I got into a seriously serious car accident Sunday night.
I had just spent an amazing weekend in Charleston, SC, dancing and DJing at CHEX, the Charleston Lindy Exchange. I was on my way home, about an hour+ out of Charleston, just a little north of Orangeburg. For some reason, my gps likes to tell me to take some state roads to get from I26 to I20, instead of staying on the interstate until I hit Columbia to then get onto I20. I guess my phone sees this triangle-esque formation and is all, “hey, you should take these small-ass deer country roads where the speed limit is 45mph and under!”
“But Sebastian, (my phone’s official name, check his birth certificate) wouldn’t it be easier and possibly faster to just stick to the interstate?”
“stfu It’s shorter, mileage-wise, ya nerd.”
I pulled off of the interstate, readying myself to navigate some spooky small roads. I glanced at my phone to check my gps when I suddenly detected something in my periphery.
I looked up to see the driver side door of a pickup truck engulfing the view through my windshield.
I believe I managed to get in an, “oh, FUCK–” before I saw my airbags deploy.
There was a STUPIDLY loud bang, much like a gunshot. Smelled like a gunshot too, like sulfur, matches, fireworks. I thought I was dead for a split second, I didn’t manage to brake in time to slow myself down at all.
But guess what? I didn’t die. I realized I was not dead, just stunned, but conscious enough to continue swearing. However, I noticed I was still moving…and now I was off the road, onto the shoulder…and oh, no, I’ve started to drive down this hill that will take me lord knows where. I should probably try to stop, but I was still dazed from the impact.
“Kevin, stop thinking you’re dying, you’re fine. Now stop the damn car.” Okay, okay, me. I’m stopping, geez.
I applied the brakes, put Carla into park, pulled the e-brake. I took a moment to touch myself (huehuehue) and I confirmed that all my appendages were accounted for, and that I was about 90% sure I hadn’t broken anything. My left arm and hand was bloodied though, I figured it was from my windshield breaking and sending tiny bits of glass everywhere. I then realized my stereo was still blasting a track from Muse’s “The Second Law” (which is an album I really enjoy by the way). God I can’t believe I like to listen to music at such a volume. I shut off the stereo, and marveled at how quiet everything was, save the clicking of my emergency hazard lights.
I noticed that the passenger side smelled oddly of beer/apple juice when I remembered that I had a few bottles of Shocktop Honeycrisp Apple Wheat beer (it’s tasty, you should try it) sitting my trunk…so I guess those managed to fly to the front of my car, break, and spill beer everywhere. Great. I hope the police officer doesn’t think I was drinking, because I totally wasn’t. I was ready to take a breathalyzer and everything (spoiler alert, he did not question if I’d been drinking. Whew). At least none of the bottles smashed into the back of my head or body because I imagine that would’ve been no bueno.
Time to call 911, I thought. But where was my phone? Oh, it fell down. Ugh, when you need to call 911 but you’re phone is on the floor of your car because you just got in a wicked accident and it’s a struggle because you’re in pain and your hand and arm stings from being cut, you know life is hard. I finally manage to grab Sebastian (that bastard), and I called 911. I wish I could say I ended up getting streaks of blood onto my phone, because that would’ve been super dramatic and dangerously cool, maybe, probably, but I was not bleeding that much. I gave the dispatcher my approximate location, confirmed it was just me in the car, but then she asked about the other vehicle.
Oh shit, the small pickup truck I t-boned the fuck out of.
I heard a voice, male, wailing “oh fuck, oh FUCK, dude, I’m so sorry…” and I suddenly start panicking. Did I kill the driver? His door was the last thing I saw before the collision. I was stopped halfway down a small hill and from where I was sitting I could only see one of the headlights from the other vehicle. I tried to open my door, but it was stuck. It was partially blocked from the front of my car being smashed and bent in (you can see this in the picture). I was able to push it open with enough effort. I raised myself up enough to see more of the road and the pickup truck…oh no. It was on its side.
I told the dispatcher what I saw. She said emergency services were on their way, I thanked her, and she said goodbye. “That was a rather curt farewell,” I thought, as I replayed her last word in my mind. Eh, they’re supposed to sound calm and try to remain emotionally detached from the situation, I concluded.
