Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Accident and loss

The stars are bright tonight.  I stepped out to look.  The breeze across my back, the effect enhanced with my advanced case of age induced hair on my back, felt good compared to this afternoon's warmth.  Still, the skies looked to be clear and wonderful.  Yet, I,  father of two, decided to eschew their company for that of my laptop.  Something I appreciate more and more every day.  Google has added such a vast amount of knowledge at my finger tips that I have no need to experience the real world.  I rely on younger, smarter, more electronically apt individuals to bring their experiences to me. All in all, that is a healthier model.  I know from experience that being in reality is dangerous.

Having been in a car accident recently, I can attest that they are no fun.  Which leads me to this evening's admission.  My beautiful 2002 Toyota Tacoma died.  She died honorably.  Cora chafes when I call it a she.  She harkens back to the Spring of 2002 when i christened that truck "Apollo" after the ice skating Olympian.  Having just watched the Olympics we were enjoying Spring Break,  as I had returned to school to become a history teacher (Who even DOES that?),  on the coast, but a freak late winter storm had hit and it was a much colder stay at the beach than we had imagined.   This day was our arrival at the coast...which had been hammered by snow storms all the way to the within 20 miles of the beach. The reason was how well the truck handled on ice. I believe that was the time we had a seagull ride the truck as we backed around in circles.  Good times.

What Cora doesn't know is the hundreds of conversations that Apollo and I had when Cora wasn't there.  I knew she was somewhat under-powered, but she always delivered all the horsepower she could to get me in and out of the situations I got myself into.  One time my father and I went up to the Whiskey Dick area to look for a plane wreck...only to find ourselves in an incredible situation that ended with me shredding two tires just to get out of the loose shale hole we'd found ourselves in.  Other times it was in the midst of passing that she delivered jut that extra bit of torque to get us out of the way.  The thing is, throughout her life, that truck was awesome to me.

Did I get to all the scheduled oil changes? No.  Did i always find the time to do all the maintenance that was necessary?  No.  (This post was begun a week or so ago, so forgive me if there is some amount of disunity)  I loved that truck.

So, as I was heading home one day from school, over Konowac Pass, I found myself stuck behind a slow driver.  I don't have patience for slow drivers, they are dangerous and a menace.  There is a one mile stretch that allows for passing.  I eagerly awaited our arrival.  Apollo doesn't accelerate too fast, so much planning is necessary.  I was at the low end of third, but down-shifted to second and then back to third again and whipped out as soon as it was clear.  Things were going pretty good...although I think the guy began to speed up...and then I saw a van come up out of an orchard.  I thought, it'll stop.  Ok, it'll slow down and see me.  Ok, this sucks!  YOU IDIOT MOVE!!!!!!!  I could not go to the right, because the idiot I was passing was there.  I couldn't go many other places either.  I slammed on the breaks and slammed on the horn.  The wheels were squealing, and I was tense as could be.  Then, (for some reason I forgot about airbags) I knew we'd hit, and the airbag went off.  It was just like in the movies.  POOF!  It was out and gone.  I didn't hit it because I was tensed the hell up.  It HIT me though.  Myforearms were both bruised.  The one holding down the horn faired worst.

I managed to realize I was in both lanes and put it in reverse and managed to pull out of the oncoming lane before the truck stopped.  She died there.  Quietly, dripping oil and anti-freeze.  On the road.  She had saved my life.  I never quite treated her right, but she gave all to save me.  I loved that truck.

I jumped out.  I was cussing up a storm.  I was upset at the damage that had been done, particularly about the fact that I wouldn't be driving her home.  I checked to make sure the person in the white van was ok...sure, she was holding her stomach, but she wasn't bleeding and she hadn't the hell stopped.  She was stupid to pull out in front of someone.  She said she was fine.  I looked at me.  I was fine...though the bruises were already showing on my forearms.  I dialed 911.  She was on her phone too...I assumed she too was dialing 911.  Nope.  It turned out it was her daughter she called.

As the 911 operator began talking to me, I looked behind my truck at the growing line of vehicles.  There was an officer.  WOW!  That was fast.  I explained my problem to the 911 operator and notified her there was an officer on the scene.  She said she was doing what she was supposed to do and hung up.  I assumed an officer was on the way.  Nope.  We kicked the parts of both cars off the road and the officer and his friend began directing traffic.  Turned out they were Sunnyside officers up to do an interview.  They just happened to be in the area.

They directed Traffic and I waited.  The lady had several farm worker friends show up, and her daughter.  Her daughter spoke English.  It turned out she was uninsured.  She told the officer she did not look to see if anyone was in the lane she was pulling into.  She also said that when she saw me she just closed her eyes...fat lot of good that reaction did.  She admitted to the sheriff that she had not stopped.  Then she got mad when he ticketed her for not yielding the right of way and then also for being uninsured.  The officer put up with a lot of racist accusations, for the woman was a Mexican, and she assumed that because she was a Mexican that was the reason she got a ticket...obviously it didn't have ANYTHING to do with her breaking the law.  Anyway, he was unperturbed by her accusations and issued her the ticket and gave me the case number.  She had her rig towed back to the farm shop by one of the farm tractors.  I had a tow truck come get mine.

I had put my 1/2400 scale ships into the truck that day because that Saturday I would be presenting to the Submarine Veterans of Central Washington.  I planned to show them my ship models and a few of my other items of historic interest.  Unknown to me, the accident had created some major damage to these tiny ship models.

The sheriff who showed up a bit early because the operator didn't realize the officer on scene had no jurisdiction, offered me a ride.  I accepted, hoping it would be in the was not.  I'm just glad my hands were in front of me.

I had texted Cora that a lady had hit me with her car.  I failed to mention that I was OK, and also forgot to mention that I was in the truck when it happened.  She was a little rattled to be honest, and no one could blame her.  She called within minutes and I explained the situation that I was alright and uninjured.

Many of my fellow teachers drive the same road and a few of them texted to make sure I was ok and did not need a ride. My father-in-law called to see if I was ok.  He had found out from another teacher.  I found out then that I have a truly wide range of people I can call on.  It was comforting...though I wish they had all just written me a text before all this instead of me getting into an accident to find it out...

I lived.  I knew, somehow, that I would never drive Apollo again.  I was mad.  I was hurt.  I still am a little.  I regret that I wasn't able to use her to take some garbage to the dump.  But the insurance company gave us an equitable amount for her loss.  Turns out Toyotas don't lose their value very fast.  Of course she only had 155,000 miles on her and I planned on putting at LEAST that amount on her and more!

later, I realized all that had gone on, it finally sunk in how very close to death i had been.  That was a serous crash.  I was astounded at how well I reacted under that pressure.  I was calm and cool...well, apart from the cussing, but honestly, we had that truck since it had 310 miles on it.   It was a friend of the family.  It moved from Washington state to California and back again.  We took it many places and it took us places.  It was a true an inanimate object sort of way.

Apollo, you died on June 9.  I will remember you always.

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