It's been flashing through my head often enough over the last week or so I figured I might as well write it down to see if that helps. And Ron and CPM asked for it, so here you go.
Two Friday's ago, armed with a medium-sized sealed round of DD coffee in the cup holder and idly contemplating the day to come, I sat at a light on the exit ramp from US53 North preparing to take a left onto Higgins Road west.
Nice weather, good and early, conference call in 20 minutes, plenty of time.
Light turns green, everything looks good, I start into the intersection when
a car heading eastbound on Higgins at full speed appeared between two stopped cars and locked its brakes up about twenty feet or so from me.
My autonomic nervous system didn't let me down, and I hit the breaks instantly at the first sound of the brakes.
The stories are true: everything does go into slow motion. In less than a second, the front right quarter of the skidding car slammed at around 20 miles per hour into the slightly angled left front quarter of my car, accordioning the hood, sending bits of plastic spinning in all directions, and tossing me around in my seat with one huge violent shake.
Then. . .the sound of cars pulling around the accident scene in the center of the intersection. No one stopped. Not a single soul. This didn't bother me until much later.
I sat in the car in a dazed state for a moment then everything seemed to happen at once.
I called my wife: "Honey, been in an accident, I'm OK, I think, what's the number for our insurance company?" (Shows you where my head is at. Don't bother checking for injuries, Bob, make sure you get coverage). The police rolled up and check in on me - I'm starting to shake a bit, and report that I think I'm OK, they tell me to stay put. The driver of the other car is seen talking to the police.
A co-worker calls and reports he was two cars behind, saw the whole thing, couldn't stop, do I need anything? No, I think I'll just be swell, I reported.
(I learn later he called all manner of folks at my company looking for my phone number, in the process spreading the news that I had "been in a serious accident". When the police dropped me off at work I had some esplainin' to do, since I didn't look like I'd been in a serious accident.)
Flatbed comes, tows my car away, drives off. Thankfully I get a card so I know where it went.
But before it left, I remembered something. My coffee.
Unspilled. Now that's industrial packaging, I thought at time. It wasn't until yesterday when I went to Gerber to claim by plates and "personal effects" that I finally got a good look at the car. The whole front left end was caved in, twisting the frame and doing untold serious mischief to the engine. It was a scary-looking mess.
The Black 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle GLS TDI had been damaged beyond repair, according to the insurance company. But it did its job. It crumpled where it had to and when it had to, leaving the passenger compartment isolated and untouched. No shattered glass, no airbags deployed.
I've reflected since then that had I been another 18 inches further into the intersection the other car would have t-boned me. With no side-curtain airbags, it would have been a much more serious accident. As it was, I enjoyed the company of painkillers that Friday and for part of Saturday, but that was it. No, I wasn't going to pretend I had whiplash like that Brady Bunch episode.
As I smeared "goodbye old friend" into the dusty passenger side door before I left the car yesterday, I felt - and still feel - lucky to be alive.
It has reminded me of just how important it is to live in the right now, since tomorrow can be easily and arbitrarily taken away in an instant - as life continues to roll around you on all sides without stopping.