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Friday, September 07 2012

 

 

I believe I have firmly established now that my final words will be "Oh God! OhGod!OhGod!OhGOD!!!"

Trust me, there are probably worst things to say in your final moments.

(For instance: "Hey! Hold my beer. Watch this!")

One would think that my business would give you more than ample opportunity to examine what's important in life, but from time to time, defining moments stand out.  I had one of those moments this weekend.

Another birthday rolled around for me, and unlike those who dread each birthday like the tolling of a death bell, as we have also already established, I see birthdays as my excuse to make demands eat cake and expect to be treated like royalty wear a birthday crown. 

Yes, aging brings unwelcome party guests like arthritis,  wrinkles, loss of flexibility, and weight gain, but it also brings a richness of experience and wisdom that my toned, tanned, and youthful self just didn't possess. And there is always the other alternative. So keep in mind that despite your ailments, "any day on this side of the grass is a good day." That point was driven home like a line drive in Yankee Stadium this weekend.

Other Half and I loaded up the truck and headed for the ranch to enjoy my birthday do ranch work. I was driving. (This is important.) I drive like a Grandma. In the Police Academy, my classmates teased that I was "driving Miss Daisy" because I am such a conservative driver. (This is important too!)

That established, let's drive on with our story:

Other Half had a brand new Garmin GPS. We named her "Michelle."  Other Half had already noted that Michelle not only shows a map, but she also posts the listed speed limit and what I was actually driving at that moment.  (tattle-tail!)  Anyway, Other Half smugly pointed out that I was "dragging ass" and driving too slowly.  My argument that driving a loaded rig on a crowded freeway in holiday traffic did little to sway his opinion that I was once again, "Driving Miss Daisy."  But . . . I'm a 'grown-ass woman and do what I want, so thank GOD, I continued to drive Miss Daisy and he soon bored and fell asleep.

He woke up as we were sliding sideways down the freeway. That was about the time I realized we were about to crash over the guard rail and pull a "Thelma & Louise" into thin air.

But let's go back some.  I have replayed this scene a thousand times and the most frightening thing is that you can do everything right, and shit just happens.  When I was learning to drive, my mother taught me this little rhyme:

"She was right she was,
as she sped along,
but she's just as dead,
as if she'd been wrong."

And so it was that I sped along, wearing my seatbelt. The sun was up. Visibility was good. I wasn't tired. I wasn't fiddling with the radio, the dogs, my cell phone, or any of the countless other distrations that attack drivers daily. I wasn't speeding. I wasn't tailgating. I was Driving Miss Daisy.

BUT . . .  I was on a busy freeway that is a major artery across the state. The freeway was a two lane roadway with concrete barriers on either side. There was no shoulder. There was nowhere to go. And that's when a woman riding in a truck ahead of me decided to leap out of a moving vehicle and land smack in the middle of the holiday traffic on the freeway.  As you can imagine, chaos ensued. 

The cars ahead of me were standing on their noses and swerving. I hit the brake too, but I was driving a Ford F350 and pulling a loaded trailer. That's a lot of weight. In essence, I was driving a freight train in the right hand lane. If I didn't get that truck stopped, someone was going to die.  That was a given. The passenger-turned-pedestrian would die, people in stopped vehicles would die, and we might die if I couldn't get that truck stopped.

And that's when I saw the left lane open up.

I've fallen off enough horses to know that time slows down in the middle of a wreck, and I had time enough to read "Moby Dick" as the scene unfolded. It all came down to two choices:

Choice A: Stay in Right-Hand Lane
Consequence: Someone WILL die.

Choice B: Move to Left-hand Lane
Consequence: Lane is clear ahead. Green SUV in rear view mirror is far enough back that he may cuss me for changing
lanes so quickly but I won't shove him off the road if I change lanes. There appears to be enough room to try it.

Glance back at Right-hand Lane. Vehicles are stopped. We definitely cannot stay there. Go for left and continue to try to stop truck to prevent hitting any vehicles who are springing from right lane to left lane. Sit on brake. Truck begins to slide too far to the left and bumper catches concrete barrier.

Short Commercial break:

Ranch Hand Bumpers.  These are sported on big trucks all over Texas. I must admit that in the past I thought this was a macho thing for country boys to put on their trucks and say they were protecting their trucks from damage when they hit a deer.  Nope. That sucker will SAVE YOUR LIFE!  Get one.

Now back to our story:

I am now trying to stop a truck that is sliding sideways down the freeway. The left hand side of my Ranch Hand Bumper is shaving away concrete.

This slows our speed considerably, unfortunately the green SUV in my rear view mirror now t-bones me and is shoving us down the freeway. 