Then, I heard two voices. I turned around and saw the two guys from the truck walking toward me. They looked about my age, or maybe a year or two younger. They asked me if I was okay. I said yes. I asked them if they were okay. They said yes. Thank god…I didn’t kill anyone. No one was dead. We all appear to be just fine.
I waited in Carla for help to arrive. A number of cars stopped and asked if we were all okay and if we needed help. Some of them also called 911. I guess it looked pretty bad back on top of the hill on the road, but I was grateful that people stopped. That’s pretty nice of them. As I waited, I called my mom. Voicemail. I called my girlfriend. Voicemail. “They’ll be in for a nice surprise,” I giggled. Just kidding, I didn’t think that, though I did imagine they’d be worried once they listen to my message.
EMTs (or were they paramedics? I don’t know) arrived fairly quickly – I was impressed. They helped me out of my car and up the hill, where I joined the two dudes I collided with. They were sitting on the ground, smoking American Spirits. Fuck, that sounded really good at the moment. I asked if I could have one. They said yes.
I joined them on the ground, sucking on the cigarette with shaky hands as we answered the EMTs questions. No, we did not have any broken bones. No, we didn’t think we needed to go to the hospital. However, my arm and hand was a little cut up, could they take a look at that? They helped me up off the ground and I stood near the ambulance as they washed my wounds with some sterile water and applied light pressure with a cloth to staunch the bleeding. He asked me if I think I had any glass in my lacerations. I didn’t think so? He said if I did have glass in my hand and arm, I’d probably be in A LOT more pain at the moment as he pressed on me, so that was good. I finished the cigarette, absurdly fast, I thought to myself. I threw it on the ground, and I snubbed it out.
A highway patrol officer had arrived on the scene and checked up on us. We said we were all right. But suddenly, I started feeling extremely light-headed. I leaned against the side of the ambulance. My hearing started getting muffled, like everyone started talking through a plastic bag and I had cotton balls in my ears. They noticed my change in demeanor and sat me down just inside the ambulance. They continued cleaning my wounds. I gave the officer my driver’s license. The EMT wrapped my wrist in gauze to help with the more gnarly cuts.
The fainting sensation soon passed, and I confirmed for maybe the 5th time that I did not want to go to a hospital. The ambulances left. The officer asked me what happened, from my perspective. I told him I was going down the road when suddenly the pickup truck crossed the road right in front of me. He asked how fast I was going. I didn’t remember exactly, but I was definitely going very fast…maybe pushing 60. In hindsight, I probably wasn’t going THAT fast considering I just took an exit ramp, but it felt like that, so whatever.
Then, what followed was a lot of standing around, and waiting. The officer went back to his car to fill out a report. Apparently he had to restart his computer, which added to the time it took for him to complete entering all the information. Meanwhile, the tow trucks came to move our vehicles. One tow company pulled the pickup truck out of the middle of the road, and it was during this process that I noticed the rear driver-side wheel was just gone. Like not just the hubcap, or tire, but the whole fucking wheel. It was recovered at the bottom of the hill, maybe 6 feet from where Carla was stopped.
Yeah that’s right. I hit the pickup truck so hard that I snapped off one of its wheels. Badass.
But, when I looked at the side of their vehicle, the bottom half of the driver and rear-driver doors were pretty much caved in. It was truly sickening…if they were riding in a sedan, or another vehicle of similar height to mine, I most likely would have killed the driver. Since this guy was sitting higher than the front end of my car, he avoided getting hit directly, with most of the impact happening just underneath him.
A different tow company and truck came to pull Carla off the hill, which is when I took the above picture. Hood rolled/folded up. Windshield smashed/bent inwards. You can see how my car essentially tried to slide under their pickup truck from the angle of how the front is bent and crumpled.
The officer finally got out of his car to give us the low-down. Based on what each of us told him, we were both at fault for the collision. Me, for speeding, and the other guy, for negligence/failing to yield. We each got a citation, womp womp. We each got a copy of the collision report to give to our respective insurance companies.
