Tuesday, August 31, 2010

In The Blink of an Eye

At first I thought it was age related.  Hubby was going to the coast this morning, to fish with a friend.  A last minute trip.  Oh, I didn’t mind that part.  But the nagging (girl) portion of my brain was…worried.  He’d be driving towards the beach during the beginning of the busiest weekend of the year: Labor Day.  He’s  a great driver in a world of not so talented drivers.  That’s  when it hit me that, on some level, I’ve noticed we’re getting older.   In the past I would’ve yelled, “Have fun!  You’ll be back  when?”, then add 2 hours on to that because well…fishermen have tales to tell, right?  Even when they’re in the same boat.

But his trips like this have become more rare than when we were first married and now a part of me mentally sits on the edge of her seat until he walks through the door.  Safe.  Because the world is a dangerous place.  And you never know.

Today the thought of wrecks nagged at me all day, no matter how hard I tried to push them away.  While worrying about a toocloseforcomfort accident, I never imagined it might be me in harms way.

On my way to the After School site, I knew the Director had gone home ill and that the kids had probably gotten back into the car when the door was locked, unwilling to wait 15 minutes on me.  As I began to round a corner I have driven millions of times, I heard it.

A wreck.  In reverse.

In most wrecks, you hear that tell tale squealing of brakes which seems to drag on forever.  You wince in anticipation of the follow up BANG!  But entering that curve was a surreal experience.  There was a huge BANG!, followed by a squeal of tires.  Instinctively braking, I watched a car drift across in front of me in a hail of dust and car parts.  The oddest thing was how quiet the car was…no engine noise.  When it finally drifted to a stop, the horn began to blare unrelentingly.   I was traveling north, she was traveling south.  We’d been at opposite ends of a deep curve and unable to see one another.  She had crossed into my lane, gone off road and hit a tree which kept her bumper.  Speed combined with impact spun her around, sending that car sliding past me, where it came to a rest diagonally on her side of the road, barely off her original lane.

When wrecks occur, two things happen: people either panic and run around like Chicken Little or they drive by real slow and gawk.  Although I was formerly a Tele-Communications Operator for the State Police, I was usually the voice on the other end of the line, calming down the hysterical while trying to get directions.  On some level, I always wondered how I’d respond in person to a sudden, out-of-the-blue crisis.

Today proved once a Dispatcher, always a Dispatcher.  Which is oddly comforting.

During a crisis, a sense of calm encompasses me, striding purposefully to the front where it instructs my normal, day-to-day self to kindly take a seat in the corner and await further instruction.  Normally, I turn away during gory parts of movies and heaven help me if an actor pretends to vomit…just that word alone makes my queasy.  And yet when something bad happens, Quiet Me retreats obediently to the  chair in the corner of my brain and allows Take Charge Me to handle things.

Today, as that car slid like a ghost past me, Take Charge Me made quiet, commands with a sense of calm I seem to be missing in everyday life.  Brake.  Check to see if anyone’s behind you.  Put on your hazard blinkers.  Put the car in park, turn it off and when you leap out to check the driver, look both ways before you cross the street. 

 It honestly never crossed my mind to stay put…or to think that others wouldn’t join me.  Yes, even in today’s world. 

As I approached the driver’s door, another individual checked the passenger seat.  It was at that moment my brain went, “Huh?”

There was no driver.  Only a deployed airbag.

That meant someone had gone through the shattered windshield on the passenger side.  But the other individual, looking around in a puzzled voice said, “There’s no one here!”  We’d both thought the cloth hanging at an odd angle out the windshield had been someone’s clothing.  Turned out it was the  passenger side air bag.  I looked down again.  No driver.  That’s when I saw the torso of an older woman on the floorboard of the passenger side as her huge purse fell off the seat.

“She’s on the floor!” I yelled as the other individual nodded she saw her.

Then a strangely wonderful thing happened.  We sprung into action like a well oiled machine, this stranger and I.  “I’ve got gloves,” she yelled as I replied, “I’ll call 911.”  Behind me a voice added loudly, “I’ve got traffic blocked!”

A plan…in less than  30 seconds over the blaring of a horn that wouldn’t quit as cars idled in long rows. 

