Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Close Enough

Coach P. and I are driving home tonight from a game when I look in the rear view mirror. If objects in mirror are closer than they appear, I think, that truck must be pretty damn close.

I turn around to look. Sure enough, there's a pair of headlights two feet from our bumper. I glance at my friend. He's clutching the steering wheel, a little pale. We're on the freeway, we've got a crazy person behind us and six kids in the car, and there's no room to cut in on the other lane. Finally we get ahead of the other cars and move over. The truck moves in behind us, still a couple of feet away. We switch lanes again and the truck shoots by. I glance out the window and see its driver hunched over the wheel and talking on her phone.

We watch it ahead of us now, sometimes straddling the center line, occasionally drifting over the edge striping on the sides of the road.

"She's not going to make it wherever she's going," I say. I take my cell phone out and toy with the idea of calling the cops.

I don't have to decide. Coach P. says, "Here she goes," and her truck drifts into the ditch on the right side of the road at 90 miles per hour before shooting back across the freeway a couple of dozen yards in front of us, hitting the median, and rolling through oncoming traffic before coming to a rest upside down in the ditch on the other side of the road.

We stop our car and I call 911. Coach P. runs across the freeway while our kids crane their heads out the window to see what's happening. Miraculously she hasn't hit anyone else and miraculously she crawls from her car, bloody but conscious. A case of beer protrudes from her shattered rear window.

Cars stop on both sides of the interstate and a man approaches from one of them, pulling on gloves. "Doctor," he says when Coach P. looks at him. A woman approaches from another, also pulling on gloves. "Nurse," she says. Together they check the driver's pulse and cradle her neck.

Squad cars stream down the highway. The officers walk her to an ambulance. Staggering through the broken glass she's left behind, the driver says, "I only had a couple of beers. Hey, any of you guys have a cigarette?"

The rest of the way home, the kids are jazzed and so are we. We recount the crash over and over and it already begins to take on the flavor of mythology, a story that will gather weight and nuance with each retelling. As we near my house, Coach P. slows the car and looks at the kids, all of them still years away from driving on their own.

"Guys, listen," he says. "Someday when you're at a party and one of your friends has been drinking and wants you to get in a car with him, call us. We'll pick you up, no questions asked. I don't want to be identifying any of you at the morgue."

Later, I ask my middle son, the one out of the group who's closest to getting a license, if he understands what Coach P. was talking about. He's half watching TV and he nods impatiently. At a commercial, I turn off the sound and make him look at me. "This is serious," I say. "That woman almost died today. I couldn't stand it if that was you."

He thinks for a moment, nods, and turns up the sound. He's a good kid and he listens. I hope the lesson sticks, for him and all of the kids who were with us today, who don't yet understand death, but who tonight were closer to it than they know.

7 comments:

Pinko Punko said...

Holy shitzoes. Please testify against her, if she somehow fights the breathalyzer- did you give a statement? She could have really killed some people.

I hate that stuff.

Oh Snagsby!

Adorable Girlfriend said...

Oh my! That's terrible. I do hope she is OK and gets help for her drinking problem. I'm also glad the medical folks were there to help.

Great idea by Coach P. to take the opportunity to give the kids a learning lesson. Coach P. is A-OK!

billy pilgrim said...

terrifying, even at second hand.

Jennifer said...

Holy crap, Snag. I'm so glad everyone was okay. How incredibly scary. How incredibly stupid.

I hope you had a change of pants. :)

Brando said...

Thank God she didn't hit a moose!

Seriously, glad no one was hurt. My sister just got into an accident with a drunk driver -- some dillweed pulling out of a bar parking lot and right in front of my sister. Her car was a mess but luckily no one was seriously hurt. The police gave Miss Daisy an escort to the local precinct.

Mandos said...

Thank God she didn't hit a moose!

This kind of thing isn't even a joke, some of the time. Me and my relatives were driving through the Canadian Rockies near Banff a few years back, and we weren't even drunk, and we nearly hit some form of ungulate. At a potentially lethal speed (which was at or under the posted limit).

Chuckles said...

Snag, does anything not happen to you? Shit dude.

Some day you are going to post about how you were walking to the convenience store for some batteries and saved an old lady from a mugging and beat up a pimp who was slapping some dude.