Like a multi-car pile-up -- 06/13/03

Friday the Thirteenth falls on a Friday this month...

In fact, it's today, isn't it?

I didn't really need to look a calendar to realize that.

My last entry -- a week ago -- mentioned how busy I was at work. Guess what: yeah, I still am.

Today Nancy has gone to New York City with her students: the 8th Grade Class Trip. She needed to be at her school around 4:15 a.m. because they planned to leave at 4:45 and students had to be counted (and counted again) and gotten on the buses and then counted again (etc.). This meant waking up somewhere around three o'clock in the morning.


So got her up and off to school. I was up, awake (somewhat)... so I checked e-mail, checked a few journals and blogs, then felt very sleepy, went back to bed, got an hour or two more sleep. Stumble back up from sleep, get dressed, gulp coffee, etc., head off to work.

It is raining. The day is cool, dark, gloomy, rainy... Over the bridges, through Newport, up hill, down hill...

Traffic is stopped at a stopsign at the bottom of a hill, a dozen or so cars lined up on the steep hill. I crest the hill, heading down, see the Nissan Sentra in front of me braking for the line of stopped cars, I hit my brakes, have a brief feeling of concern as I slide a couple of feet on the wet, slippery surface. Sitting there for a moment, no movement in the line of traffic, wondering how long it will take to get through the stop sign.


The headrest slams against the back of my head and then my car bounces off the rear end of the car in front of me.

I realize that someone has run into me. I am stunned by the unexpected suddeness of it. There hadn't been a car right behind me as I had approached the stopped cars and I had not looked at the rear view mirror while I waited for traffic to move. My neck hurts. I feel as if someone has hit me in the back of my head. Oh, yeah, my headrest hit me in the back of my head.

I get out of my car. The rear end of the car I hit does not look damaged. I walk to the back of my car, expecting to see my rear lights smashed, trunk crumpled... the car is fine. Not a scratch. I look at the car that hit me (another Toyota, but one of the larger ones, perhaps a Camry, strange that I didn't even notice what model) but it has no visible damage either. I look at the front of my car. No visible damage.

The driver of the Sentra has stepped out of her car. We both walk to look at the front of her car as I came to realize that her car had been slammed into the red Honda Civic that had been stopped in front of her. There is a truck in front of him, one of those huge commercial pickups that building contractors and construction companies use. The front of her car looks okay, as does the back of the Civic. All of the cars in front of the truck have moved on. Traffic begins to edge around us.

I notice some pieces of glass and plastic in the road. Where had they come from? Oh, the next step of the chain reaction -- the Civic had been knocked into the back of the truck. The truck hadn't been knocked anywhere, but the nose of the Civic was bashed in, headlights broken, grill bent, fender crumpled, hood dented. I wonder if he even put a scratch on the back of the truck. Truck? What truck? That driver apparently saw that he had no damage and drove off.

A Middletown cruiser pulls up and parks behind the car that had hit mine, lights flashing. The first thing he did was radio for backup to direct traffic while he checked things out. (He later told me that a few years ago, on that very hill, he had stopped to investigate an accident and while he was attempting to do that, he was almost struck by two other cars that had collided while attempting to look at the original accident and drive around it at the same time.)

He gives us accident forms to complete and collects our driver's licenses, vehicle registrations and insurance cards to fill out his report. It turns out that the driver of the Sentra works in the same office park as I do; the driver of the Civic works in my building (but for a different company). Someone asks: does the driver of the Civic collect from the insurance company of the guy who ran into me, pushing me into the Sentra, etc., or does it daisy-chain back, he goes to the Sentra's insurance, which comes to my insurance, which then goes to the insurance of the guy at the back end of the chain. Nobody knew. An ambulance with a couple of paramedics was on the scene. I told him that I had a bit of whiplash, a sore neck, but I was okay and didn't need any treatment. I was told to get medical attention if it still hurt me later. The Sentra driver also said she had whiplash but she didn't want to be taken to the hospital for treatment either, she was sure she'd be okay later.

So... nobody hurt and only one car damaged. (Although I'd bet that damage will cost three or four thousand to fix.) I must say that I'm amazed at the lack of damage. I guess that was due to the slippery road -- it caused the accident but it also minimized the effects because a lot of the force went into sending each car in turn forward into the next, until the Civic hit the truck which didn't budge. So, say what you will about modern cars, those funny rubber and plastic bumpers seem to avoid the kind of expensive cosmetic damage that used to be visited upon those old shining chromed bumpers.

Friday the 13th indeed.

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