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A Three Second Journey


JMG

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The following is an essay written a couple of years ago for an English 111 course I took at the local community college, here in Anderson, about an incident that had happened to me a few years prior when I was still living in Indy. One of those short slices of life:

 

 

In my younger years, I would often hear my elders tell their stories, many of which were related to war time events, or some other situation that was extreme or life threatening, and most of those would include the comment about how time would slow to the point of almost standing still. My oldest brother tells one about being shelled by his own artillery, during the Vietnam conflict, relating to how time seemed to suspend, the intensity of the memory, and that the buttons on his uniform were getting in his way as he hugged the ground. While I understand that this is related to the effects of a surge of adrenaline, there is nothing like having been through an event that threatens severe harm to give a true understanding of that reference to time.

 

Several years ago, on a bright, sunny afternoon, I was driving a Porsche Boxster S southbound on Binford Boulevard, approaching the intersection of Allisonville Road, in Indianapolis, when I was given the opportunity to experience this myself. The sport’s car was one of my latest personal projects, that I had just finished fixing a few hours before, and I was enjoying the ride home, thinking about plans for the next few days. As this was the start of the afternoon rush, traffic was heavy, and I was keeping pace with the lead group of vehicles from the last traffic light.

 

The cars traveling with me were three abreast, with myself just having shifted into the last, outside lane, about a half car length behind the person now on my left. I generally prefer being with the lead pack, as well as the ability to see the road ahead. We all were traveling above the posted speed limit by five to ten miles per hour, which is the norm for this area and time of day, with northbound traffic moving at a similar pace. I had just let off the gas, in anticipation of the upcoming drop in posted speed limit, when a driver headed northbound decided that he would defy normal traffic patterns and cross into the southbound lanes, about a half block early, in an attempt to beat the oncoming vehicles to the side street. This is the point where time seemed to slow as my mind began to focus with an incredible clarity.

 

The first thing that came to mind was an emotional explicative of disbelief, not safe for writing, as the details of the scenery and immanent catastrophe all began to register in the same instant:

  • The two vehicles on my left are beginning to brake hard, leaving no options in that direction.
  • If I stay on my current path, there is a probability of hitting the oncoming ugly tan/brown sedan in the area of the passenger door.
  • There is a short, partial turn lane on my right, just now starting, lined with small trees and other vegetation that block the view of any traffic on the side road.
  • Ahead and to the right, across the intersection, is a parallel access road with an open field of tall grass about a half block long.
  • A utility pole sits in the median between main and access road.
  • There is someone close behind me.

As these details registered, my right foot was moving, seemingly in slow motion, over to the brake pedal in an attempt to scrub speed. Also, my hands twitched the steering wheel to the right, in a vague hope that the other driver might hit the brakes, allowing me to pass in front onto the access path. This twitch would also give the person behind me some room to maneuver, as I was aware the braking power of the Boxster S is generally much greater than most other vehicles on the road. I have had professional driver’s training, in this type of car, and firmly believe that it had an effect on my perception of the situation, and actions up to this point, but now, the hope of avoidance was dashed as the oncoming car leaped forward under increased acceleration.

 

The Porsche began to shudder as the anti-lock brake system engaged, and I actually felt myself relax, in resignation, as the offending object crossed into my final path. I was now just another passenger along for the ride into fate, with less than twenty feet to judgment. The next moment in time began to play in my mind like a stop motion movie.

 

My car slammed into the other’s right front quarter panel with a thump of concussive force rivalling a 105mm cannon firing an artillery shell. I had an image of my front hood folding up, to be instantly blocked out by the steering wheel airbag as it deployed, punching me in the face with hot stinging abrasion. Next, there was a blurred image of sideways motion of the interior, as the car spun clockwise and to the left, to smack into the side of the other vehicle with a crunch and roar of tortured parts and metal. The kinetic energy released, stopped my Porsche’s forward and sideways motion, and launched the offender to the side, down the access road I had previously noted. At the moment of contact, the side airbag deployed.

 

Due to the fact that the first bag to deploy drove my hands and arms up and away from the steering wheel, the side bag now exploded upward between my left underarm and chest. This caused my arm to be thrown forward, punching my hand into the windshield with a radiating, sharp pain, fracturing the wrist along with the glass, as the bag ripped open my over-shirt and abraded my chest. Vision fast turned to grey fog as the acrid, nasal burning smoke billowed out of the deployed bags, made worse as I attempted to bat one out of my line of sight with my right hand, after the car had settled. As the intensity of noise subsided, I could now hear that the engine was still running. I reached across the steering column with my right hand and turned the key to shut it off. Time now seemed to settle back to a normal pace as I mentally sighed with relief at having survived this particular trial.
    
