Saturday, December 10, 2005

My harrowing adventure

Hi everyone - good to be here, and this time I really, really (REALLY) mean it. See, on Thursday night I had what some might dramatically refer to as a near-death experience. Actually, I had a couple of them but since all of them spun out of one event, I'll just call it one big horrible evening.

Thursday night I was going to meet a friend for dinner in Chicago after work, so I drove in that morning. By the time work was over, however, the snow was falling so thickly and the wind was blowing horribly, so we cancelled our plans. Another friend who lives out in the sticks by me but works north of the city was coming home around that time, and since I had heard that the backup on each highway was 1.5 to 3 hours (there are 3 highways between where he works and our town), I called him to see if he was ok. He had gone 8 miles in 2 hours. He suggested we just get together for dinner, wait out the storm and then drive home.

I navigated him through the side streets of the city (I know them well since I used to live there), and we headed over to the Lebanese place I had in mind. Imagine - it was closed. We decided to plug on and head downtown. Keep in mind, that already the roads were so horrible that you couldn't park on the street because you would get stuck. You could barely drive because the roads were so icy and people were spinning out all over the place. Anyway, I also had to get gas and there is a BP station over by the Hard Rock Cafe and the futuristic McDonalds. It took us 30 minutes to drive 4 miles. What's worse, when we did finally get there, the station was OUT OF FUEL. No, I'm not kidding.

We finally wended our way over 3 blocks to the Citgo station where what I can only describe as chaos was occurring. I'll make a long story short and say only that this is the first time I remember pumping gas into my car while parking PERPENDICULAR to the pump. After that, we resumed our caravan south to Indiana, and after many many hazards, we crossed the state line into an even bigger mess. Snow was piled up on top of ice on the toll road and it just kept coming. I was glad that we were caravaning - David was ahead of me and I just followed in the ruts from his tires.

Unfortunately for me, once we passed the rest area/truck stop, he got a few car length's ahead of me as we tried to avoid the semi trucks entering the highway. This was pretty terrifying because, like I mentioned above, snow was packed on top of ice and I was sliding all over the road. Without the ruts from David's car it was even worse because I had a harder time seeing where I was going. Oh, and did I mention that the semis were blowing past me at 60 MILES AN HOUR??

It was one of those semis, loaded with a trailer full of cows I believe, that blew me off the road. I drive a little 1994 Geo Tracker convertible, so between the already poor conditions, and the wake from the passing semi, I started to fishtail. I am very very grateful that I am an experienced winter driver, I'm a relatively calm person in the face of crisis, and that I have a guardian angel who works overtime. I managed to avoid spinning, but I knew that I wasn't going to be able to straighten out. I remember thinking, "I might die or get really hurt if I hit the center median," but then I thought that I should try my best not to let that happen. No panic, no life flashing before my eyes. Just your typical Virgo no-nonsense getting down to the business of stopping the car as safely as possible. I drove into the center ditch nose first. It was a very peaceful moment for me when I realized I wasn't dead or even hurt. It was also kind of cool looking up at the traffic going by because I was at this odd angle only previously seen in reruns of Batman with Adam West.

I called David to turn around and come back for me. In the meantime, I called the towing company - can you believe the morons didn't want to come out in that weather to help me!!?? Won't be using them again any time soon... Anyway, D came back to pick me up and then dropped me off at my house. From there, I called the State Police (the toll road is their jurisdiction) and told them what happened and that the tow truck wouldn't come. I asked them if I could just leave the car there until the storm was over and the trooper dude said no - I had to get it off the road and that I had better get a wrecker service because if the state police got there first they would tow it and impound it and it would cost me a small fortune to get it out.

Soooo...are you still reading this? You must really have a lot of free time on your hands today. Anyway, the trooper dude gave me a couple of services near my site that would come out and I called the first one, hoping upon hope that they could just tow it without my having to be there. After all, I was standing in my kitchen with no transpo, and I wasn't about to call David and wake up his wife and kids at 11:00 at night for more imposition. Of course they needed the key, so I had to call and wake my parents up and ask my pops for a ride back out there. It took us almost 30 minutes to get there, and by that time the snow had stopped. Was this good? NO. It made the truckers even more reckless, if possible.

