Friday, June 19, 2009

A day.

To begin with, I am fine.

Today, I was driving to Oakland to meet Darcy; Darcy has never been to California before. Not only that, she's never been this far West in the United States before, and I have been planning for months to drive up and meet her and hang around with her in Oakland, while she goes to fire eating classes. I've done this drive a zillion times; it's a straight shot up highway 5.

So I put an ad on Craigslist for a rideshare and picked her up after volunteering at the Center this morning, around 11:45, and we hit the road. She was a sweet girl with a head wrap and sunglasses, who said, "That's so crazy," every five minutes and spoke in detail about where she lived in San Francisco. Like, for hours. So it was sunny and the sky was blue and we were going through the really boring part of California, and it was just starting to get interesting again, about fifteen miles before the exit for 580, when I was like, "You know, that's weird, the car is kind of juddering."

I'd noticed some liquid leaking from under the car (which was not my car, but Justin's truck) before and wondered if it was leaking oil. I checked the oil. Not leaking oil. I checked the radiator, and then smelled whatever was leaking and realized it was water, probably from the air conditioner. I checked the tire pressure on all four tires, and put a little more air in each one (they were all low).

This was in Patterson, CA. Then we started driving abck on the highway again and I said, "That's funny, you feel that little catch in the car? It had that before, that's why we were shaking." And my rideshare said, "Yeah, that's weird."

And I thought We'll keep an eye on it, at least until about six minutes later when we blew a rear tire going 75 on highway 5.

I was in the right lane, and there was a car behind me, and a large truck coming up in the right hand lane, all a fair ways back, and a damn good thing they were too. I heard a loud noise and turned my head a little bit to go What the fuck? and suddenly the car started to fishtail. It skidded across the highway, weaving wildly across lanes, and I saw it heading for the center median and had a chance to think Holy fuck when I tried to steer into the spin the way they teach you to do in Canada if you're on ice and we spun in a wide circle across the highway, hit the side lip at a slight angle, spun backwards, rolled backwards down the hill, and came to a rest parallel to the highway, down a very steep embankment, near some attractive apricot trees.

We were both uninjured.

As I sat there trying to process what had happened, the first thing I did was make sure my rideshare was okay. She was. I was. I looked up and saw that two cars had stopped. There was a bearded man on the phone, shouting "Is everyone okay?" I nodded, dazed. A woman walked towards us, holding up two fingers. "What?" I said. "Only two passengers?" she shouted. "Yes!" I shouted back. "We're not hurt."

She drove away and the other guy stayed with us. He'd called California Highway Patrol, who had been, interestingly, chasing a motorcycle that was going 140 and weaving in and out; the same bearded guy was ON THE PHONE with CHP when he saw my tire blow and watched me hit the ditch. He must have just pressed 2 when it said "Do you want to report another incident?"

So the CHP officer showed up, and the nice bearded man took my rideshare to Berkeley. I waited in her patrol car, as she remarked, "I'm almost out of gas." The tow truck showed up. He didn't take AAA. We called another tow truck. He took 45 minutes to get there, in which time I switched officers. Then eventually that officer left me with ANOTHER officer, and we got a flatbed truck for the car, since the first AAA guy got my car up the embankment, but couldn't load it onto the dolly.

While I was sitting in third CHP officer's patrol car, he got a call to look out for a blue Mustang that had run someone off the road. We were waiting and waiting, and then suddenly I said, "Hey that's a blue car. And it's a Mustang!" and before we could tell the tow truck driver where we were going, we pulled out and hit the lights and pulled the blue Mustang over. It turned out to be a seventeen year old girl, who may or may not have been drunk. I watched the CHP officer give her a very stern talking to while I sat outside the McDonald's and wished I hadn't left my purse with the tow truck driver, because my stomach was starting to consume itself. I think I used every calorie in my body in panic.

Eventually, the truck showed up, I bought a hamburger, and they used my 100 mile AAA membership to haul me to Oakland, where they deposited me on Morley's doorstep, since no mechanics were open. The tow truck driver was super nice, and pointed out the remains of a brushfire on our drive up 580, and I remembered that the bearded guy had remarked "It's a good thing your catalytic converter didn't start the brush on fire!" as we stood on the side of the highway staring at the aftermath and I thought That was an option????

It could have been so much worse. If we'd hit the lip of the highway at a slightly different angle, we would have rolled the truck going over the side. As it was, we almost rolled when we slid down the embankment, but didn't. The truck has no body damage, although the rear driver's side tire, the one that blew, is dramatically untreaded, and it apparently popped the front passenger side wheel and did something to the front suspension, what with going over the edge of the highway. We didn't get hit by the semi behind us on the highway. We didn't hit anyone else while the car was out of control. Not only were we not killed, but we were not even injured in the slightest; not even whiplash.

The worst that happened to me was spending three hours sitting on the side of the road with CHP, waiting to tow my car. I got to Oakland about four hours later than I expected to. I have a place to stay and public transportation to get me around. I have friends who took care of me and texted me jokes and tried to help me in any way they could.

It could have been so much worse. I am so lucky.

As we were coming to a rocking, juddering landing in the ditch, the split second thought went through my head, "Of course we're okay." It never crossed my mind that we were going to die. Not once. And we didn't, through some miracle. Some people might think we were about to die, but the whole time I thought, "This is very bad, but how could we possibly die?" Maybe I'm naive. Maybe I'm overly optimistic. But I thought we weren't going to die, and we didn't. Not a scratch.

It was only when I heard the fear in everyone else's voice that I realized this could have been a much bigger deal. We could have needed an ambulance. This post could have been made by Justin, and said something very different. You could have read about it in the papers.

But you didn't. You read about it here. Written by me. And now I'm going to sleep.


Anonymous said...

That is crazy. I am seriously glad that you both came out uninjured and alive. I can't speak for anyone else but I can without a doubt say that it would hurt like hell to see this entry written by Justin with a different outcome.

I will be hoping for your safe return.

Rhiannon said...

I love you I love you I love you I love you... Claire, ... whew. Ugh. Vomit...
I'm so glad you're okay xoxoxoxox

Jake said...

Glad you're still with us. I find that complete confidence in the fact that nothing (else) can go wrong is very helpful in mountain bike crashes, too.

Tess said...

Holy shit!

MaggieMayDay said...

Whoa... hugs and love.

(dagnabbit, you made me cry....)

Purple Rose Tearoom said...

Nothing like a blown tire to wake you up (except possibly doing a ground loop in the middle of nowhere in Iceland and ending up in a snowdrift, but that's another story!)

Glad you're OK.