Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hit and Run

Bumper cars at Seattle Center. photo David Lindes.
Bumper cars at Seattle Center. photo David Lindes.


I wasn't hurt. Physically.

So far as I can tell.

It's hard to tell, sometimes, frankly.

And yeah, you bet your ass, I was hurt. Am hurt. Even though I wasn't hurt. Aren't hurt, physically that is. Still fucked me up a little. I always get fucked up a little after someone tries to do me. I'm a medic, not a shooter. That's not an accident of a career choice. Not that I can't shoot; just that I'm a medic.

Here's what happened.

Thursday, Sep 4, late, as I was driving home from Bellevue, my car was side-swiped HARD on I-405 South in a hit & run at about 30 mph.

It was an intentional hit. He was trying to put me into the wall.

Highway construction around 8th had everything shut-down tight, squeezing down to one lane. I got on via the HOV/Bus lane detour which dropped me straight onto the freeway all the way in the far left HOV lane already at full speed.

Within 30 seconds, tops, what little traffic there was, starting squeezing into my lane as the four-lane freeway was narrowed to one by the construction so late at night. We're talking after 10:30-10:45 pm.

I had a jersey barrier to my left, a car very close in front of me with NO room between us, and either an SUV or a truck behind me (night; can't tell for sure.) Whatever it is, it is directly on my bumper. We're at 30 mph and there is no margin for error.

Into this cluster-fuck caused by the construction zone comes a Big Black JEEP. I don't know if that is the actual brand. I suck at branding cars. But it was a jeep-type of car, driving extraordinarily aggressively, and I say this as someone who knows a thing or two about aggressive driving.

He -- if I did get a glimpse of the driver, I'm not admitting it here. I'm being careful not to complicate the legal record with this post, therefore there is stuff which I am not saying. This may well be part of that. In any event, please be clear I'm using "he" only in the traditional grammatical sense of referring to men and women, not in making an eye-witness claim about gender -- kept trying to push his way in to the 12 inch space between my car and the car in front of me.

First, keep in mind everything happened in under 20 seconds. There wasn't any "thinking this through." It just HAPPENED.

Second, there wasn't any room for me to go.

I ran the options very fast.

I've been through so damn many defensive driving schools. It's one of those paramedic skill sets. Every time you go to a new city/county, they make you take a week-long program in how to drive their way. Before you ever touch a patient, including the clinical qual's you have to pass off on just to show you know what you're doing. Driving the rig is ALWAYS first.

Can't drive? Buh-bye.

And by drive, I mean, drive their way. Every fracking new city. I worked all over the goddamn United States. And have never received less than an A- in an Emergency Response Driving course. One time. Normally I get an A or A+.

One of the myths of guys is that each of them is an above average driver. Oh, they know they're not NASCAR drivers. But all of us think, "Well, with just a little bit of training I could be out there banging the paint." It is SUCH bullshit.

Most people are truly average drivers. Most people who think they are above average drivers are dangerous drivers. VERY few drivers have had any kind of actual training. (Watching Tony Stewart's #20 car draft Earnhardt's #8 at Daytona while the camera split-screens showing both of them with their foot glued to the floor, does not constitute "actual training." Especially when you're on your second six-pack.)

I ran the options:

  • Left -- into the jersey barrier. Bounce off out of control, spin across traffic. No.
  • Forward -- take out the car in front of me. Accident MY fault. Double-NO.
  • Backward/STOP -- crushed by SUV/Truck tail-gating me. Ah, thank you but no.
  • Right -- into the jeep that's trying to kill me? I don't fucking think so.
HOLD MY LINE. Only hope was to hold my line. Save the hot-wash till after. Just 20 seconds and I'd have a jersey-barrier free spot, could dodge left and be safe.

I didn't get it.


The mother-fucker was right next to me. Paused. darted in. Paused. My HORN is BLARING, CUTTING IN AND OUT AS SHARP AND VARIED AS I CAN, SAME WITH MY LIGHTS. I'm totally boxed in with no out. I've violated THE rule, the #1 rule I've drilled into my children over and over and over again. God fucking dammit.

"Always leave yourself an out."

He hits me.

The pig-fucking syphilitic son of a Bush/McCain Republican hits me HARD.
At thirty miles an hour.

His jeep outweighs my little car probably two to one. He knocks me a solid 2-3 feet across my lane almost in to the jersey barrier. By the time I recover he's half-way IN my lane, where my car and I are stunned but still exist.

It isn't as if he's trying to sneak in between the car ahead of me and my car. He is clearly attempting to put me into the wall. Like I-405 South is NASCAR, and he's a DRIVER.

Yeah. Right.

I rebound away from the wall, back into my lane, HORN BLARING, LIGHTS FLASHING, but instead of falling back into his lane -- in the near crash, the SUV behind me; now it is clear it was an SUV, a BIG one, perhaps an Yukon or a Suburban; has wisely slammed on its brakes so there is now maybe one to two car lengths behind me -- he shoves his car straight at me. I think I'm about to be hit and BLOW OUT MY LUNGS FOR IMPACT as I slide as far left as I can, it's all I can do, but he misses me by at best, inches, sliding behind me directly on my tail.

We continue through the construction zone this way, me in front, him riding my ass. I'm looking for a cop in the zone to flag down; none seen.

The freeway continues single-file perhaps another 20 seconds. I see a space off the the left clearly big enough for both of us and then some. I signal left and pull in, assuming he will follow, we will exchange insurance information and so on.

He pulls around me and accelerates.

Oh.My.Gods. and WTF!

I instantly pull back onto the freeway directly behind him. (All the other cars are giving us LOTS of space. No fools they.) From 10-15 feet behind him, with a clean pair of eye-glasses (new script this year) I put a high-powered halogen flashlight (4D cells, all fresh from last month's trip to Denver, not used once during that trip) on his license plate. Write down the license. Double-check. Triple-check.

Follow him at about 60 mph -- the speed limit -- for roughly 4-5 miles. Then it occurs to me how totally stupid this is. I'm a retired paramedic, not a Trooper. This happened on Interstate. I pull off the Interstate at the next exit and under the Interstate overpass, call 911.

A Trooper shows up within 10 minutes, straight off a recruiting poster. Polite, reassuring, his competence is perfect like his shave (less than 30 minutes old, I swear), his radio and how he kept calling me "Sir."

Me, sir? *laughs*

The Trooper and I finish up. The details of which I omit.

I go home.

On the way I stop for carbs, sugar, and a little protein. When you're shocky, you need to eat and hydrate, to get carbs and sugar in your system quickly, with a little protein for balance. I know this. Plus, Maggie reminded me recently in Ginny Bates. *hugs Maggie*

We NEVER know what life will bring us next. Jeep Guy could have killed me like drowning kittens or branding underclassmen.

I'm truly sorry this man's life brought him to the point he committed at least two felonies against me. I've had nights like that, months also. They really truly suck.

Drive safely. Stay buckled. Pay attention and always, Always, ALWAYS...

Always leave yourself an out.

I fucked up the most basic rule of driving Thursday night, and almost bought it.