lavendersage and I have been talking, a lot, with me trying to be completely honest with her about how I feel about things, and that going as about as well as I can manage (in other words I was being a complete klutz about it, and then got a clue as to how we could approach the problem). It ended on a good note, and I would have been perfectly ok with that being the end of the symphony as well. Leave it to the universe to toss in a twist ending.
Merging onto 880 off of 238 as I departed Castro Valley, I began to shift toward the left most lane, referred to in traffic reports as "the number 1 lane". I got as far as 2 when I saw some jerk coming up fast, and so I demurred to let him and his testosterone mobile by. I actually got a good look at it as it passed, and when my eyes turned forward again I saw it pull ahead of my 4, maybe 5 car lengths... and then I saw the van.
It was one those custom econoline jobs. You know, the ones with the little ladder on the back and the oddly shaped windows on the panels? Maybe a little of that cheesy decal work, like this tan one had. It had seen better days, a fact only emphasized by what happened next.
Even as far back as I was, I could see it was a good foot, maybe a foot and a half, into the number one lane. That was an unfortunate result of the fact that the shoulder narrows to pretty much nothing around there, just shy of the Leavitz sign, and the Marina car dealership sign not much further off. I watched the van, and suddenly just KNEW.
I think I subconsciously tapped the break, backing me off just a bit, but only just. He was still only about 60 feet ahead of me when he struck it. No sign of swerving, no break lights -- he just nailed a parked van at about 90 miles an hour.
Things got a bit busy for me around that point.
The problem with an offset hit is that it doesn't stop you very well. If you've ever played with marbles, or played pool, you know what happens as well as any physicist spouting off about angular momentum.
He literally lifted up slightly, and my first fear was he would flip. He veered right, cutting right in from of me. I was dimly aware of a tire, perhaps from the van, bouncing up, heading in my direction. I never saw it come down, and can only assume it bounced OVER my car.
He nailed someone in the number 3 lane, and shot back toward the center median, where he rode up on the concrete barrier. The car he struck shot to the right, their two paths creating this horrible "X" across four lanes of asphalt.
I remember seeing his ride up the center so well because I had somehow, without hitting any of the debris, other vehicles, or flipping Large Marge herself, right through the center of that "X".
When the smoke, noise, and crumbled vehicles settled behind me, I realized I had punched the gas -- not in error. I had deliberately shot for the opening, and had nailed it.
I pulled over, put on the hazards, and went digging for my phone (it had wound up on the floor, having torn my headset off in the process), yanked out the headset cord and dialed 911.
Imagine my shock, as I pressed the phone to my ear as I sprinted back up 880 to the accident site, to hear the following: "We're sorry, but all emergency operators are busy. Please stay on the line..."
I recall screaming "Are you fucking KIDDING me?!" at the phone.
Fortunately a flat bed tow truck pulled up, and the driver had called it in via his radio. Around that point the idea of calling Roni and having HER call 911 had hit me. Even before finding out they had been called I saw the lights in the distance. I told her I was okay, and that I might be a bit longer -- it was really noisy, as the horn was stuck on the car I was running up to. I told her I would call as soon as I could, and hung up.
The sedan that the truck had caromed off of had contained a couple with their child, a really sweet 3 or 4 year old who clung to her mother with big sad scared eyes... but she never made a sound. He was stuck behind the wheel, numb from the waist down. Later, he said it hurt, but he could feel and wriggle his toes. The tow truck guy earned my eternal gratitude by killing the horn.
The guys in the truck, which had come to rest almost directly opposite of the sedan, were milling about. Yes, as in upright and apparently unharmed. The Van was a good 150 back, almost neatly bisected diagonally -- the driver standing in front, looking like he was ready to spit nails at what they had done. Yes, STANDING.
It appeared that despite feeling like everything was exploding around me, and considering the fact that at least 3 cars were totaled (there was a fourth car ahead of the truck, which seemed to have caught the last brunt of the trucks forward progress), it appeared only one was moderately badly hurt.
My worst injury was a good dose of shock.
I was SO eager to give the CHP my info. The nice officer actually helped me feel a little less silly for being a bit freaked by the whole thing. She mentioned that she had pulled 15 years as an ER nurse before switching to the CHP -- and that her kids wondered why she was so "boring" when it came to driving. She was impressed I hadn't gotten hit -- and I know how hard it is to impress those guys. Strangely enough, it just made me realize just how lucky I had been, which brought on those first shivers you get when the adrenaline starts to wear off.
I totally narced. Without any shame whatsoever. Those mother fuckers nearly took me out, and they could have KILLED that little girl. She told me should would be calling tomorrow... later today I guess... to ask any followup questions. Officer Graham, I think she said.
I finally got back to the car and discovered it was still running. I walked around it, and as far as I could see there was not a mark on her. I climbed in, and as I slowly pulled away, letting Roni talk me down on the headset, I saw the small, barely noticeable star at the bottom center of the windshield. You know, the kind you get it dinged by a rock.
The only evidence I had been that close.
Roni got me most of the way to Alameda, and Audra helped to put it in a spritual perspective. She thinks that I'm in the "doorway" of life. Personally, I don't think that applies to the father as much as it would to the mother. I mean, my direct involvement ended 9 months ago, at least biologically speaking - dcatt's doing all the work now.
I think I can sleep soon. I hope. I'm just REALLY glad I don't have to work tomorrow.
*Major points if you get the joke of the musical selection tonight.