Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Crash - The Real Story



I ordered a new car yesterday. As documented in a previous post, I come from a long line of car lovers. My parents would get *almost* more excited to hear that I got a new car than they did when I announced the conception of a future grandchild. They'd squeal: "Congratulaaaaaaaaaaaations!!!!!!" (Then again, they used to say "Happy Bowling!" to my sister as she left to play in her weekly league game. Weird.)

Any-who, I'm getting my new Rav4 Limited in the next week or so and I'm really excited about it. But it also leads me to want to tell the story of me and cars. Mostly other people's cars, but it's still a little unsettling.

As I mentioned in my 100 Factoids, I've been in 13 car accidents and 1 moped accident (I wasn't driving any of the cars). Most of these took place during my adolescence and teenage years, not so coincidentally because my father was the King of All Tailgaters. Several of those accidents were with him, one on the way home from the showroom with our brand new Mercury Lynx. I was about 9, and clearly remember him yelling "Son of a bitch!" when he rearended the car in front of us, also sending our groceries flying.

One accident involved my mother, stopped at a light with my friend and I in our 1967 Toyota Corolla. We sat paralyzed in horror as a truck careened out of control and crashed into us. No one was hurt, not even the truck driver. The rest were mostly fender benders, but I was always sitting in the passenger seat. I say "mostly" because there was ONE serious crash.

I was 16 and had gone to my cousins wedding, riding from Brooklyn to Connecticut with my sister C. (the one I don't speak to now). My parents and grandmother rode in my father's car. During the wedding my sister was drinking quite a bit, but no one hesitated when it was time to leave and she got behind the wheel.

As we drove down I-95, I was aware that she was swerving a lot and that we were going over 75mph. At the time there was a concrete divider on the highway, and I felt our tires hitting it several times as she raced on. Finally, just as I thought "Shit...the people behind us must really think this chick is drunk..." our left rear tire blew out. The car did a 360 (at least one) and flew broadside into a pole.

The next thing I remember was waking up, laying on the ground, unable to move. I opened my eyes and saw my sister stomping around in the grass, grabbing hands full of weeds and saying "My car! My car!" over and over. A group of people had stopped to help us, but what they soon realized was that the reason I could not move was because the car had done air time (there were scratches on the pole 8 feet off the ground) and landed on my HAIR.

My hair was pretty long at the time, but the tire had come to rest about 2 inches from my head. Probably against their better judgment, the good samaritans collectively LIFTED the car to free me (How many people get to stare up at a car tire? Hopefully not too many). And then, in another lapse of judgment, they lifted me and laid me on a board they found in someone's trunk. (Thankfully I had no internal or spinal injuries).

In fact, with the exception of some minor lacerations from the safety glass, a head full of leaves and twigs, and split seams on all of my clothing from the impact, I was fine. My sister hit her nose on the rearview mirror, but that was it for her. I was transported to a nearby hospital where my parents were notified (they had not gone straight home from the wedding, or they would have seen the accident as they went by).

My father went to the State Trooper station the following day to see the accident report. In a really bizarre twist, a neighbor of ours was a trooper. He was 27, and I had been having an affair with him for about a year when the accident happened. Needless to say, he nearly had a seizure when he saw my father walk into the station that morning. I'm sure he was so relieved when he found out I had been in an accident! Anyway, he told my father that the cops at the scene knew my sister was drunk, but decided not to do anything about it. They were more appalled at the fact that she showed no concern at all for me, just cried about her car.

The car, a 1970 Mercury Comet (we called it the Vomit), was not just totaled...it was destroyed. It had hit the pole so hard that the chassis was broken in half. The impact was directly behind the front passenger seat, which is why I was ejected. I was not wearing a seatbelt, and in this case that probably saved my life, but I know that's the exception to the rule and would never ride without one now.

That was the last of the crackups until the honeymoon of my second wedding, where I became yet another statistic in Bermuda's long line of dopey tourists who crash their mopeds. I skidded on a gravelly road, crashing head first into a stone wall so hard that my helmet cracked along with my sternum. I managed to retain my sense of humor, however, when we went back to visit the scene of the crash the next day: