Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another Close Call...

If Southeastern Michigan had any form of transportation at all, today would be the day that I give up driving. I was going southbound on I-75 this morning when I looked up to see the tractor-trailer wobbling violently beside me. To me, it appeared that his load had shifted and it looked as if the damn thing was on the verge of flipping over on top of me. Without thinking I yanked on my steering wheel and pulled hard to the left, cutting off the guy just barely behind me in the left lane, sending him hurtling into the lane where I just was trying to avoid me. As soon as he cleared out from behind, I spotted an SUV twirling around behind the both of us until it smashed into the median guardrail and was sent ricocheting back into the middle of the expressway.

My heart sank as I pulled hard back to the right shoulder. I looked back at the semi, which now looked about as stable as it could be while stopped on the shoulder, and my initial thought was that I had experienced some weird hallucination that had lead me to cause a very serious accident. The guy I cut off thought the same thing and as we both crawled out of cars, he was telling me so in no uncertain terms. Upset that he would not let me explain my side of the story, I began getting belligerent back and we spent the next ten seconds or so screaming at each other on the side of the road. Then something must have caught our attention because we both back looked behind us and went dead silent.

I was almost relieved that I was not imagining things. The truck beside me was wobbling. It had been struck from behind by several vehicles forced into it by an out-of-control tractor-trailer that had plowed into them. My adversary and I ended our argument on the spot and without saying a word sprinted back towards all of the broken cars and trucks behind us. The wobbly truck looked fine from the front so we bypassed him and went to a Ford Ranger pickup that was perched precariously atop the right guardrail on its side. All the airbags had deployed and the driver was trying to climb up out of the window while holding a cloth to his bleeding face at the same time. We jumped up on top of the car to try to help but the effort was an exercise in futility. Seeing this, my partner kicked out the glass on the ground side and managed to squeeze him out through there. Aside from some superficial cuts, he appeared OK. Then he took a couple of steps and collapsed. My partner caught him and got him to the ground. Apparently he had suffered a significant concussion.

As my uninjured colleague had the concussion victim, I went on to see if there was anyone else that needed help. Despite the Detroit area’s reputation as a violent place where life is cheap, less than a minute and a half into the accident, the scene was crawling with Samaritans pulling people out of various mangled wreckages. I was able to help the guy out of the SUV I saw twirling around behind me but after that, nearly every other car already had someone helping out. Then I saw a vehicle well off the road back in the woods. It was hard to spot from the road and I was afraid that it might have been missed. I ran up to it find that a nurse already had the driver out of the vehicle and lying in the grass. The only thing I could do there was to grant the nurse’s request to direct the paramedics up there once they arrived.

Seeing that everyone was being attended to, I walked back up front where I ran into my new buddy back by the overturned Ranger. While we were discussing the driver’s condition, we looked back by the truck and simultaneously notice an extra wheel in the pick-up’s wreckage. A closer look revealed extra metal as well and we both realized that, despite having walked past the wreck several times, we had missed a car that had gotten caught between the tractor trailer and the Ranger. Both of us ran to it to see if there was anything we could do but if the outside appearance of the car was not enough to tell us the driver never had a chance, a quick look inside certainly did. I am not going to go into detail about what I saw, but I can definitely say that it is something I will likely blame for a lot of lost sleep for the next couple of weeks.

It was not long after that when the police started showing up. To get out of the way, a dozen of us walked over to the median and waited to be questioned. Until the full first response contingent arrived, my collision partner and I stayed silent unless we were warning civilians to stay away from the crushed car. I think we were there a good half hour before he turned to me and nodded over towards the wreckage, “You know, that could have been either one of us over there.”

He was right. I could not help but wonder what the person in that vehicle was thinking when that truck hit it. Did they even know what had happened? I doubted it, seeing how quickly things had unraveled. I hoped it anyway. After that, we started talking more, mostly trading small talk that was completely unrelated to the accident, trying to get our minds off of what we had just seen. Then some dufus stepped up beside us, nodded towards the wreckage we just came from and said, “Wow. That’s a shame. You think there were any kids in there?”

It was a place that I had not thought of going and really would have liked to have avoided altogether. Mercifully, we were released from the scene before the car was cut open but as news filtered out later, it turned out that there were no kids in the car, unless you count the victim who turned out to be a nineteen-year-old girl.

As for what actually happened, I have no idea. My understanding is that the moving truck was going way too fast for the traffic conditions and started plowing into vehicles when the flow started slowing down for an upcoming construction zone. Various news reports put the number of vehicles involved in the wreck between eight and eleven, which I guess would depend upon whether they were counting the cars of the three of us that didn’t get hit but stopped to help.

Getting home yesterday night was strange as well. Everyone was fine, all of my kids were healthy and happy and busy doing all of the crazy stuff that young kids should be doing to get in trouble. I should have been embracing the moments with them but all I could think about was what that 19-year-old girl’s family was doing at that particular moment. It almost seemed wrong that I took my kids out for ice cream last night knowing the unfathomable grief that someone else was going through on the other side of town. Desperately needing some quiet time, I went to bed at the first opportunity but had no chance of sleeping with the vision of the fatality still swimming in my head. To make matters worse, my memories of what I saw began being falsely enhanced with things that I KNOW I did not see in that car but now stand out as if I had taken a picture.

My apologies for the lack of a punchline to this blog entry but there were no smart-assed comments or anything even remotely amusing about what had happened. In fact, I am not even sure why I am writing this at all seeing as how this event was an hour of my life that I will be doing my best to forget for a long time from now. I don’t know, maybe I think these few paragraphs will be somewhat therapeutic or something, who knows. Either that or I’m just doing what I usually do. I came, I saw, I wrote. Once again, sorry and hopefully I’ll do a better job of writing my next blog entry. It should not be too hard since a few minutes ago, my potty-training 3 year old son just had the toilet seat fall down on his winkie. If I can’t work with that, its time for me to hang up the keyboard.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sunday Morning

One of my signature barbecue dishes is the Sriacha chicken skewer. Basically, I cut a skinless, boneless chicken breast into long thin strips and threaded onto a bamboo kebob stick. I then pour a marinade over it concocted with a Thai hot sauce (Sriacha), garlic, green onion, black pepper and garlic. Originally intended as an appetizer, this item has a tendency to become the main course despite its palate-searing heat and I have seen people gorge upon this who typically turn their backs on anything spicier than black table pepper. Though easily among the tastiest things I make, my favorite thing about this dish is not the flavor as extraordinary as that is. It is the fact that the only thing adequately capable of putting the oral fire out after taking a bite of one of these bad boys is a mojito cocktail.

Having devoured several Sriacha skewers last Saturday, I was consequently required to down mojitos at a ratio of two drinks per serving of chicken consumed. As my drinking regimen has suffered greatly since I started fathering children, I felt no pain upon getting home Saturday night. I had apparently opted to save it all for Sunday. As far as hangovers go, the one I had Sunday was barely worthy of being rated. It was however, more than enough to keep me from being capable of participating in a meaningful conversation with my seven-year-old daughter about Webkinz and Hannah Montana first thing in the morning while trying to do enough dishes to get the rest of my kids through breakfast. I had no choice but to tune her out and try to listen to the local news on the television while throwing out the requisite phrases like “Really?”, “Are you serious?” and “Cool!” like I do to my wife when she’s trying to talk to me during football season.

I have no idea what she was talking about the time but at some point in the conversation she completely stopped talking, drew in a deep breath and let out scream so loud and long that I dropped a handful of dishes into the sink, nearly breaking them as I looked up to see what in the world was going on. Her screams projected such terror that I almost expected to see one of her zombified brothers walking down the steps gnawing on a limb severed off of the baby or our front door being breached by swarm of tarantulas with an insatiable hunger for man-flesh in their eyes. I grabbed a knife out of the sink and looked nervously around for something to defend ourselves against. The only thing I saw however was the dog running for cover. He had seen me in the throes of my fight instincts before and likely did not want to just stand there and watch me hurt myself again.

After Ranger was gone, there was no other entity in the room besides myself and my daughter. She had gone catatonic however and was oblivious to her knife-wielding father, her mouth agape and her eyes immovably transfixed to the TV which was broadcasting a rather benign story about a concert that had taken place the night before at a local venue. Panicked and perplexed, I had to call out her name twice before she would acknowledge that I was even there. Once I had her attention I asked what was going on. She pointed at the television and said, “The Jonas Brothers, Daddy! The Jonas Brothers are on!”

Stunned, I tore my eyes away from her and looked at the TV myself. The screen was filled with the image of three fresh-faced young teen boys discussing their tour. At first glance I could not find anything particularly threatening or ominous about them. They definitely did not appear to be the type that would be capable of biting the head off of a bat during the interview or anything. “What did they do? Did they get caught sacrificing virgins onstage?”

“No Dad!”

“Then why did you scream like that?”

“Because they’re so CUTE!!!! I just LOVE them!!!”

At that point my heart sank. My daughter is only seven years old. I thought I had a few years before her psyche went incorrigibly bat-shit for a few years. All things considered, I’d have rather dealt with the zombie or the spiders.
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