Another Short Commercial Break:

Big Trucks. Yes, we all strive for energy efficiency in everything. Little cars are great, but those of us on ranches need big trucks. The bonus is that when you are in a major accident, being in a tank doesn't suck. I will no longer whine about my gas bill when I drive across the state in my big truck.

Back to our story:

Other Half is now awake. We are sliding sideways down the freeway, and have just been hit broadside. And as if things can't get any worse, I realize, to my horror, that not only is the truck being pushed sideways, but it wants to continue going left into the concrete guard rail and we are on an overpass. I see nothing but my hood and a steep drop onto the highway below us. 

 

At this point I have a thought,

"This is how people get launched over the overpass and fall onto the roadway below. And everyone dies . . ."

And this was the point where I gave it up.  I had done everything I could possibly do and it wasn't enough. This had just become a "Jesus Take The Wheel" moment. It was not in my power to keep anyone alive. I held that wheel and started to pray the truck would stop before we climbed that k-rail and launched into space.


If the Ranch Hand Bumper gave way, the factory bumper would give way, the grill would give way, and the tires would touch the concrete barrier. If those tires grabbed the concrete, they would climb that truck up and over the rail. So I prayed. The Ranch Hand Bumper continued to chew along the concrete, but even with the force of an F350 pickup truck, a loaded trailer, and an SUV pushing it, that bumper would not give up. It didn't break.

And the truck stopped. For a moment, time stood still for me as I looked out over my hood, at the roadway below. 

Then I became vaguely aware of Other Half cursing loudly. He wanted answers but I had none. How does one explain what just happened?

 (pic taken off freeway)

Angry and bleeding, but very much alive . . .

I climbed out of my truck as everyone else stepped out onto the freeway. There was a surreal moment of peace as the dust settled and humanity counted the damage. The question on all lips:

"Is everyone okay?"

Like actors on a stage, the players emerged.

The principle cast was obviously the drivers and passengers of the striking vehicles, but the supporting cast was quite interesting: the motorcylist who rode through the stopped traffic to come up and assist us, the doctor who came to render first aid.

When the doctor informed Other Half that he was bleeding, Other Half told him, "I don't have time to bleed."

???

Cops think a little differently. At the moment, Other Half was looking for the body of the woman who jumped out into traffic. No body on the highway. He peeked over the railing. No body down there. Hmmm . . .

Where was she?

A man came up to me talking about a kidnapper. Of course!  Why else would you jump out of a moving vehicle into a crowded freeway? The freeway ahead of me was clear, the traffic long gone. If there was a kidnapping suspect, he was gone, but then again, so was my body. This was a puzzle.

And then I heard something that clicked everything into place.

"Why did you jump out of the truck?"

I saw an older woman talking to a young girl who was crying. It soon became apparent that the young woman had jumped OUT of the older woman's truck, causing the older woman to stop in the middle of the roadway, thus resulting in a bad day for everyone.

The young woman had road rash but was otherwise unharmed. I informed Other Half that I'd found our body, and our body was still alive. He went to investigate this further as I went back to the truck to check the dogs. What came next boggled my mind even more than finding my dead body alive.

The reason she leaped out of a moving vehicle: 

They were having an argument about her doing her homework.

Do what? 

Yes, homework.

She leaped out of a moving vehicle onto a crowded freeway, endangering her own life, and countless others, over HOMEWORK?

Yes. It would appear so.

And there you have it.  There are moments in our lives which force us to sit up and take notice, to assess life as we know it, for you can be tooting along, minding your own business, and the next moment make a decision that will profoundly affect your life and the lives of everyone around you.

So which would you choose?  Right-hand lane or Left-hand lane?

Do you bitch and moan about growing old, or do you drop to your knees on the freeway and thank God that you lived to see your next birthday?


 

