It was a completely normal evening in October of 1999, right before Halloween. At the time, I lived in Plymouth, a western suburb of Minneapolis. I was driving my trusty Dodge Neon home from a sketching class in Minneapolis. As I merged onto northbound Highway 169 from westbound I-394, the car in front of me (very close, since I was merging into traffic) inexplicably slammed on its brakes. Instantly, I verified that there weren’t any close vehicles in the left lane and changed lanes. I over corrected, lost control of the car, and hit the center divider. The cement divider absorbed a lot of momentum and drastically slowed my car. The air bag deployed, flinging my glasses into the back seat. And then, everything that wasn’t already blurred crashing and motion became blurred crashing and motion and light as my car was rear ended by a semi, flung across the right lane, and hit the divider just past the exit for Betty Crocker Drive.
Within moments, several people had called 911, pulled over, and were talking to me through the shattered driver’s window. (Thank you, whoever you were.) Someone retrieved my hiking boots (formerly in the trunk) from the highway. The semi driver had pulled over and was hiking back down the shoulder to my car. Someone saw my severely bent glasses in the backseat and handed them to me. I got out of the car. The highway patrol arrived and began asking me if I had any idea how lucky I was. Yes. Yes, I really did have an idea.
The ambulance arrived. I remember sitting inside the ambulance and refusing transport, so they bandaged my left hand, which had gone through the driver’s window at some point, suggested that I clean up and re-bandage my hand when I got home, and let me go. After a tow truck arrived to remove my totaled car, the nice highway patrol officers gave me a ride home.
I was in shock, but didn’t really grasp that yet. I went into my apartment, logged into my email, and, with one hand, typed and sent an email to a friend about the experience. His response was near-instantaneous and very freaked out. Huh. (Shock, you know.) I wandered into the bathroom, pulled off the makeshift bandage, and realized I could see the bone in one my fingers. The shock started to recede and I started to get pretty darn freaked out myself. I called my dad (who was living in an inner ring southern suburb of Minneapolis at the time) and told him I thought I needed to go to the ER. He arrived amazingly fast to take me to the ER. Turned out I needed some glass removed, plus a few stitches.
Doesn’t really look so bad from the front, does it? You can see where I hit the divider. And perhaps the back bumper being draped across the hood doesn’t bode well.
Hmm. Don’t Neons usually have trunks?
I have made that same merge many, many times since then, as it’s part of my route to work. In fact, when I’m at work, I can walk about 50 feet, look out the window, and see the spot of my accident. I don’t think of it much anymore, but every now and then (especially around Halloween), I think of it. And feel pretty lucky.
Wear your seatbelts. Really.