Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Rush Hour Accident

“We have to get you off the highway. Do you have your insurance card?”

“Of course,” I replied.

“May I have your driver’s license?” the Trooper continued.

“Are you going to hold this for ransom?” I asked. He only nodded.

This conversation preceded a meeting in a church parking lot just off the exit from the interstate. The meeting seemed interminable, in 30 something temperatures, and was a marked contrast to the gathering I wanted to be at and was headed for in a church not far away. In the actual meeting we were outside, in the cold, with the blue revolving light of the Trooper’s car periodically flashing on the wall of the church. I had wanted to be inside a church, with other volunteers ( some of whom I was planning to meet this night ), in a cozy room eating pizza as we chatted about our volunteer work.

The outdoor meeting was the result of a phone call to 911 reporting a 4-vehicle accident that had occurred on the interstate. The accident occurred during rush hour, in very heavy, slow-to-stopped traffic conditions, and began with the driver of a small truck apparently deciding he could text and operate his vehicle simultaneously. His rear-ending of the car ahead of him shattered that illusion ( one can hope, eh? ) as well as the left taillight and back bumper of the car. That car hit another and that one hit me, ending the chain reaction.

“What th’ … ? What was that?” I said to myself, as if it could have been anything else. I pulled to the shoulder and exited my car; though we were moments ago snarled and nearly stopped, traffic seemed to be whizzing by me now. I looked at my car’s rear end and saw, by the lights of the car that had hit it, only minor damage. The driver of that car, a female, had also pulled over and was still in the car. Suddenly, appearing from nowhere is a man on the passenger side of her car.

“He was texting! He admitted to me he was texting!” as he comes to my side.

“Who’re you?” I managed to say through a fog of confusion.

“The kid hit me,” he said, as though that explained everything.

It explained nothing to me. “So … ,” trying lamely to tie this together, “you don’t belong … “ I pointed to the white car.

“No, no,” he said, “I’m behind her.”

I’m not a rocket scientist, and now I didn’t need to be one. “So,” I said, as if calculating a rocket’s trajectory, “you got hit, hit her, and she … ”

“Bingo. Yup. You got it. He was texting! I’m calling the police … none of this exchanging driver and insurance information and going on our merry way for me.”

I was ready to just exchange information, thought calling the authorities a better idea, and was glad there was at least one person more clear headed than I.

“Here’s what we gonna do,” the Trooper said, in the church parking lot. “I have all the information I need from all of you. I am going to go to my car, enter the data into the computer, get a print out for each of you, then gather you again for the next steps. OK?” He didn’t wait for an answer before walking to his car.

I met Michael and Joy that night. Joy had hit me and Michael her. Most of the damage seemed to be to Michael’s nineteen ninety something Volvo
( “a tank,” I thought; “a tank,” he referred to it as ) that had been in pretty pristine condition. “What it will cost to fix this will get me another car,” he said. And while he seemed to enjoy the thought of another car, he clearly mourned the damage his “tank” had sustained.

Joy was new to this country, having come from Canada and having no idea how dealing with an insurance company in this sort of situation would come down. Michael and I assured her that, if the perpetrator admitted texting to the Trooper, it was pretty likely his insurance company would pay all costs. While the temperature was in the mid-thirties and we went back to our cars to warm up several times, exchanging pleasantries in the parking lot was, well, pleasant. We even joked, “Well it was nice having an accident with you.”

All in all, however, I would have preferred being at the pizza party.
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