COLUMN: The Human Condition

Sorry to disappoint you

(Lenox – Aug. 26, 2017) Six years ago today, sandwiched between the birthdays of my best friend and my youngest daughter, I was involved in an off-center head-on collision at the corner of Route 5 at North Court Street in Wampsville.

I was in the eastbound lane waiting to make a left turn onto North Court Street. The light turned yellow as a car came through the intersection in the opposite direction, then another came through on the red, behind which was a van. It appeared to be slowing in anticipation of stopping at the light, so I began to move into my turn.

I had barely gotten to 5 mph before I realized I was looking at the driver’s left ear, and she had absolutely no recognition that the light was red, or, frankly, that it was even there. Life went into extreme slow motion as she turned forward and hit the accelerator.

“Well, this is going to [EXPLETIVE DELETED]…,” my thought began.

BAM!

“…hurt.”

I heard the sickening crunch of metal a nanosecond before the airbags deployed. I felt the airbag’s punch and watched the front end of the car being pushed into the cabin of the vehicle before feeling the actual jolt of the impact. Between the seatbelt and the airbag, I would guess I moved less than a finger’s width away from my seat, though my head snapped forward quite a bit more.

Dust particles – the preservative in the airbags – flew like blizzarding snow around me, and I thought, “This is freaking COOL – the seatbelts and airbags performed exactly as expected when she rolled off the assembly line in 1999,” 12 years before this day. Journalism trains your brain to observe everything, just in case you might have to report on it later.

I briefly wondered if that dust floating through the air would be the last thing I would ever see. Then I realized I was being propelled into the southern-facing traffic that had been innocently waiting during their green light to turn off North Court and head east and west on Route 5.

I began cranking hard to the left to avoid hitting anyone else. Brand new rack-and-pinion, and the wheel didn’t want to move. I was somehow able to crank out a u-turn and, without being able to see over the accordion folds of the hood and using the roof- and tree-lines as a guide, was able to pull up within 12 inches of the right curb, facing in the direction from whence I had just come.

I hit the brakes (also new, all the way around, including the parking brake) and got no response from those, either.

Later, I would hear one of the fire-rescue guys say, “It appears to be about a 24-inch intrusion,” and have no idea what the hell they were talking about until much later…when I realized the battery had been ruptured, causing me to lose power everything.

After several attempts at trying to stop the car, I remembered that new parking brake, and said, “[EXPLETIVE DELETED] it,” yanking up the handle and turning off the ignition. I couldn’t get the key out. But with the car otherwise secured, I turned my attention to me. I’m a bleeder, and I couldn’t remember the signs of internal bleeding. So I sat, trying to do a self-evaluation. A lot of things hurt. No luck remembering anything.

I sat there with my hands curled around the steering wheel and thought about how lucky I was that I had two hands on the steering wheel at the time of the accident. It was an anomaly to be sure, because I learned to drive on and drove stick forever, and the habit of having a hand on the gear shift knob has never left me. I’d have hit other vehicles in the intersection if I hadn’t been cranking with both arms.

Still I sat there with both hands on the wheel, wanting to make sure any possible witnesses saw I wasn’t playing with my phone. My phone. I realized I probably should call my husband. Then the smoke and steam started triggering my asthma, so I started to get out of the car.

A woman was in the road on the phone with 9-1-1, yelling at me to stay in the car, and I tried to explain several times that I couldn’t breathe well. As I got out, I learned quickly with the assistance of gravity that my left leg wasn’t working, but I caught myself on the car door and managed to limp around to the back of the car and sit on the curb, not learning until much later how badly damaged that knee was. Continues to be.

I loved that car, knew how bad the front must look and avoided looking in that direction.

There was an ambulance ride, emergency room assessment, testing and treatment. After release, my husband, BFF and youngest daughter went to Robbie C’s and cleaned out the car.

Battered, bloody, bruised and limping, I was back at work the next day, but for the next 28 days, I was depressed over the loss of my favorite vehicle ever, given to me by my son when he graduated law school, and depressed at having nothing to replace it because of the botched investigation and dispute that followed for the next four years.

On day 28, I woke up and thought, “I wonder how many people are pissed off that I didn’t die?”

And I smiled and limped out of bed. You make a lot of enemies in this line of work, and I’m certain they would see it as some fashion of comeuppance.

Today, a lot of the pain remains, along with that intermittent limp, but I’m still here.

Next time, send a snowplow.

Martha E. Conway is publisher of the Madison County Courier. She can be reached at 315.813.0124 or by emailing martha@m3pmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/marthaeconway or become a friend on Facebook at facebook.com/meconway. Follow the Madison County Courier on Facebook at facebook.com/MadCoCourier/.

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