It’s Christmas Eve Eve – otherwise known as December 23rd. I’m on the Mass Pike heading to pick up my parents in Danbury Connecticut to bring them north for the holidays. I am a bit ahead of schedule so I take the liberty of stopping at the rest area because as was so eloquently stated in Driving Ms. Daisy “I’m a man and a man has to make water.”
Before leaving the rest stop I buy a bag of Skittles as I am after all a fully recovered anorexic. I tear open the bag and head back onto the highway eating the Skittles in my preferred manner which is one at a time. My feeling is that Skittles are so flavorful that eating more than one color at a time would just confuse my tongue. You see my tongue, much like the rest of me is easily distracted and confused.
Back on the highway I teeter precariously close to being in a good mood. I’m driving a beautiful rental car that is beyond my means to dream of owning. It’s a Christmas season that I am actually enjoying and I am eating Skittles. What could go wrong?
Suddenly, just after ingesting a red Skittle, my incredibly acute knowledge of my surrounds detects a problem. The tractor trailer in front of me that had been previously heading south bound is now moving east bound, west bound and south bound all at the same time! The heavy flow of traffic is simultaneously swerving or locking up their brakes. Smoke from overheating tires fills the air and oh yes- did I mention the black SUV rolling side over side in front of me and just to my left?
One moment a red Skittle and happiness- the next moment I am in the middle of a Nascar wreck! Funny how your mind reacts immediately to the most important things as you are about to be caught up in a horrific accident. Important things like Maybe I shouldn’t have declined the additional insurance coverage at Thrifty Car Rental!
Well whether it be by my incredible driving skills, the grace of God or a combination thereof I don’t hit anything. The need for fresh change of britches is another matter all together. I managed to stop just ahead of the SUV which is now smoking and laying on its right side. I am the first person to reach the SUV and all I can hear is a woman screaming. The woman is the driver of the SUV that is now trapped in her seat belt and enveloped in slowly deflating airbags- both front and side.
I ask the woman if she is OK and as doing so her husband who was in the front passenger seat now against the ground chooses to slither up between the door and his wife popping up like a bloody ground hog. He has some facial injuries and is a bloody mess but all I want to say is “dude – warn me the next time before you pop up like that!” He is trying to squeeze out the window ahead of his wife because yes chivalry is dead indeed. The side airbags are attached to the car with what looks like bra straps and he can’t get out. I ask the now assembled crowd of onlookers for a knife. A woman hands me a pair of scissors that we use to cut the bags away.
I ask if there is anyone else in the SUV and the guy tells me that his two kids and dog are in the back. Not sure how much later he was going to choose to bring that matter up if not specifically questioned! I move to the back door and yell in for the kids. I’m greeted with the faces of an early teens brother and sister combination. I tell them to come to me so I can lift them out of the SUV. The sister refuses until she can recover the dog but the brother immediately evacuates into my arms and out of the car. Again – an illustration of chivalry’s death.
I’m now yelling back in to the girl telling her she needs to get out now. She suddenly appears back at the window with her small mutt wrapped in her arms. I swear the dog had a look on its face like “what the heck just happened?” One moment it’s sleeping dreaming of chasing its tail or licking its butt and the next moment it’s tumbling like a Kenmore! I mange to get the dog and the sister out of the SUV and then have a moment to step back and survey the scene.
There is absolute vehicle carnage on the road. As the SUV was sliding along the road it was dumping its contents out the back window. There were two tractor trailers involved with one having its whole front end torn off and laying in the roadway. Bloody Dad was walking around being overly whiny while Mom, the kids and fido were now sitting safely in someone’s car.
Traffic is already backed up behind this mess. I walk back to my rental car and am thankful that I had pulled ahead of the crash and not behind it. In all perhaps ten minutes or less have passed since the inception of this incident. As I start to drive away I, like the dog, have a look on my face like “what the heck just happened?”
The orange Skittle was up next.
How fragile is life? This was a normal looking family likely heading for a family holiday visit. In a fraction of a second something changed in the normally orderly flow of traffic. What a fine line it was for them between a destroyed SUV and a bloody faced Dad – and death! What slight difference would have caused all of them- or one of them to die? Were they ready for death if it came to them that day? My personal theology leads me to see the mercy of God in this incident. This incident makes me question if I am am ready for a sudden death. A death that doesn’t allow time to repent of sins – to apologize to those that I have wronged and without the opportunity to be sure that those I love are certain of that fact.
Your mileage may vary.