Copyright 2020 Melanie Spiller. All rights reserved.
On Rolling My Car (September 17, 2004)
MelanieSpiller and Coloratura Consulting
Wednesday evening, on my way home after a pleasant day of giving voice lessons and a couple of hours sitting with one of my students chatting, a tire blew and my car veered out of control up an embankment. I realized there was nothing I could do and just came as close to assuming the fetal position as the steering column and seat belt would let me. Happily, the air bags did not deploy (apparently they only do that with a front impact), and my head was not sent crushingly through the ceiling of my car, which, as I soon discovered, was suddenly much closer to the headrest than it ought to be.I was upside-down, the nose of the car facing toward oncoming traffic. Mercifully, I was most of the way on the shoulder. Also mercifully, I had been slowing considerably to take the off ramp and was about 50 feet up it, rather than on the busy freeway. Ever practical, but finding being upside-down surprisingly disorienting, I thought, “I should turn on the hazard lights.” That was the easiest task I would have in the next few minutes. Next, I thought I should turn off the engine. Unmercifully, the cassette player continued to produce the unmellow and undulcet tones of a choir sight-reading difficult music. I realized that these sounds were more painful than anything in my body, so I fought to turn the engine or the cassette off before I checked for glass and undangled myself from the seatbelt. At first I had trouble figuring out which side the keys were on. Once I finally figured it out, the logic of how one depresses and turns, or maybe turns and depresses—no, maybe it turns this other way—the keys. At last, the engine was off, but the music continued to blare. I did not find the volume knob, so I was stuck.I began to find being upside-down unnecessarily stressful. I felt around with my hand and didn’t feel any glass immediately underneath where I hung, so I eventually figured out which side the seatbelt release was on and lowered myself to the ceiling/floor.I crawled to the passenger side, and, because the car was still on (the engine was off), the electric window responded when I pushed the button. By the time I got the window rolled down/up, I could hear someone calling “Are you okay?” Ever sarcastic, I replied, “I just rolled my car. I am not okay.” Then I realized that the speaker meant “are you killed or maimed” and I responded again with “I’m okay, but please help me.” Later he told me that he hadn’t really understood anything I’d said, so that worked out and I didn’t have to apologize for my over-swift sarcasm reaction.I pulled myself through the open window and got to my feet on the embankment. I took a few steps, realized that I was truly undamaged, walked clear of the car and sat down on the hillside.At this point, there were two people standing, cell phones to their heads, but both about 50 feet away. Suddenly, I wanted nothing more than a human hand to hold, so the next time one of them called out, “do you need an ambulance?” I responded that I did not, but I would sure be grateful if someone would come hold my hand. One of them came to my side, hand outstretched. He crouched beside me on the embankment, still waiting for the 9-1-1 operator to answer. Meanwhile, another car pulled up, and an off-duty firefighter came to see if help was needed. By this time, one or both of the first arrivals had reached the emergency folks, and a fire engine, a sheriff’s vehicle, and a Highway Patrol car pulled in. After answering every official person and, by this time a wee small crowd of good Samaritan/lookie-loos who all asked the identical question, that I was fine and did not need an ambulance, my answer began to morph into what now seems like my new mantra. “I’m fine. I’m not happy, but I’m fine.” This was obviously true as each new arrival had difficulty figuring out which person was the victim. Later, I would notice that my hair wasn’t even messed up. Not even a broken nail.Long story short, after taking statements, checking for basic alcohol or drug ingestion, and doing the follow-my-finger tests for a head injury, the officials were finished. The tow truck had turned my poor car right-side up, which looked less sad but not any more functional than the other way around, and I was pronounced free to depart the scene. One of the Samaritans had actually seen me flip. The other Samaritan, whose hand I still held and whose jacket I wore, said he’d take me home. I gathered what few of my belongings I thought were irreplaceable and climbed into his car. I thought of my mother climbing out of her grave, digging it deeper, climbing back in and pulling the dirt in after her, whirling dervishly all the while if she knew that not only did I flip my car, but I was now getting into the car of a total stranger on a somewhat deserted stretch of roadway. And I was going to take this stranger to my home, if he did not murder me on the way there. The good news is that he was a nice fellow, took me home with duly reiterated concerns about my general well-being, and dropped me off. I got his contact information so that my mother won’t have to whirl in there about whether I send a thank-you note or not. Here’s the list of little silly things that go around and around in my head:As you may know, gas in the San Francisco area is more expensive than in the rest of the country. I’d found a place that was very cheap comparatively, and had just put $20-worth in my car. I never do that. I always put in $15. It’s a way of monitoring both mileage and expenditures. I had also washed the windshield, which was now resting uncomfortably on the dashboard in a gazillion pieces, but still in a single sheet.Between lessons that day, I stopped and bought a couple of quarts of oil. I knew I was a little low, and I was due for a change, but I wasn’t sure of my schedule for the next week, so I thought I’d give the old girl a little drink. Didn’t think I’d need both of them, but there was a sale on. I had also bought two onions and a cucumber. These were becoming salad alone together in the blender that my car’s trunk had become. In the trunk, probably making salad of my vegetables, there was a pair of windshield wipers that I’d bought to replace the existing ones once the hot weather stopped and the rain started thinking about arriving. There had been a sale. These were specialized wipers and won’t fit another make and model of car. Here is an enumeration of my injuries, as identified the evening of the crash:A scraped knee that didn’t look like it bled. It just looked annoyed by the whole situation. Said scrape was probably caused by crawling out of the car.Two tiny puncture wounds on my left wrist that look more like a vampire bite than the results of an overturned car. Also probably caused by crawling out of the car. One vaguely stiff shoulder that I seem to remember was a little stiff before the accident.Here is an enumeration of my injuries after dreamless but brief sweet sleep:A scraped knee that has looked worse after a personally performed too-hasty encounter with a razor blade. Two tiny puncture wounds that look like a sleepy and unfocused vampire thought my wrist looked tasty but found that it wasn’t. A shoulder that is, in fact, actually stiff, and a neck that hurts but has felt worse after conducting the choir for two hours.Nausea that only appears if I think about eating. Many thanks to my lovely friend Linda who tried to help me past this by enumerating the many and varied virtues of the two pounds of Jarlsberg I boasted of buying at Costco earlier this week. But food of any sort, even a most beloved object such as an enormous cheese, is not appealing. Thanks too, to Adrienne, who suggested that now is a very good time for excesses of chocolate. Water seems appealing. Nothing else does, I’m afraid. I’m sure this will pass shortly if you feel like sending me chocolates.After a day spent with insurance companies and friends and family on the phone, I rode (clinging mightily to the sides of the chair) in a friend’s car to the scavenge yard to retrieve my quarts of oil, soiled vegetables, and other miscellaneous flotsam from seven years of uneventful car-ownership. In the daylight, the poor thing looked more pathetic than terrifying, and we retrieved my worldly goods and took pictures. I apologized to it, thanked it for being such a worry-free car for seven lovely years, and took my leave. There was surprisingly little nausea, weeping, rending of clothing, and gnashing of teeth. At last, I have passed the 24-hour point. I know that now I will start feeling the effects of being flung around in a moving vehicle against my will. Here I am in the wee hours, unable to sleep because the images keep passing through my head. My neck is starting to be really irritated with me, my vampire-bitten wrist feels a little battered, and I have discovered that I have a wee tiny small bruise on the shin of the leg with the scraped knee. With images unquelled by a good book, a trashy magazine, or late-night television, I thought I’d write about it. I owed you all a blog anyway. I hope you’ll forgive the off-topic nature of this blog, because the bottom line is, I’m okay. I’m not happy, but I’m okay.