[NOTE: This was written on November 24th, but I wanted to wait until I had the police report to post it.]
On the way home from Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I was doing some math and realized we'd need another can of paint for the bathroom. "Well," Omaha said, "Drop us off at home first, because she," she hooked a thumb to the back seat where Kouryou-chan sat, "needs to get onto homework."
It was well past dark when I was on my way to the hardware store. I was sitting on Klickitat driveway, on the overpass connecting the hillside off 518 to Southcenter, waiting for the light to change. "Sitting" is an accurate term: it's a very long light, I was last in line, way back in the left lane behind a fairly modern Honda, an Accord or something like that. Tim Curry's "Birds of a Feather" was playing on the iPod.
Earlier, I'd stopped at a Circle-K to get a soda pop; I'd just wanted something to alleviate the dryness in my throat; it had been four hours since I'd last had any water, thanks to the concert, but the smallest they had was 32 oz. So that was in the cup holder.
The overpass is a four lane road with no divider
. Traffic is very heavy but usually slow; the long lights, heavy traffic and awkward turn zones to get to the mall cause people to drive carefully.
I saw a white vehicle pulling up behind me in the rear view mirror. Then I realized, "Oh, shit, he's not slowing--"SMASH! Smash! tinkle horn
The next thing I knew, I was in the lane of oncoming traffic, with some wide eyes staring back at me. The airbag was almost fully deflated; there was dust in the air, and it smelled faintly of some close relation to firecrackers. I lay there, my head further back than it should have been: the headrest had been bent backwards by the impact and the chair's back had broken away from the airbag. I found my cellphone and dialled 911.
That poor woman at the other end. I gibbered that I'd just been hit, and was in the oncoming lane. My car was a wreck, I'd been hit hard
. It must have been at least 30mph from the other guy. She tried to assess if I was all right, walked me through a few steps to make sure I was mobile and okay-- I seemed to be. "Is this on Klickitat?" she asked suddenly.
"Yeah, yeah... I think so." Hell, I barely remembered where I was. "It's the overpass to Southcenter."
"Yes, police are on their way."
Then a woman was at the door. "You have to get out now."
"Get out. You can't breathe that shit. Get out of there. There's smoke coming out of those airbags that you shouldn't breathe." I remembered, vaguely, PBS or the Discovery Channel (back before it was all woo all the time) a show about the development of airbags and how tiny wads of explosive were used to make them inflate. I opened the door slightly and let in fresh air. "I'm talking to 911."
The woman on the phone said, "Sir, if you're not injured you should probably move away from the car. Can the car move? Turn on your hazards. It's the little triangle."
I turned on the hazards. Between the woman outside and the 911 operator, I determined that I was not, in fact, injured such that I couldn't get out of my car. I was very much still stunned by what had happened, brain was barely on-line. I was trembling. I got out. I seemed to have nothing immediately broken, modern technology FTW. The back of my head felt like someone had slapped me there hard.
The police arrived, which was fortunate for the driver of the Toyota. The woman who had ordered me out of the car turned to him. "You son of a bitch! You totalled my car, you motherfucker!"
Oh. She was in the Honda. She didn't blame me; it wasn't my fault that Pearl had torn off her rear left corner; it was the asshole who had rammed me from behind, at full goddamn speed.
Steam was rising out of Pearl's radiator. I tried to take a picture of it. Poor Pearl, wrecked by some jerk in a cheap white pickup truck. For some reason, I thought it was a Toyota.
I tried to call Omaha, no answer. I tried to call Kouryou-chan, no answer. I finally called our housemate (Storm was at her mother's house) and said, "Tell Omaha to call me back. We need a new car."
The cops said something to her, and then her boyfriend or husband or something. "Are you okay?" she asked me. I nodded, then said, "I think the headrest hit me pretty hard. Hurts back here." I indicated the back of my head. "Are you okay?" I asked her.
"Yeah." She glared at the guy from the pickup. Scruffy guy, looked like a hard-life mid-30s or so, the kind that works outdoors a lot. He was telling the cops, "I don't know what happened. The brakes, they just didn't <something>... I don't know." I hope they get a good, solid BAC off of him.
Omaha called me and said, "If your head hurts, you need to go to the hospital. You have to have it checked out. If you won't call an ambulance, I'm going to come get you and take you there myself!" Then the cops came and asked me if I wanted an EMT. I nodded, reluctantly. "I... I think so."
They called for an ambulance. The ambulance arrived in short order, they put me on a stretcher. The officer in charge, a gruff, older looking guy with that "I'm competent as a hammer and have no bedside manner" voice, asked me a few basic questions: "Did the airbag deploy?" Yes. "Were you moving?" No, I was waiting for the light. "Did you have your seatbelt on?" Yes. "That's all we need. Here's my number. Call me on Tuesday." By now, they had a clear picture: despite the fact that I was now several feet in front
of the Honda, in the wrong lane
, I had been the car between the Honda and the pickup.
The EMTs put me in a head restraint. I tweeted one of the photographs of Pearl's demise. The EMTs asked me questions to determine my competence, and if there was anything left in the car I cared about. "In the middle compartment is my iPod and my work recorder. I think that's it." They grabbed those. The work recorder was sticky with soda pop.
Somewhere in all this I'd lost my eyeglasses. Those were progressive lenses, in glass
dammit, which makes them hella expensive. I'd been wearing them when the accident happened, and they hadn't broken. I guess the airbag wrapped around them or something. I wanted them back.
The guy sitting with me on the ride to the hospital was nice. We chatted mostly about how the lights in ambulances were too bright for people who couldn't shield their eyes, and how a straightforward crash was better than "someone glad to see us." "Is anyone ever really glad to see you?"
"Yes," he said. "Not that we're ever happy to see them."
The drive was only ten minutes, but I had my breakdown then. I cried for at least two minutes. "Sorry," I said.
I couldn't see if he gestured or anything. "It's okay. It happens."
We reached the hospital. My head was fully restrained by now, so much so that it reminded me of the scene from The Meaning of Life
, where the pregnant woman sees only the lights and ceiling panels going by.
Omaha came into the ER holding room, while they moved me off the gurney into a regular bed. A doctor came and probed my neck. "Is it your neck?"
"Not... not really. It's higher up. That triangle right at the base of the skull, you know..."
"You mean here?" His fingers were high on the back of my neck.
"A little closer to the spine-- ouch, yes, dammit. Right there."
"We're going to have some x-rays done."
And the x-rays were done, and he diagnosed me with cervical strain, aka whiplash. "Lots of ibuprofen, muscle relaxants as needed, and ice," the discharge nurse told me. "Ice for two days, and heat thereafter."
The hospital accountant asked me, "Do you want us to bill you, or send it to your insurance?"
"It's such a clear-cut case of being rammed from behind," I said. Non-consensually, I didn't add. "Send it to my insurer, let them get it out of his hide."
"Excellent!" she said with surprising relish, and off she went.
Lisakit drove us home, and now... now I don't know what to do. I have to get a rental until my insurer figures out how to apportion blame, I have carpool duties starting Wednesday. I have to call my family physician and get a recommendation for a masseuse. I've been cycling between hyperactive and near tears for the evening. I have ice around my neck, and I need
it; that strain hurts, and it's migrating up into my right ear, down my right shoulder, and into my jaw. I want my eyeglasses back. I want my car back.
I hope I can sleep tonight.
Current Mood: sore
Current Music: Lou Shou-Cheng, Meadow Song