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In which someone tries to kill yours truly. - Elf M. Sternberg
In which someone tries to kill yours truly.
[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 sore
Current Music: Lou Shou-Cheng, Meadow Song

21 comments or Leave a comment
zanfur From: zanfur Date: December 18th, 2012 06:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Damn. I'm glad you're more okay than not!
fayanora From: fayanora Date: December 18th, 2012 07:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Ouch. Accidents suck.

Ah... I remember how my first car died. Deer came out of nowhere. Front of the car was a real mess, bent all to hell, the windshield cracked, holy shite. Plucky little car, though, still worked long enough to use it while I got a new car. But just barely.

A much better end than what befell my second and last car. Outside, totally intact. Engine, just kind of went Phhhht. Would've been cheaper to buy a new car than to replace the engine, so I said "Fuck that" and haven't driven since then.
From: kistha Date: December 18th, 2012 07:22 am (UTC) (Link)
So glad you are OK.
latheos From: latheos Date: December 18th, 2012 07:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Holy cats, Elf! Glad to read that you're not more seriously injured. Anything we can do to help out?
elfs From: elfs Date: December 18th, 2012 07:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm good, thanks.
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: December 18th, 2012 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Ow! My sympathies. Get well soon.
drhoz From: drhoz Date: December 18th, 2012 10:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Very glad that you weren't more seriously injured
resonant From: resonant Date: December 18th, 2012 02:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Anyone on my LJ friends list is eligible for free eyeglasses. If you give me your prescription and interoccular distance, I can get a pair shipped to you in about a week.
elfs From: elfs Date: December 18th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fortunately, I was able to recover them from the impound lot. They were undamaged. Which is fortunate because, like I said, they were a fairly unusual prescription in Takumi frames.
lovingboth From: lovingboth Date: December 18th, 2012 02:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I am delighted you are more ok than dead. Hooray for seatbelts + air bags.

Some of the story is so American, from the smallest available drink size, to the hospital billing, to everything he's done being a misdemeanor - does that mean he's not looking at more than a year in jail?
elfs From: elfs Date: December 18th, 2012 07:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Probably. Not even that. Yeah, we're such a car culture and gun culture that carrying a gun in a car after a drink driving accident is just two separate misdemeanors. Nothing to get excited about, I guess.
amindofiron From: amindofiron Date: December 19th, 2012 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)
They're not coming after this guy for a count or three of vehicular assault *why* now? This guy sounds like just the sort of person who really *needs* a felony record because he's clearly demonstrated he's far to stupid(or at least makes stupid enough life choices, which amounts to same)to legally own a firearm *or* operate a motor vehicle.
doodlesthegreat From: doodlesthegreat Date: December 18th, 2012 03:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ouch. So glad to hear that you're going to be okay. Your insurer will assign zero blame to you or the Honda under the circumstances. I had a similar incident, and while I did have to pay a deductible at first, it was immediately refunded when the other driver's insurance paid up.
shockwave77598 From: shockwave77598 Date: December 18th, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dayum!! Glad you are okay man!
ionotter From: ionotter Date: December 18th, 2012 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Holy Hippo Spit!

Wow, I'm glad you're okay? Sounds like you blacked out, and that's bad. Good move on going to the hospital, that could have been very bad.

The old propellant, sodium azide, is no longer used, and the "dust" inside a car that has deployed the airbags is talc, or baby powder.

elfs From: elfs Date: December 18th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty sure I was briefly unconscious. That's probably a good thing, given how freaked out I was afterward.
(Deleted comment)
elfs From: elfs Date: December 18th, 2012 08:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh. Keeping a sense of humor is a secret weapon. I thought my tweet announcing the accident was the height of brevity and clarity.

Oddly, I haven't had much in the way of flashbacks. A lot of annoying neckpain, but they say that'll last six to eight weeks. I still have to call my doctor and say "It's still hurting," because two weeks have gone by without reliable improvement.

But yeah, thanks. We will get everything put back together.
edichka2 From: edichka2 Date: December 19th, 2012 07:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Rough night.
nyssasemephit From: nyssasemephit Date: December 19th, 2012 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow... Must have been the day, I was hit while parked too. o_O Same day.
_candide_ From: _candide_ Date: December 20th, 2012 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)

mg4h From: mg4h Date: December 21st, 2012 04:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Yikes. I'm glad you're relatively okay. That had to be scary.
21 comments or Leave a comment