Posted by: canaryinacoalmine | February 1, 2006

wreck of the day

I was quite content in my small pocket of time until,

alarm bells interrupted my decent into utter delight of a drive in the rain. Running late to appoinment number three for the day I moved down Allen Parkway, a.k.a. The Speedway, when the sound of metal crunching pulled me from daydreaming of kids wearing yellow rain boots in Campbell’s Soup commercials. Do people really put those on their children? Maybe those kids are the reason Mugs exist? Yes that had to be it. Tomorrow I’ll begin the calls to share my grand revelation with Trent.


The Black Tundra 300 yards ahead slid from right to left, back to right and flipped landing upside down on its roof. My body transformed suddenly into an automatic safety plan aggressively pulling the car to the left of the road and honking my horn warning the cars behind to do the same. I had planted my blackberry under my right leg after the last phone call. Instinctively I reached for the device when the buzzing went off.

“Sorry Boss this really is not a good time.”

I’d sure hear about that one later. I dialed 911

“911 Emergency”
“Yes, I’d like to report an accident.”
“Are you injured Mam?”
“No. I was behind it.”
“How many people are in the car Mam?
“I …I don’t know.”
“Where are you?”
“Allen Parkway and Shepherd on the north side.”

We continued on like this as I made my out of the car allowing the pellets of rain to drench me from head to toe. The man behind also on his cell phone, looked at me and said,

“You stay. I’ll go.”

His name was Jack. He closed the door to his Mercedes. I watched him move through the rain in thuddish strides towards the wreck of the day. His well coordinated Brooks Brothers suit was now clinging to his round belly and crouched shoulders. He bent down next to the truck marking the mud when he mouthed,

“Don’t move. It’ll be alright. Help is on the way.”

“Mam. Mam! Are you still there?”

“Yes. Sorry. I’ve alerted the ambulance. There are two fire stations with in a five mile radius. One should be there. Can you see how badly the passengers are hurt.”

“No. I can’t see anything.”

Jack stood up. Put the phone to his ear walking towards me. He was yelling now.

“What did they say?”

“They’re on their way. How….How …are?

“You shouldn’t go over there.”

A siren ripped into the air breaking the staggering moment in two. Closer. And closer weaving its way through the compiled line of cars. Four men jumped out decked in full fire repellant gear when the ambulance pulled in front of my view. I watched as the paramedics pulled the stretcher out with Jack silently standing next to me. There wasn’t anything more to do.

Jack began to talk. First introducing himself then calling a client.

“Hi. Dave. I’m running a little behind. Traffic is just awful.”

Oh. Wasn’t I on my way somewhere? Where was?

“This is Jessica for Dr. Schauder. Yes. I know, I was to be there a half hour ago. My apologies. I will need to reschedule. Very well then. Please have him call me on my mobile.”

Jack and I were drenched by now. A police officer made his way to us. He wanted to know, “If we were the kind folks who called in the accident.”

I wanted to be anywhere but where I was. He thanked us, wrote down some basic information, and told us we should, “Go on our way. The paramedics would take it from here. And Miss, you may want to put on another shirt before you go back to the office.”

Jack laughed.

“I don’t know what industry you’re in, but it might help you win business.”

“Not the right one to pull off a white blouse contest.”

“Try to enjoy the rest of your day.”

Blandly I replied, “Yeah. You too.”

I sank into my seat turning the key of the ignition. I shouldn’t be surprised that despite a sort of hardening I’ve developed, at times cultivated, there’s always someone or something ready to knock down those walls. I began to cry. Not a full boo hooy uncontrollable cry, but a sort of hiccup-y cry. Some tears but not a downpour.

How very typical.


  1. Oh Sass, I wish I had something to say to make you feel better. What an awful experience for you. Hope you’re evening is better – take care of yourself. 🙂

  2. Why did you sob? As long as nobody died in the accident all will be well. Cars can be replaced. It’s the accidents where a sheet is thrown over a body in the street that tear at you. Just be careful when you stop that you don’t get hit by some idiot coming your way who isn’t paying attention. I’ve seen it happen many a times. The thing I hated about accidents is when the family shows up and want to tell me how to do my job. Over the years I’ve collected a tiny scrapbook of photographs from accidents. Maybe I should post them, nobody died in those crashes so it’s okay.

  3. That’s awful, Jess. I’m glad that you weren’t hurt and that you didn’t have to get any images stuck in your head that would be scary. Or scarier than the accident itself. You had every right to cry — especially after the adrenaline of avoiding crashing yourself and the shock that set in after.

    Hope your day improved and I’m thinking about you!!