The driver’s parents came to pick him and his friend up. Me, I was stranded in basically butt-fuck nowhere, but the highway patrol officer was kind enough to give me a ride a couple exits back to where a bunch of hotels and restaurants were located. Hey, my first time riding in a patrol car! I mentioned this fact to the officer, and he replied, “Good thing you’re up here sitting in the front, and not in the back, wearing the shiny bracelets.” I kinda like this guy.
During the drive down the interstate, the officer’s radar started buzzing and beeping. The officer read it and exclaimed, “What?! 100?!?!?!” A moment later, an SUV came into view. He was barreling down the road behind us, coming up on our asses hard without realizing it was a patrol car he was about to pass. That driver IMMEDIATELY slowed down once he reached us though. The officer radioed in the speeding driver, since he had me to take to a hotel (without even buying me dinner! Gosh!) and didn’t have the time to pull the speeder over. I almost piped up that I wouldn’t mind if he pursued the driver…but I’m sure there’s probably some legality/protocol issues regarding having a random civilian ride shotgun during a police chase. Maybe next time, I thought.
I checked in at a hotel and I thanked the officer for his assistance. Once I got to my room, I flopped myself down onto the bed. What a fucking night. I called my mom and girlfriend again, separate instances, and talked to them both, sending them the picture I took, assuring them I was okay. It was a goddamn miracle that no one died, much less broke any bones. I couldn’t believe it.
I decided to do something I hadn’t done in a really, really long time. I took a bath. I managed to grab my backpack and suitcase from Carla before they towed her away, so I at least had my computer and a change of clothes plus my toiletries. I drew some hot water, and soaked myself after I set my computer down on a chair to watch some youtube.
I messaged my brother and sister, letting them know what had happened, and that I was safe. I was starting to get alarmingly stressed at the prospect of dealing with insurance and finding a new vehicle. But it was almost 2am at this point, and I was exhausted. I slept.
The next morning, I checked out and walked down to one of the fast food restaurants to eat and wait for my girlfriend and a friend to come pick me up. Lucky for me that they decided to stay in Charleston for an extra night. I took the opportunity to call my insurance company and open a claim. I finally called my dad, also sent him a picture of the wreckage, and he then almost demanded that I stop by his house later that night so he could check me himself because he was convinced no one could walk away from a car accident that bad-looking without breaking something in his body. I obliged. He’s my dad, after all. Oh, and a doctor.
Once I was picked up, we drove to the towing lot where Carla was being held, to clean her out and get my belongings. I took more pictures now that it was light out. Oh, my poor, poor Carla…
Once I got all my things, it was time to say goodbye. I almost cried. She was my first car – I got her the summer of 2010. I think about all the places I’ve driven to. The couple of times I had to bum it out and sleep in her for the night. The people I was with on long drives and road trips. The important, meaningful conversations with friends. The solo vocal and dance performances. The food and drink I’ve accidentally spilt.
I think about how terrible this accident was, just from looking at the damage to the vehicles, and Carla…she protected me.
My sister suggested the name, you know. I knew it was perfect, because how could I not pass up on that pun?
Currently, I’m still in talks with the insurance companies and waiting to hear back about settlements and the next steps I’ll have to take. On top of that, I have a metric ass-ton (it’s an SI unit, look it up) of shit and tasks to do this week. It’s like this couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
But I am alive. And I am grateful to still be here.
But I’m still stressed. There’s so much I have to do, and this accident is just kicking me when I’m already down on the ground about other things going on in my life.
And like, I can drive a car just fine. I had to get a rental for the time being, and it’s not like I have paralyzing panic attacks that incapacitate me, reducing me to a hyperventilating bag of flesh. It’s surreal, almost like it never happened, probably because I never thought I’d ever end up in a collision this bad.
One of those “it can happen to anyone” moments of clarity, I s’pose.
I look at the cuts on my hand and arm, occasionally still finding a tiny piece of windshield in the wounds. I touch my chest and hips where the bruising is, where my seatbelt held me in place, and think, if I hadn’t been wearing it, I would’ve been flung through the windshield.
I can stare off into space, and I’m back in my car, looking up to suddenly see the other vehicle, and I’m reliving the impact, the sounds, the smells, the surge of adrenaline that followed immediately after.
I’m still alive.
But the amount of bullshit I have to deal with has just multiplied.
But I’m still alive.
And I guess I just have to keep telling myself that.