?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry

I spent the past week with my family in Williamsburg, hangin' out and just generally having a good time. We did Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg; I realized I must be getting old because I wasn't frothing at the bit to ride all the coasters, and the idea of a sedate "Rhine River Cruise" was kind of appealing. We took a couple girls from church-- ages 11 and 12-- with us, so we had to keep close eyes on them, but they behaved themselves quite well and we had no mishaps.

On Friday, we packed up our stuff and headed out. I was going straight back to Columbia, so I took I-95 and the rest of my family took I-85 back east. My journey down I-95 was pretty uneventful; I traveled through Virginia, North Carolina, and into South Carolina sedately. When I got to South Carolina I gave my Aunt Nancy a call; she and her family live not too far from I-95, so she met me at an exit and I stopped in for a short break. We chatted, I mooched a couple Coke Zeros off her, and after half an hour or so she headed off to graduation (she's a high school teacher) and I got back on the road.

While I had been with them, it had started to rain. I've driven in rain before, sometimes heavy rain, so I wasn't particularly concerned. I've never lost control of my car in any meaningful way, other than once when I skidded into the back car in the left turn lane after crossing three intervening lanes of traffic. So I underestimated conditions.

I got on I-95 and started down the road. I was in the left lane, and just cruising along-- no cruise control, going under the speed limit, not turning, not touching the gas-- and my car suddenly spun out of control. It was like the whole world disappeared from around the car. I remember saying, "Oh God. Dear God, please," and realizing, very clearly, that I was about to die. It was impossible that I could survive a crash at that speed. I didn't scream or anything, just waited for-- whatever it would be. I wondered if I would feel what killed me or if I just wouldn't feel anything at all.

It was probably only a second later that I realized I was not dead, and I was not moving. I was still safely in my car, looking up a steep incline lit by my headlights to the road about 15 feet away. I touched the gas and the engine was still running. There weren't even any airbags deployed.

I checked around the car and found that the windshield was shattered, the drivers side window was completely gone, there was broken glass everywhere, and some fairly large pieces of tree had come into the compartment. The column that supported the windshield on the driver's side was bent inwards, as was the door frame. I shoved the door open and climbed out into thick, wet underbrush and saw that three cars had stopped to see if I was still alive. I said, "Yes, thank God! Praise God I'm all right!" and kept checking around the car.

I found the driver's side window a couple feet away, completely shattered but held together by its tinting. The passenger door was completely caved in, although its window was unharmed; the handle was tilted in at a 45 degree angle and would not respond. The passenger's side tire was pressed up against a tree, which had me worried the engine's internals would be all thrown out of alignment. I finally crawled up the embankment to the guys who had stopped to check on me; one of them let me sit in his car while we waited for the police to respond (one of the others had called 911 already). The guy I sat with had not seen the accident himself so I didn't get an outsider's viewpoint of the crash. Eventually a state trooper arrived and my trio of Good Samaritans went on their way.

The cop who showed up was very calm and friendly. He let me sit in his patrol car, squeezed up against the shotgun, while we waited for the AAA-associated tow truck to get there; when the rain paused for a few minutes, he had me go collect my paperwork. I had my registration but my insurance slip had expired a few days prior. He filled everything out and we waited. There was a lot of chatter on his radio about other wrecks in the area, and one issue I kept hearing about-- "whiskey foxtrot in back seat of grey BMW, keeps looking around and ducking down." I eventually figured out "whiskey foxtrot" was "white female."

The tow truck took about forty minutes to arrive, and about five minutes to get everything situated. Then he just hauled my car straight out, hooked it up, and went on down to the next exit to turn around. We met my cousin Kelly at a Huddle House, and I discovered that this cop car had a lock on the passenger side seat belt when I went to unbuckle myself and found only smooth metal.

The cop, having dropped me off, needed very much to get to all the other wrecks, so he waved us good night and drove away, leaving Kelly and I to talk with the tow truck operator. I have AAA, but I didn't know exactly what that meant; he offered to let me pay him right then and there and he'd drop it, or else he was going to haul it off to his yard and let me decide later. I was unsure and he talked pretty rapidly, bouncing from thought to thought (back and forth between "It'll run fine" and "You'll need to sell that for scrap metal") and I'm afraid I got a little overwhelmed. He was pushing for me to let him take it to his yard and let me decide later, since he had plenty other wrecks to get to himself, and I let him do it.

I called my dad next, to tell him what had happened; he gave me an earful for letting the tow truck drive off with my car, so I called the tow guy back and he dropped the car off at my aunt's house to the tune of $225 (there went my plans to upgrade to a Droid this month). Kelly and I (mostly Kelly) replaced the missing driver's side window with some classy plastic and duct tape, and then I drove the car around the block a couple times to see how it ran. Then we just waited until her folks got back. I had been thinking about driving back to Columbia that night, but as the sky got darker and the threat of rain increased, I let them convince me to spend the night there.

The next morning, I woke up 10-ish, got some breakfast, and then discovered one of the tires had settled alarmingly during the night. Not terribly surprising, considering what they'd gone through; my uncle led me to a local tire place, and I received a crash course in small-town mechanics.

The place had a large yard full of tires, arranged every which way-- piled and stacked and lined up in neat rows here and there, with large, inscrutable white letters and numbers on each tire. A craggy old man smoking his way through a brand new cigarette stepped out, under the large "no smoking" sign, and guided me over a lift. He didn't say much to me, just to my uncle, and what he did say was so heavily accented that I couldn't understand but one word in five. It didn't help that he chewed on the words as he said them, unwilling to open his mouth enough for fear he'd lose his cigarette.

Once the issue was explained-- a large wedge of bark had inserted itself between my tire and the rim, probably breaking the seal-- he dragged out a pneumatic wrench and had the lugs off in about a minute. Then he rolled the wheel in and set it on a machine for removing the tire from the rim. Five minutes of extremely practiced work later, he had taken off the tire, cleaned it out inside, applied some sealant to the inner edge, reseated it on the rim, and inflated it so that it was reattached. He rolled it over to a barrel to check for leaks, found none, and rolled it back. About this time he finished the cigarette that had been new when I arrived, and popped in a fresh one. Total damage came to $7; since I had no cash and they didn't take checks or plastic, my uncle offered to pay it, with a little extra for "getting to it so quickly." I drove back, got a shower, said my goodbyes and thanks, and headed off, thinking I now had nothing to do but drive home.

Not twenty miles down I-95 I discovered the driver's side rear tire had also gotten a small puncture. It was near the edge, so I tried repairing it, but wasn't terribly surprised when the hole split wider from the repair. I sighed and unpacked my loaded trunk to get the spare. An hour later, the trunk was reorganized, the spare was on my car, and I was finally on my way home.


So, the end of the story is that I'm back in Columbia, my car is driving but looks terrible, and I'm going to drive it up to Spartanburg Wednesday. My dad knows a good junkyard near there; we'll see what new doors would cost and whether the damage to the frame can be easily fixed. If it makes financial sense, we'll start repairing it, and I'll learn about body work. If it doesn't make good sense, I'll be on the lookout for a new car.

In the meantime, I'll be cruising around Columbia in style.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
aralana
May. 30th, 2010 04:10 am (UTC)
I'm surprised at how calm this is, but you said a week had past so I guess that's understandable. I'm so glad you're okay ♥
balrogthane
May. 30th, 2010 01:05 pm (UTC)
Haha... no, actually, it happened on Friday.

I was really calm about the whole thing. Too calm maybe. I don't know. I kept waiting, wondering if I was going to have a *snap* moment-- suddenly start crying, throw up, yell, something-- but I never did.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )