Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘auto accident

It’s Friday

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One of the marvels of my Fridays is that I don’t have to commute the long drive to the day-job. You’d think that might give me an extra hour to sleep in, but my experience has been marred by a problematic habit of staying up too late on Thursday nights, and then suffering a double whammy by naturally waking very near the normal early alarm time of my work days.

By Sunday mornings, I have usually made progress with sleeping past the alarm time, but that just makes it that much more difficult to deal with the Monday alarm time the following day.

At this point, of all my attempts striving toward optimal health, getting enough sleep every night seems to be my Achilles’ heel.

Being over-tired doesn’t mix well with needing to drive in traffic for an hour to and from work.

Some days there are changes that mix things up a bit for me, which helps maintain alertness. On Wednesday morning, I had a chance to explore some of St. Paul’s streets in the early dark hours when I dropped off the Tiffany light fixtures with a buyer who found my ad on Craigslist.

Yahoo! They are gone!

There is a perk for driving through the cities four days a week: it’s easier to accommodate buyers who aren’t exactly local when I’m pawning off clutter online. The woman this week was so appreciative that I would drive all that way to deliver what I was selling. (It was a few short blocks off my normal route on the interstate.)

I didn’t bother to tell her I would gladly pay her to take them, after having them sit in a box under foot for the last six years.

My drive home yesterday was interrupted by another traffic stopping accident, but this time I was close enough to the incident that my delay was mere minutes. The sad part was this meant the vehicles were still positioned where they landed and the people and emergency responders were still present.

It’s a very unsettling sight. The collision occurred at an at-grade crossing of a divided 4-lane highway that has a 65 mph speed limit. Damage was significant to at least three vehicles.

I drove a little slower the rest of the way home, and I didn’t feel drowsy at all.

But for the grace of God, go I.

When I pulled up the driveway, the horses were in the far corner of the paddock and whether it was that they saw me, or heard Cyndie and Delilah walking down to feed them, they bolted from where they had been standing, racing and kicking their way up past the barn overhang all the way over to the near paddock fence.

What a nice welcome-home greeting.

Cyndie reported she and Delilah came upon two young deer that dashed away across the trail in the woods. Our paths are becoming paved in golden hues. The freezing temps seem to flip a switch on a lot of our maples such that 80% of the leaves will drop in a matter of a few hours and create a gorgeous circle of color that carpets the ground around the trunk.

It’s beautiful to be home this Friday.

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Finally Happened

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It finally happened. My luck ran out. After an untold tens-of-thousands of miles commuting to and from work without an accident, my new Subaru got its bumper smashed yesterday. The first three days of this week were a mighty challenge of winter driving. On my way home on Monday, a car directly in front of me on the interstate started fishtailing on the slippery surface. While I coaxed my vehicle to a stop, I watched him spin sideways and bump the concrete barrier with the front of his car.

If I had been unable to stop, I would have t-boned his car right on the driver’s side door. I figured it was sheer luck that the car behind me was able to stop in time, as well. The guy in front of me backed his car up and turned back into our lane and we all resumed forward progress and proceeded on our way, traveling just a tad slower than before.

When the impact occurred yesterday afternoon, I felt no sense of shock. It was more shocking to me that an accident hadn’t already happened in any number of occasions when risk was high over the years. This one just proved to verify what I figured was inevitable. If I am going to spend as many hours driving in traffic as I do, then my odds of an eventual collision climb with each passing trip.

The sad irony of yesterday’s accident is that the recent precipitation had ended and roads were cleaner than they had been for days. Visibility was clear, which was a big bonus. Two of my trips in prior days involved precipitation that would freeze on contact with my windshield.

Although the roads were cleaner, they weren’t yet 100% clear. Some lanes and shoulders remained snow-covered. On my short side route to drop off a delivery to one of our customers, I witnessed two different snowplows working to clear ramps and a side road to the fullest extent.

As I navigated back toward access to the interstate, I came around a bend where the right turn lane goes downhill a bit before rising into the turn. It is an intersection with France Avenue, which is a busy main artery. It is not uncommon to meet with a backup of cars at this right turn lane while waiting for the long light which favors the primary avenue.

If there is a chance to make that corner before cross traffic resumes, it pays not to dawdle.

img_ip1879eYesterday, anyone making that blind approach around a corner into the downhill turn lane with too much momentum was doomed. The surface was an incredibly frictionless glazed slurry of salty, sleety slush. Go ahead and read that out loud three times fast. In the time it takes you to do that, several car bumpers will have crunched.

In my case, I spotted the vehicle in front of me struggling with loss of grip and immediately began working my car to a stop without hitting anyone. My Crosstrek came to rest at a 45° angle to the lane. I barely had time to gloat over my deft maneuvering before the car behind me made solid impact.

After moving to a spot beside the turn lane, I waited for police protection to give me a chance to remove a dangling piece of plastic and bend metal away from rubbing my tire. I was still way too close to the zone where cars continued to lose control. While waiting, I witnessed (or heard the sound of) 5 additional collisions.

Every time cross traffic forced turning vehicles to wait, a collision was imminent. It was a hard thing to watch.

The police unit that eventually arrived was followed immediately by a salt and sand truck.

While the officer tended to two cars uphill from me which looked to be tangled after impact, I jumped out and worked on my damage. When he tried to walk toward my car to check on me, it was too slippery for him to step, so he skated his way across the gap.

Hearing that I had already exchanged information with the other driver in my collision, he gladly sent me on my way. I was very happy to get out of that danger zone and back on the more manageable dangers of the interstate. With my nerves on edge, I drove home as safely as possible.

Part of me felt a fear I would go from zero accidents, to two in one day if I wasn’t extremely careful.

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Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2017 at 7:00 am

Emotional Connection

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People die every day. On the grand scale, it’s too much to comprehend, so when we aren’t aware of specific incidents, we tend to remain oblivious. When it happens to people we know, the news suddenly hits home. But what about when it happens within close proximity to us, but to someone we don’t know?

On the way home from work yesterday, just as I got on the highway, an electronic sign overhead warned of an accident creating a traffic delay. I see enough of them to expect the typical couple of vehicles on the shoulder with crunched bumpers causing traffic to slow down a bit before proceeding on with little impact.

The situation yesterday was dramatically different. A very heavily traveled exit ramp had been closed and a vast multitude of emergency vehicles were gathering to tend to the scene.

When I got close, the thing that first caught my eye was the startling gash of ruptured concrete at the top of the wall that serves as barrier to the frontage road a couple of stories above the Interstate. Without time to comprehend what that meant, my car passed one of the fire engines, and the spot where the lone vehicle had landed came into view. It took my breath away.

There was concrete shrapnel strewn across an incredibly large area, shockingly far beyond the wall from which it had been torn. To the credit of movie-makers everywhere, my impression was that this looked like a movie scene, because it isn’t something you see in real life. I guess the Directors and Special Effects people who create movie crashes do a pretty authentic rendition.

From the looks of the vehicle, that was a ferocious calamity. I feared for a life, or lives.

It was as if everyone could feel it. After we moved clear of the incident, none of the cars around me demonstrated much in the way of urgency toward wherever they were headed.

I tried to forget about it when I got home. We watched a ridiculously bad comedy movie that made us laugh, despite ourselves. It wasn’t enough to distance me from some emotional connection I felt to the earlier incident. When our show was over, I checked news articles online. My suspicion was confirmed: a fatality.

Most folks won’t even be aware of the passing of one more soul yesterday. Normally, that’s the way it would be for me. This time though, the death of a person unknown to me has impacted me significantly, as a result of the close proximity of time and place.

I’m sending love to all who had a connection with this person.

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Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2016 at 7:00 am