The aftermath of this episode is not burned as brightly into my memory as the previous few seconds, and seems somewhat mundane and anticlimactic in comparison. The person who opened the passenger door to help, and the driver of the mini-van who had been following me that stopped and gave her account, along with the emergency crews who responded, do not register as well in my memory as the accident itself. The intensity and clarity of those first few moments, gave a solid impression of time shifting from its normal pace, lending credence to those stories from my past; that time could feel as though it were nearly standing still.

 

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I appreciate a well-written piece, thanks for posting your experience.

Hope you healed up ok since then

" and I actually felt myself relax, in resignation, as the offending object crossed into my final path. I was now just another passenger along for the ride into fate,"

I read this and have to say it hit home the hardest, exactly how I remember feeling...

I don't remember hearing anything about the impact whatsoever....

News report on the crash, my vehicle is the one still upright

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Healing process from the accident itself went pretty well. It turned out that along with the fractured wrist, I had had a partially dislocated rib that I did not discover until about two weeks later when it reset itself after I sneezed....

 

In the long term, though, I believe that the accident aggravated some other pre-existing issues, and I ended up filing for disability with the VA the following year for injuries sustained while in service. I was approved at sixty percent.

 

On the upside, the rating from the VA allowed me to go back to college for a year on a temporary program and gave me eligibility for others that I need to pursue to finish my degree.

 

That news report shows enough to look like that was one rough ride Knarly.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Time for the rest of the story:

 

As the dust was settling, the other driver exited his vehicle and staggered/ran off. This was then classed as a hit and run by the first response unit and prompted a fairly large police presence on the scene, including k-9 units. They were able to track down this knucklehead after about thirty minutes or so and ID him with the help of the lady from the mini-van who had been following directly behind me. He, of course, denied having been the driver, but when they did a background check, it turned up an outstanding warrant for his arrest for car theft from the previous year and was promptly handcuffed.

 

As the next few weeks passed, I learned that the car he had been driving was not registered, and also had stolen Texas plates on it. They could not identify who actually owned the vehicle and the VIN did not register as stolen. My insurance agent's comment when informed of all this stated; "This just keeps getting better and better" (sarcasm certainly intended). The last item I heard was that they were putting a case together against him, and that they were really happy to have him in custody for the car theft issue. After that, I never heard from anyone again.

 

The largest problem in all of this was the fact that the accident was classed as an uninsured motorist incident, and that there is a 10k cap on vehicle damages written into law for the insurance companies. The value of my car was set at 18k and the value of the totaled Porsche was estimated at 4k. Fortunately, pain and suffering, plus medical expenses are a separate issue and I received some compensation for that. So that left me with a net loss on value of the car at about 4k. As this was one of those projects that I had been working on, the loss was basically paper, but would have covered my personal labor in the project. I ended up having to strip this one down and sell off as much as I could to make up for the accident.

 

End result: I learned that uninsured motorist coverage in Indiana is shit disguised with a chocolate coating. It is great that you have some compensation, but the core of it stinks.

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  • 2 months later...

Four years on now, and I have found that I have other hidden damage from this accident. Over the last three months or so I have been having increasing pain in my left shoulder, to the point that I thought that there might be a problem with the rotator cuff. X-rays last week show that it is just a severe case of arthritis instead. As the only damage ever received to this area was in that accident, one must assume that this is where the problem started. I have heard that arthritis could be painful, but I now understand...

 

One more life lesson off the list. ;)

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  • 8 months later...

Went through about four months of physical therapy for this, this last summer, and was able to get back to about ninety percent use and reach on the shoulder. Not the most enjoyable experience, but it was a great group of therapists as the VA allowed me to attend a local company over traveling down to Indy twice a week, and they were less than five minutes away.

 

Hint #2 The car in this accident isn't the only model I have tools to work on. :ph34r:

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I have no doubt any injury such as that ever lets you get back to normal again. Ever. That's why I dread to think what might be in store for my wife and I.....

 

I'm glad to hear the VA is doing you good this far, besides physical therapy, do you have to watch your diet to help with the arthritis?

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29 minutes ago, KnarlyCarl said:

I'm glad to hear the VA is doing you good this far, besides physical therapy, do you have to watch your diet to help with the arthritis?

 

Not for the arthritis no, but they pressure me on a regular basis about blood sugar levels and whatnot...

 

Hint #5: The tool is similar in size to its namesake. :ph34r:

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  • 9 months later...

Last night was one of those nights, increased pain levels, difficulty staying asleep, and for some reason I woke up at this morning thinking about the accident. Not actually dreaming about it or having something that might class as a nightmare, but it makes one wonder how long an incident like this will remain relevant in memory and affect the mental state of mind.

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