time for eating zucchini as spaghetti.
Conversation was good. Since there were only six people, I didn’t clam up like I do in large groups. I enjoy the personal engagement of small groups because I feel comfortable enough to make contact with each person. It’s more intimate. Sue’s dad is like me in that he’s mostly quiet and doesn’t feel the need to be talking constantly. All the others are good yappers. I’m more of a quick witted one-liner. I think everyone was drinking wine except for me and Sue’s dad. I’m not much of a drinker so after the 4:30 Miller, I had a diet Snapple tea with dinner.
Paul and Sue both put in a lot of driving for their jobs with Paul being a trucker and Sue’s being a regional sales rep. So naturally, part of the conversation went to driving and auto accidents. For my part, I shared I’d been hit by a drunk driver and run over by a school bus, both of which could have put angel wings or devil horns on me. I also mentioned a terrible accident where I lost a cousin, her husband and a child, leaving two small surviving children to be raised by grandma and grandpa.
We left the house around 8:30 since Kim had to work the next morning. It’s a 20 minute drive home and the highway was a bit crowded. I like to drive in the slow lane, usually right around the posted speed limit or slightly below it. I did notice that I was driving close to the speed of the Subaru in the middle lane next to mine. As we were beginning to get close to our exit lane, I noticed that I was in the Subaru’s blind spot so I sped up slightly, getting my nose ahead of that vehicle.
No sooner was I ahead and almost to the point where I would begin to make my move to the right, our car was engaged with another car. Things happen fast in an auto accident. In a matter of perhaps 5-7 seconds, I felt a large bump on my left and then saw a vehicle in my front, spinning with us and being pushed by our car. For whatever reason, my instincts were taking care of me for I did not apply the brakes, but instead let the car keep moving forward on its own. Once the Subaru was completely out of my front, then I applied the brakes and brought us to a stop on the shoulder. The Subaru had been turned around completely, now facing the opposite direction and also on the shoulder.
Everyone was safe. I don’t know how, but no one was hurt. We weren’t even bumped around. I got out of our car and walked up to the Subaru. The driver was alone, on her cell phone. I could hear her telling someone she was in an accident, I think the CHP (California Highway Patrol). When she rolled down her window, I said, “didn’t you see me?” To that she replied, “see you? I was hit by someone.”
The police showed up and we each made our reports. I had admitted to drinking a beer earlier in the day, so after the Subaru left the scene, one of the officers issued a short sobriety test on me. The officer taking this report was not the initial officer so the initial officer had of course passed on the beer comment. The second officer said to me, “I detected a smell of alcohol so I’d like to give you a quick sobriety test”.
I sort of smirked because I knew The only smell I likely was emitting was that of garlic or Gouda cheese. I had had my one beer four hours ago and that was before my dinner. I just replied, “well I doubt you smell alcohol since I only had a single beer at 4:30, but no problem.” I caught a quick hint of a smile when I caught him in that lie. He told me to stand at attention with my hands at my side. Then he took a ball point pen and moved it from side to side. I was told to follow it with only my eyes. After three passes, he just said, “you’re fine, sorry just doing my job”. I didn’t mind, I was glad to see their taking our accident seriously.
We were finished and free to continue home. We had some damage on the driver side and our front bumper was ripped clean off. The bumper was hanging on by only a single screw and it was a bit shredded so I simply pulled it the rest of the way free. The CHP officer said we could just leave it on the side because CALTRANS would pick it up. The car was drivable. It looked a mess, but drivable.
There was no life flashing before my eyes, no divine intervention. We were unfortunate to be involved in an accident but perhaps lucky to be alive or at least lucky to be unharmed. We were traveling maybe 60 mph at the time of impact, driving an SUV. It doesn’t take much to roll an SUV, not much at all. In hindsight, it was very fortuitous that the Subaru was on my side as we began our partial spin. Likely it prevented us from rolling. No one comes out unharmed in a highway 60 mph roll, no one.
Was this a hit and run accident? Was there really another vehicle? Maybe there was, but there were no marks on the rear of the Subaru. Did the Subaru driver change lanes on me and just not see me? If so, did she simply make up a story? Did I cheat death? If I cheated death, why….and how many more times will I get to do this?
A little while later that night, my wife and I gave each other a big hug and she thanked me for ‘keeping us alive’. Huh, maybe I did.