Body bags and interstates don’t mix

It looked like a body bag in the lane next to mine in the middle of I-980.5.0.2

I was in the fast lane on my way to a California Writers Club board meeting/brunch in Oakland last Sunday. The red Prius one lane over obviously saw the obstacle in question as well and decided to avoid it by entering my lane. Right in front of me. Crash.

It happened so fast.

We both pulled onto the shoulder next to the concrete blocks that separated us from east-going traffic. And I just sat for a good 30 seconds taking a mini-inventory: no blood, no glass, no broken bones. The airbag in my steering wheel had deployed; and I have to say, it did its job.  Except for a slight mark from the seatbelt digging into the skin below my neck, I had no injuries.

I saw two people getting out of the Prius, and I was happy to note that despite their vehicle’s crunched rear end, they also seemed to be intact. As they walked toward my car, I started to try to figure out what happened, and I was confused. The Prius must have slowed down when its driver saw something blocking its lane; so when it landed in my lane, I didn’t have enough time to decelerate and allow him space to enter. To me, it just seemed like I was driving along and another car was suddenly right in front of me. A smoky stench began to fill my car. Was the engine on fire? Should I be getting far away from this car rather than sitting there quietly assessing the situation? I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened my door.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen they reached my car, I asked them if they smelled it. They did. But he assured me that it was because of the explosives used to activate the airbag. Explosives?*

Once I was fairly certain that my car wasn’t catching fire and we’d assured each other that we weren’t hurt, we set about to exchanging information. I gave the other driver my business card and showed him my proof of insurance, but  I was too shaky to write down his information. He was kind enough to do so for me. I could see the damage to his car was significant, but he was behaving in a calm and rational manner, as was his companion, for which I was exceedingly grateful.

After we’d already been out of our cars for several minutes, it occurred to me to formally introduce myself to them both, which is a bit odd, considering we already had each other’s license plate numbers and insurance information. Then I took a moment to look back at the object that had caused all the trouble. It was still there—an oblong duffel, probably canvas, lying across the interstate, daring drivers to run over it. I guess I’ll never know what was in it…

I made a series of phone calls in an effort to let the board know that I was running late, finally making contact on the third try. I have to admit, if I weren’t the president of the board and running the meeting myself, I might have driven my battered little car right home. But since my destination was less than ten minutes away, I decided to see if my Honda could make the trip.

It did! Considering that I was already twenty minutes late, I made use of the restaurant’s valet parking service. I explained to the surprised bourbon smashattendant that yes, I had just been in an accident—hence the deflated airbag protruding from my steering wheel—but I was pretty sure it was safe to drive a short distance in order to park it.

Not only did I make it through the board meeting, but I lasted through the general meeting after that and finally arrived home around 4:45, where my wonderful husband gave me a big hug and mixed me a cocktail—appropriately, a Bourbon Smash.

*It’s true. Apparently every time an airbag deploys, it’s because a small contained explosion made it happen.

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