Day 274/365 – Auto Accident Abstract
Image by Kevin H.
This is neither my car nor my accident. I sold my Jeep about nine years ago and let my driver’s license expire around eight years ago. Now I’m strictly a passenger and a ride bummer (bum-a-rider?). I passed by this car parked in the lot of my apartment building when I ambled home tonight after my post-prandial stroll.
I’ve only been involved in one serious car accident, thankfully. Less than a year after I bought my Jeep, I drove it home to Missouri from Norfolk, Virginia when I was on leave from the Navy. While I was home, my Pops took my Jeep over to the regular mechanic he’d used since he was a hot-rodding teenager to get it fine tuned. It was running better than it ever had.
On the morning I left to drive back to Norfolk it started snowing lightly. The roads were fine. However, the bridges were not. When I drove across a short bridge over a small creek about 20 minutes from my house, my Jeep started slipping and sliding and shimmying like a drunk rattlesnake. Unbeknownst to me, the bridge had iced over. Duh, I should’ve guessed that one. I knew not to slam on the brakes in that situation. I’d done that once before in my old AMC Hornet when it started to slide going around a curve in the rain and it spun 180 degrees and slammed into the curb. Lesson learned. Or so I thought, anyhow.
But then as I got to the far edge of the bridge my Jeep started heading off the side of the road. Tapping or pumping the brakes would probably have been the smart thing to do. Either that or just letting it go off the road and steering back on once it regained traction on the grass. Unfortunately, I did neither. I stomped on the brakes. Bad move.
For the second time in my life, I sent my car spinning into a 180. Go figure. The driver’s side of my Jeep hit a row of deer reflector posts that lined the side of the road. Then it tipped over on its side. I clearly remember thinking at the time "I’m rolling." Oddly enough, it wasn’t a panicky or startled realization. It was more like a "hmm, imagine that…" kind of moment. As my Jeep toppled over, my head hit the soft vinyl window and thumped off the ground. Fortunately for my noodle, there was no rock there. Then my Jeep slid on its side down a 30-foot embankment and landed on its roof in a ditch at the bottom. Just a week earlier the ditch had been full of water, so I guess my timing isn’t always dreadful.
I had my seatbelt on, but I don’t remember hanging upside down or unfastening it. I think the bump on the head stunned me for a second. The first thing I remember after the Jeep landed upside down was trying to open the driver’s side door and discovering that it was wedged against the side of the embankment and wouldn’t open. So I crawled past the console, which had previously been between the seats but which had come loose and fallen down to the roof in the accident, and got out through the passenger side door.
One image that I think will be fixed in my memory forever is looking back up toward the road and seeing the silhouette of a man running back up the side of the road to check on me framed in the misty haze. Bless him. He asked me if I was all right and I said I thought I was and then he suggested I turn off my engine. Oh yeah. Guess that would be good, huh? Then he gave me a ride to a McDonald’s at the next highway exit so I could call my folks (this was in the days before everyone over the age of eight carried a cellphone).
My Mom freaked out a bit when I told her what had happened, even though I tried to make it sound like it wasn’t a big deal. They came and got me and took me to get checked out at the hospital. Apart from having a knot on the side of my head I was fine, so then we drove to a towing company and had them follow us out to the accident site so they could retrieve my Jeep. They flipped it back over and winched it up the embankment and towed it off to the nearest Jeep dealer. There were two other accidents due to that icy bridge that day, but neither of the other drivers were dumb enough to turn upside down.
The next day I caught a flight back to Norfolk. For some reason the insurance company didn’t total my Jeep. They should’ve because by the time the repairs were finally done they wound up paying more to get it fixed than the blue book value. It took nearly six months before it was finally repaired and my folks drove it out to Norfolk to give it back to me.
My Jeep never really ran worth a damn after that, although I still kept it for about six more years. There was always one thing or another going wrong with it. I think it was just pissed at me for wrecking it. Now that I think about it, maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t drive anymore. Although with the current state of the Metro, the subway is not exactly the most reassuring mode of transportation either.
(July 9, 2009)