Yelling over that horn into the phone I worried the Dispatcher would have hearing loss.  As it was an extremely long road, the Dispatcher asked for a landmark.  Everyday Me tried to help, offering a long fence and pond, which is well known.  Calm Me insisted I look around and when one of the Volunteer Traffic Directors moved his head, I saw a road sign.   I gave the name and tried to hang up before I began laughing. 

I’d become a Dispatcher when an older, well loved Dispatcher retired.  The street I’d given as reference point was where he’d lived before moving on to heaven.

I only became irritated when a fat woman who had THINGS to do bounced over to demand someone move the car blocking her way.  That would be mine.  She looked sheepish, realizing she’d sat and watched as the rest of us helped.   I moved it as she apologized.  It was only then that I realized the first 4 of us average Joes to respond…were all women. 

Dad would be proud.

The Woman with the Gloves was a nurse, who attended to the woman as she, thankfully, began to come to…even if she did insist someone else had been driving.   The rest of us directed traffic.  A Maintenance man took one end while the woman who’d initially blocked traffic took the opposing lane as her husband worked to keep the shattered windshield from falling onto the woman’s face.   I’m sure we made quite the picture: an older black man, a fat white lady in a skirt and short me who walked a little further around the corner to ensure no one hit Skirt Lady.  I can only guess that Calm Me reassured me I could be seen rather than run over.   Calm Me is good.  I did a dramatic  “Stop right there!” arm crossing wave to signal the car coming toward me should stop as the Maint. Man let his lane go.   The car stopped…and put on blue lights.  Seemed I told an undercover Cop to park it.  He did, grinning as he walked past to help.

The State Trooper arrived, asking what happened.  I saw the look of chagrin on his face when he found 4 women surrounding him.  And yet without prompting, we took turns adding to the story.  The 5th woman who’d run up, cell phone in hand, had witnessed it all; said the woman had been passing people like a bat out of hell, taking chances.  I kept wondering, as I stepped over the Handicapped marker on the road which had previously hung on her rear view mirror, if the woman was racing…or racing for medical help. 

When I arrived at the After School site, I phoned the office to tell then I was there.  Somewhere during that time I’d found a moment to call and tell them I’d be late.  Our secretary listened, awestruck as I described the scene.  And then she said, “You are so lucky!  A minute sooner and she would’ve hit you!”

Chills crept down my spine.  When I’d sprung from my car, it never occurred to me that just 15 seconds later and she would’ve hit…ME.

With a laugh I said, “My guardian angel will probably want the rest of the day off.”

And I bet the Big Guy with wings is probably sitting in a corner somewhere right now, taking a breather now that Hubby and I are BOTH home.  Safe and sound.


Ponita in Real Life said...

Wow.... just.... wow! Hope, you are amazing! I'm so glad your timing was right and she didn't hit YOU! And that you stopped to help... and that the Calm You took over and sprang into action. I know what you mean about that. I've done that several times in my life, starting in my teens with a fire in my home.

I'm just so happy that you're safe and sound. ((hugs!!))

mapstew said...


That's a big Irish kiss for ya!
You done good missus, you done good!

We really do not know what's around the next corner do we?

MWAH!! :¬)


savannah said...

sweet mary sunshine, sugar!!!! in the blink of an eye is RIGHT! i'm sooooo glad you're ok! xoxoxoxoxo

Peggy said...


I am so glad that you were 15 minutes late . What a story !
I would have bet money on you Hope that you would be calm during an emergency. I think you could run the world my friend .
PS So glad your G. A. was on top of the situation too. Just in case you needed a backup plan!
So happy too that your safe and and hubby's home too.

Anonymous said...

OMG I'm so glad that you are okay. Your calm cool and collective manner is certainly impressive. It was indeed the luck of the Irish with you. My friend I'm so glad you are okay. I know I said it before but I just am. :). Much aloha to you. Xoxo

Kim Ayres said...

Seriously impressive!

My initial reaction to any form of crisis is an overwhelming sense of panic, followed by a reluctant resignation that no one else is going to sort it out, so I'd better make a start.

The world needs more people like you :)

Rachel Fox said...

Well done. And safe home.

Charlie said...

Well done, Hope. Thank heaven for people like you, where cool heads prevail and save lives. I'm so glad I got to read this.

Warden Files said...

A true heroine indeed. I'm sure hubby was very proud when you told him.

Brighid said...

Glad to hear your one of the good ones in a crisis. Safe be, we need you around!