Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Morning After: sore and tired and angry, but still okay, I swear.

I'm at work. I'm okay, really, and thank you so much to those of you who've already called. I love you all, and I'm sorry to give you a fright.

It amazes me how much achiness a 5-mph collision can cause, but as illogicalvulcan pointed out, an 18-wheeler creates a lot of momentum and force, even going slow.

Here's the whole story, which you can skip if you've already heard enough detail.

I was driving out to Astoria on the BQE for PN at the Bohemian Hall. Yes, I'd just been there on Saturday, but it was sweltering then, and last night was gorgeous. I'd had a lovely night of dinner and gossip on the swing with Manda, and I wanted to cap off the night with some more garden lolling. konomore said that the party was still going strong, so I told her that I'd be there around midnight.

As I passed from the Borough of Kings to Queens, there were two signs: "Left two lanes closed ahead," and "Exit 37 closed, use Exit 36."

I got in the right lane, and soon there was a traffic backup. We were delayed about 15 minutes, but everything was calm and orderly, if slow. After the first merge, from three lanes to two, there were two trucks to my left, a manageable delivery-sized one ahead, and a massive 18-wheeler behind that, right next to me. And we stayed apace until the second merge.

I did have a bad feeling about that Mack, I really did. He wasn't doing anything particularly wrong, not even really tailgating the smaller truck in front of him, but I had this queasy vibe. At the second merge, the car ahead of me went, then the small truck. Then it was my turn, and the Mack was at a full stop to my left and slightly behind me. He should have been able to see me, but as I said, I was having a bad feeling, so I paused for a moment to make sure he was stopped before I headed forward into the merge.

I moved forward; it was tight. No breakdown lane, just this one lane we were merging into, with road cones to the left. Ahead there were Jersey barriers to the right, but first the well-advertised Exit 36.

I'm almost past the truck and done merging, when suddenly the Mack moves forward as well! He's crunching and digging into the driver side of my car, horns are honking behind me, and the side view mirror shears right off and goes flying into the middle of the road before I can even believe what's happening. I scream (to no one in particular; I was alone in the car with the windows shut and the radio on), and slam on the brakes, and he stops. We're stopped for a second; all the cars behind us stayed where they were (silently? Had the horns stopped, or was I just in shock?). I pulled ahead and to the right a bit, to detach myself from the evil 18-wheeler. Then I opened my door a bit. My mirror was in the street, I had to pick it up. You can't leave your stuff just lying around in the middle of the road, right?

Yeah, I was in shock, not thinking too clearly. But as I started to open the door, and I heard the crunching metal, I suddenly realized that wasn't a good idea. I buckled myself back in, looked around, and saw the exit ramp. Ahead of me the traffic was still inching forward into this really narrow lane, so I was grateful for a convenient place to pull over. I signalled right, pulled ahead slowly, and started down the ramp, which had also been restricted from two lanes to one, with another row of Jersey barriers blocking off the left lane.

I looked behind me, and no cars were coming, to let the truck in. I kept going forward, looked behind me again, and THE TRUCK WASN'T THERE.


He'd stayed on the BQE. I spotted him past the exit ramp, parallel to me and looking over. I got to the end of the barriers, pulled over to the left in front of the closed exit lane (so the other exiting cars could get past me), and rolled down my window. So did he.

"Where are you going?" I yelled actross to him. "You have to pull over!!"

"I can't take that exit."

Huh? I understand commercial vehicle restrictions as well as anyone who's ever rented a U-Haul. But if you've just plowed your 18-wheel behemoth into my little Civic, you'd better damn well pull over and cough up the info, fucker.

"So where are you going to pull over? The next exit is closed!"

"I don't know. Up ahead the road splits, and trucks have to go to the right. I'll go there." I have to say that he didn't sound very concerned.

"And where am I supposed to go?" Did I mention that my door crunched when I tried to open it, the side view mirror was gone, and the steering was almost nonexisitent?

"Get back on the highway up there to the left."

Maybe I should have gotten his plate number at this point. But I was shocked, confused, afraid to get out of the car, and yelling at him across two rows of Jersey barriers and a really wide distance. I couldn't see his plate, and by the time that he'd pulled ahead far enough to see it over the barriers, it would have been too far away to read. I would have had to climb oer the barriers and back down to the highway to see it. I chose, instead, to try to catch up with him again, and pulled back onto the road.

My poor car. It couldn't go. The tire was flat, the rim was bent, and chunks were falling off it as I moved forward. I got to the end of the ramp, turned left towards the entrance ramp, and started to smell burning rubber. Suddenly, I realized how stupid and dangerous this was.

To my right, Queens Boulevard had a breakdown lane. Sweet, sweet breakdown lane. I pulled over just before the intersection with 69th Street, pulled up the emergency brake (the hazards were already on, of course), and burst into tears.

What could I do? Lost in an unfamiliar part of Queens, with all my chances of full restitution headed away down the BQE, in a car registered out of state that I'd already been ordered to change the registration on, with an out of state license, jsut four months after a similarly asinine act of destruction, when an asshole on a cell phone in DUMBO pulled up to my left and then decided to make a right turn. In fact, all the parts of the car that were damaged, were all the parts that had just been replaced. Brand spanking new, now crushed and torn to shreds.

I called 911. Then I called konomore to tell her why I wasn't at the bar yet, and she stayed on the phone with me until the cops arrived. They were comforting and reassuring, and they were nice enough to wait until I'd calmed down before telling me that there was slim to no chance that we'd ever track down the fucker. Even if someone called in his plate, the system does not really have a method to match up that report with mine.

Seems odd, but what could I do? I was in no condition to run off and chase him down. They briefly considered it, but they didn't want to leave me alone, and they knew that by the time another squad car came out to me, the fucker would be long gone.

So I was stranded, helpless, in the middle of Queens. The wonderful cops had already assured me a million times that I'd done everything right, that I couldn't have done anything else, but I felt awful. I didn't want to call my parents and wake them in the middle of the night, when there was nothing they could do that I wasn't already doing. I wept some more.

The tow truck pulled up. Tim was a great guy, a hoot. He made me laugh, he loaded the car gently, and he offered me a ride to Astoria, since his shop was a block away from the bar. konomore said it was last call, but they'd wait for me there and then we could all go back to their place for a much-needed whiskey.

On the way to the bar/shop, Tim drove past the next exit off the BQE, Northern Boulevard, saying that if the guy actually did pull over to wait for me, that's where he'd be. We spotted a while 18-wheeler pulled over at a gas station, and drove around it to check it out. But the passanger cab was green, not white, and there were no signs of an impact, no streaks of silver paint or shards of poor, tattered Civic bits hanging off it.

I blogged from konomore's these wee hours, then made it back to my bed and my sweet sweet monkey for a few short hours of sleep before work today. First thing this morning, you early-bird readers were already calling, and I thank you all so much. I sobbed again when I told my parents, who reassured me that everything would work out. I waited to call the insurance until I thought I was calmer, but then I started crying again.

I'm not hurt, just achy, as I've said. But I'm really really pissed. This guy slammed into me, disrupted my life, and could have really hurt me, and he didn't even care. I'm a safe, responsible driver with bad luck, I did nothing wrong; and now *my* insurance rates are going to be fucked. My car is a wreck, I have to take the train up to Boston this weekend. Jake's off pursuing 50 Dates in 50 States, so he won't be coming over anytime soon to rub my back and tell me everything will be okay. And the Bachelor has never once behaved like the manly hero he claims to want to be, so I don't expect that to change now. This is what I get for dating children.

I'm off for a drink. Maybe there will be flowers to surprise me tomorrow morning. Or maybe a job offer!

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