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 03:05 am   |  Permalink   |  15 Comments  |  Email
Comments:
How many times in how many ways to say "thank you" to the Creator and to know that each day is a gift. So glad that you continue to be our gift! Happy birthday!
Posted by sue in wyoming on 09/07/2012 - 08:56 AM
I use a million screennames here because I never remember what I call myself. Maybe I"ll remember this one. Lol. I hope, for the sake of the girl, that someone educated her on just how much worse of a situation her actions could have created. How scary that she'd react that dramatically. We always say in respect to people doing stupid stuff around horses, that "God(/Fate/whatever) looks out for fools and idiots." It applies elsewhere, too, and thankfully can be ammended to add "and anyone else unlucky enough to get in their path." Glad you guys are all ok, and that other than a few crunched pieces of plastic/metal, no one was worse for the wear. Ct'd, because of the word limit...lol
Posted by AlbertaGirl on 09/07/2012 - 09:44 AM
...ct'd...lol Here's a recent article about a situation in my neck of the woods... thank god this guy was alert and attentive behind the wheel, to save the bacon of those in the path of a driver who most certainly was not. http://www.globaltvedmonton.com/edmonton+police+commend+driver+for+preventing+pedestrian+crash/6442708294/story.html As for driving...well...I'm Driving Miss Daisy too. I take after my dad. (Driving Mr. Daisy. His excuse is sometimes "to see what gas mileage is if you're going 20k below highway speed." Lmao). I think I'm proud of it.
Posted by AlbertaGirl on 09/07/2012 - 09:45 AM
All can say is WOW!!! If my child had jumped out of the car in moving traffic and caused a pile up like that. After I found out she was ok......for her sake, it would have been a blessing that law enforcement people were on the scene. Because I would have wanted to do something not nice to her. Might sound mean.....sorry!! Anyway Happy Birthday!!! Hope you done something relaxing after that!!!!
Posted by Susan B. on 09/07/2012 - 12:23 PM
You've been given a most precious gift - that of life. Glad you were "driving Miss Daisy", that you have skills and learned abilities that most do not have. Happy Birthday - and thank you for sharing. Please tell me that young lady was severely chastised!!
Posted by Beth on 09/07/2012 - 01:15 PM
Incredible. I'm so thankful that you survived that disaster! I hope the cost for repairs to your stuff is taken out of that girl's allowance.
Posted by Terri's Pal on 09/07/2012 - 05:05 PM
Wow!! Thank you Lord that you had the skills (and good equipment)and you made good decisions and it was a safe outcome for all. I'm very thankful that you and yours are all okay. Hopefully that young fool got a reality check and did some learning.
Posted by Sharon on 09/07/2012 - 07:34 PM
Expectec the pics to be MUCH worse! You were all blessed/lucky to survive with no deaths or life altering injuries. Recent death here of. 14 or 15 y.o. Struck by car in daylight on freeway - reportedly arguing with parent and jumped out of car from side of road. Hope you get a chance to meet the girl and tell her yr part of the event and show her pics of your life. She needs to know consequences of her actions but also to meet a strong woman who values life and lives it fully. Seems like she doesn't have any experience of that, to have done what she did. Even if she has mental illness she needs to know
Posted by clairesmum on 09/07/2012 - 07:48 PM
Lord that was one stressful read. Reminded me of my tangle with a sheep semi that ran a red light and bounced me and the trusty old Honda {bike] off it's wheels. [1971[ Taught me to ride and drive like a little old granny (which I now am)Slow careful and stick to speed limit BUT even then there is a Galah [silly species of parrot] out there to get one. Happy B day and many there be many more....
Posted by Liz [VicAust.} on 09/08/2012 - 12:55 AM
Thank goodness you and dogs and humans were all okay. Stupid, stupid incident. As for time slowing down...it really does. I was t-boned by a tuna boat (big ass car) while driving a tiny little Mazda. That hit sent me onto the median and right for a big tree. I remember having time to think--I'm going to hit that tree unless I turn the wheel. I turned the wheel. I'm sure what seemed like about 5 min. to me was mere seconds.
Posted by Stephanie on 09/08/2012 - 01:32 AM
Someone needs to come to your ranch after school and weekends to work off the 10 years of life she just took off of you in those short moments. Then again, she doesn't sound bright enough to work on a ranch. Maybe its because she doesn't do her homework. Sigh. The 'ole catch 22. And hence why she jumped out of the car in the first place. No understanding of physics and laws of motion in relation to, um, DEATH. This is definitely a child who gets her education on TV, where common people leap out of buildings and speeding cars and live. I'm wondering if & when Darwin will teach her the ultimate lesson. So glad you are ok. I just found your blog recently and enjoy it immensely.
Posted by Wild Dingo on 09/08/2012 - 05:04 AM
You jut experienced a miracle in my book. Thank God you are all OK. I read this to my husband and his comment? "She must be a hell of a driver." (Tell Other Half.)
Posted by Janet on 09/08/2012 - 07:28 AM
First - thank God you are all ok. Second. I am a teacher and work with special needs kids - kids on the autism spectrum, kids with emotional and behavioral disabilities. As I read the "why" of that girl jumping out of the car, I couldn't help but wonder if there might be a back story there along those lines... the impulse to flee of someone that has little control of their impulses. Good driving Daisy!
Posted by Linda Nightsky Farm on 09/08/2012 - 10:15 AM
Holy $($&$&$)# !!!!
Posted by Eric on 09/08/2012 - 06:08 PM
Thank goodness you were Driving Miss Daisy. I strongly suspect that is what gave you a hair more reaction time for your response. I'm so glad all of you are O.K.
Posted by CarolG. on 09/10/2012 - 07:04 PM

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