  4. It’ll hit you later, Sass. Maybe hard. Don’t drink, but do remember to breathe and force fluids and eat. In that order. You might be a little numb for a bit, but something may come up later. Just remember to breathe if it does. Count them, slow and easy.

    And, I don’t know if you believe in things like karma or purgatory, but you kicked up the good karma and reduced your “floating around time” in purgatory with this one. I’m sure you don’t need me to say it, but you did good. Real good.

  5. So sorry to read about this. I hope you feel good about calling 911 and arranging for help. As to their comments, it’s like being told you’re cute when you’re mad. I believe that Jennifer Aniston coined it the sensitivity chip.

  6. i’m sorry you witnessed that. life can be so precious. reminds me how i need to take more out of it, risk more. ya know?

  7. Gripping story. Glad you’re ok

  8. Jason – you see these type of things on a daily basis. I don’t. I’m glad myself and the other drivers are okay. But today was a blindsided reminder of how valuable life is. Maybe that’s why I cried. But it’s probably because I hope the driver is okay. Unfortunately i have no way to find out other than scouring the paper which i fully intend to do.

  9. I remember similar sentiments after seeing my first accident (as an EMT). The ability to show empathy for these people, even though you didn’t see them, is a very admirable aspect. One that should be praised. You should have no hard feelings, towards your actions in this event. Only when empathy is lost, do the true horrors begin.

  10. awwww Jess!!! poor baby
    Im just glad you’re okay 🙂

  11. Sorry about the people involved in the accident, glad it was not you and that you are safe!

    Did the policeman and Jack really say that to you?

  12. Aw, Sass, I think you’re being too hard on yourself. You cried because it’s a natural, normal response to a high-adrenaline situation where people are involved. And, despite the hard shell you sometimes try to show, you’re a very empathetic person.
    Just watch for PTSS. Sometimes, this stuff comes back when you least expect it.

  13. A difficult event to participate in, but your description of it is very real and well-written. I especially like “my small pocket of time” and how you use the English term “mobile” to describe your cell phone.

    Glad you’re okay…

  14. i experienced something similiar once. head on collision. teen agers. broken bones and blood. i didnt have a cell at the time, someone else on thescene did. all i could do was try to calm the kids. i still dream about it every now and then.

    im glad you stopped though. alot of people would not. its sad.

  15. I’m been in that spot a couple times. Nauseating. I could never be a paramedic.

  16. That happened to me once. Can’t remember if I blogged about it. It wasn’t raining, though. I was driving with my friend and an SUV behind me made a U Turn. I have a weird habit of looking in my rearview mirror to see what people bhind me are doing – even when it doesn’t affect me. He rolled over in the middle of the turn. I gave my phone to my friend and told her to call 911. She looked dazed and I explained quickly. Told the operator the whole story.

    Never heard anything more about it.

    Traumatic. I’m sorry you had to see that. I’m glad it wasn’t you, though. I guess I’m a selfish bastard.

  17. luckily i’ve never seen anything like that…

    wet t-shirt contests are a different story

  18. Dude, that is tough. Well written post though, made me feel like I was there. It is weird because in Toronto we have “The Allen Expressway” and everyone speeds on it too and it intersects with Sheppard…. weird eh?

    I can’t believe that they felt compelled to tell you about your white shirt. Men!!!


  19. I didn’t meant to imply you’re a softy or anything like that so I’m sorry if that’s how I came off. Even before I came here that was how I reacted to accidents. I lived in Houston about 2 years before I signed on and just about everyday I saw a wreck driving around. Of course I said a silent prayer hoping everyone was okay.
    Now, I can still get upset. One morning we made an accident where an off duty officer was working an extra job and he got rear ended by a drunk doing 90+. We all spoke to the officer before the ambulance cut him out. I even told him he was going to be okay (since he was coherent and responding we all thought so). About an hour later, we got the call that he was dead, that tore me up.

    Regardless of who you are a experience that reminds you that life isn’t infinite will rattle your cage and make you ponder your life and what you want to do with it. Be careful out there everyone.

  20. Wow! I can’t even imagine what that was like! I am soooo glad you weren’t hit or anything during all that. There are some people who wouldn’t stop or call or anything. I would have cried too, after it sunk in. Definitely.

  21. yeah, I am very glad that you were not injured. being a firefighter, I have responded to so many car wrecks, and they are not fun when you see some of the accidents I have. Thank God you were ok…


  22. Scary! You did a great thing by calling for help. Glad you are okay. Hope you can distance yourself from it.

  23. I identify all too well with this after avoiding an accident on our slippery highways last Sunday.

    We wear yellow boots in Seattle all the time. It rains here a lot.

  24. hiccup-y cries are the worse ones. they’re strange and incomplete. and you know they’ll be back.


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