Dad parked his truck on the side of the road with his flashers on and we got out to talk to the tow truck driver. Semis were blowing past us and two cars went into the ditch behind us. The tow truck guy (Mike) said that the State Police wouldn't come out to shut down the traffic because there were 10 accidents already that they were attending to, so he didn't know how he was going to be able to pull the Tracker up out of the ditch. In the meantime, we decided to get away from the truck for our own safety due to the crazy truckers, and sure enough, shortly thereafter a Ford Focus plowed into the back of the truck. The truck's rear bumper will have to be replaced along with some light bodywork, but the Focus was totalled and had to be hauled away on a flatbed. Amazingly the 3 guys (WHO WERE DRIVING WITHOUT INSURANCE) weren't seriously injured. And don't you know that when 9-1-1 patched me through the State Police, the trooper dude said to me, "Is this the same lady I talked to just a little while ago??" ARGH!! I so badly wanted to say, "Yes jerkface, and all this happened because you wouldn't let me leave the car in the ditch until the blizzard was over!!!!!!" I kept my cool, though, and a State Trooper came out to do the accident report.

As if my blood pressure wasn't high enough already, my toes were starting to freeze so the trooper told us we could sit in the truck and wait while he did all the paperwork (including a citation for the dudes that hit us). Here we are at 3 in the morning on the side of the toll road in the already-damaged truck, watching the dudes whose car was totalled flinch every time a semi blew past, while the cop sat in his cruiser doing his paper work. We could see people spinning out in the rearview mirrors, and one semi truck came within about 5 feet of clipping the police cruiser (which would have surely plowed into us and killed us all). I just couldn't watch anymore. When the cop was finally done, we asked him if we could just leave the Tracker in the ditch until the morning and he said 'of course, of course, I'll call it in and you can have the wrecking service come get it tomorrow.' Thank you, Indiana State Police.

I will say this, though, I have a new respect for the State Police - what a horribly dangerous job they have.

We ended up dropping off my key at the service station and having my car delivered to my house the next morning. The only thing wrong with it was that it was buried in snow overnight and the undercarriage had to be thawed because it carried a solid block of ice which made steering a little difficult. I ended up going to work on the train, attending my department's incredibly posh holiday luncheon at Everest, going to another departments holiday dinner party at the Park Grill by the ice rink at Millenium Park last night (where I ate and drank like a true sybarite - holy cow), and spent the night at the Hyatt ($80/per night on TravelZoo, thank you very much) watching endless reruns of Law & Order on cable tv. It was heavenly. My mum picked me up at the train station this afternoon, and as soon as I finish this post, I'm going to take a nap.

So that's my story, and let's say that I'll be very glad to never have that much excitement ever again. :-)


Nancy said...

Dear Rocky:

Let me first say I am so glad you and your Pop's are OK. I stayed and read entire Blog, that is true dedication I must say. It's not that I have a lot of time, it's night and I can't sleep once again. The stretch of road your talking about is bad during the summer let alone a winter storm. Enjoy your nap, you earned it.

leo myshkin said...

i read it all because a similar thing happened to me driving an old vw bug. a giant semi passed me and i did a 360 and slid off the road. scared the bejesus out of me.

on the bright side it'll soon be dec 21 and the days will start getting longer and it'll be summer before we know it.

Clance' McClannahan said...

I am glad your ok. Yes I read the entire thing and no I do not have a lot of time on my hands. I time manage well so I can spend more time reading and writing....and it's Sunday and I give myself permission to do anything I want.
Winter can suck here in Idaho too.
At least you have a commuter train.
We have a really BAD transit bus system and the routes are very limited. Boise just pretends it's a Real Big City.

Reg said...

Jeeeeeez. Thank goodness you're okay. I don't miss those Chicago winters. I didn't have a car when I lived there and this story is why. I had trouble enough just walking. Take it easy and stay warm. Shall I post some pictures of LA to keep you warm??? (hee hee)

Katrina said...

Holy monkey - what a trip, eh?
at least everyone is OK. Geez!