Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Here's a fun meme!

I see this meme at Excels at Nothing and I remember now that I didn't get around to the last one, so here it goes:

The most scared I've been on the road:

This is an easy but tough one. There's only one clear choice and it surprises me considering that it was low speed and uneventful compared to a past life I had with automobiles. In my youth a was a wee bit troubled and I took my frustrations out every night in sports cars at very high speeds, treating each nightly run like a video game where I had unlimited lives. In my first four years as a young driver I had wrecked so many cars that DMV would send threatening letters every couple of months telling me that I needed a dealer's license if I intended to buy another ride, and I rarely totaled one in the first few tries. Also in that time I had wallpapered two and a half walls of my bedroom floor to ceiling with various "moving" violations, and until I learned legal defenses I was a productive revenue generator for several counties.

More than once I've crawled out of the remnants of a car scattered an eighth of a mile down a dark highway, the wheels sheared off and the frame lying plumb on the pavement, blood on my face and laughing hysterically. All of my dogs may not have been barking, but I was having a good time just the same. During those times I could afford to play the odds because I was the only one playing the game. That all changed when I had kids. . . .

Just over two years ago I was driving home from my sister's house about five miles away from where I lived. I was in my XTerra with my at-the-time two children in the back. It had been raining hard for over a week and everything was soaked; it was early October if I recall and it was in the middle of the day not one mile from my doorstep. Coming up on a mild left-hand curve on a 45 mph road, an oncoming car "missed" the curve and was going to hit me head on. I didn't have or need any time to react as there was only one course of action: steer hard right and hit the ditch. I'm always consciously aware of an escape outlet for times like these, so it was really kind of casual. When I got scared was when I was past the ditch, drifting sideways in the soaked grass and mud trying not to hit the line of trees parallel to the ditch head-on; the branches were tearing down the right side of the truck and I could see in the mirror that my kids were leaning to the left, away from the doors. I'll never forget the sound. I was praying quietly that the glass would hold and that the body of the car wouldn't snag on one of the trees.

All went well and I got control of the car and got it stopped. My kids were screaming in terror and I did my best to calm them down. What floored me the most was when another car stopped to help, and for the first time in my life I couldn't even begin to form a sentence to talk to them. I have a feeling it was just a long clump of cuss words that I spoke. I was shaking, nauseous, pumped chock full of adrenaline, and scared as hell. This is from a guy who used to laugh at the "metallic thud" sound my car made when I hit something solid at speed.

As it turns out it was the oncoming driver's very first week on the road, and I have a suspicion that she was paying attention to her phone and not to curve ahead. She was really torn up about it and bawling her eyes out, but I told her that for her inaugural car accident, when nobody is bleeding and in pain that it's a good day. My brother and brother in law came and transferred my kids to their cars and took them home since there was no "collision" and no need for medical attention. The ditch I hit was substantial, and even with all the replacement parts the girl's insurance company bought for my XTerra it was never the same again, and has since died a slow death over the last two years.

I definitely think the contributing factor to me being scared and shaken up was the fear for my kids. I still don't get shook up at close calls when I'm by myself on the highway, but if you were wondering I drive like an old man these days. My reckless race car days are long gone.
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