Ya know, I am afraid Hinesville is a BONA FIDE vortex. It’s a fact that when you pull onto a roadway, random strangers controlling large cylinders of metal filled with gasoline, speed up as they hurtle toward you on precariously balanced strips of rubber. Once you do safely make it onto the roadway, there will be a minimum of three idiots between your current location and your destination. We know they are idiots because of the way they pull out in front of you and stop, leaving you a choice between plowing into their backside and sideswiping the car next to you.
It’s quite shocking, really, the speed with which an accident can occur. One minute you think an easy left hand turn onto a four lane road is within your grasp. The next minute you sit completely stunned in the middle of the roadway, a useless steering wheel gripped stupidly in your hands as spilled radiator fluid makes your silenced engine hiss and whine.
At about two thirty, yesterday afternoon, I released my stupid grip on the steering wheel and opened the door to our mini-van. I stepped out and, pulling out my cell phone, walked past the non-existent front of my vehicle to check on the driver of the car I hadn’t seen. The other driver was ok, but in some slight pain.
“Hey Baby,” I said, “I hit someone.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I hit someone.”
“Where are you?” Cass asked.
“I hit someone, I’m right here.”
When I finally got it out that “right here” was in front of our subdivision, Cassidy came and found me. It’s easier to make me make sense in person.
In the meantime an off duty fire fighter and his partner stopped and started directing traffic… I guess someone had told them about dangerous Hinesville drivers. The paramedics and police arrived and checked everything out. The other driver was packaged up in white sheets on a stretcher and taken to the medical center to get her neck and back checked out. She checked out fine. We know she was fine because in about twenty minutes she called the fiancé she’d been talking to when the accident happened.
Automobile accidents are a scary phenomenon. This was the worst I’d ever experienced. I’d looked to the left before turning, but never saw the vehicle that hit me. That moment keeps replaying in my mind. The sudden impact, the feeling of shock, the random thoughts: “I just stopped moving forward,” “Oops,” “Where’d the front end of this van go?”
Apparently, the vehicle I’d collided with had been following another vehicle which was turning on the side road I was turning from. Whipping around the turning vehicle, the black Suzuki launched on a collision course with me as I made my left hand turn. Her speed and possible recklessness aside, I failed to yield the roadway to oncoming traffic. At least that was the dutiful way Officer H explained the situation to me as he signed and handed me my very first traffic citation. Nice.
We watched in consternation as the van was pulled by chain up onto the back of the wrecking truck. What was left of the front bumper fell off and the tires couldn’t quite bring themselves to roll over it. It was just as the van was reaching this lofty perch that we realized that in the first two attempts to retrieve personal items we’d forgotten the new uniforms I’d been issued and a huge box that had to be packed for Monday. After retrieving those final items and getting a card from the wrecker service, we walked away with our belongings and my very first traffic citation.
The cost of an accident is normally calculated in monetary terms: new insurance premiums, rental car fees, towing and storage fees, wrecking fees, repair fees, and the fee from a very first traffic citation.
For those of us in the Army, however, one must also consider the loss of time. After we were through with most of the normal issues (police, wreckers, witnesses, etc), but not quite through with the insurance, we received a call letting us know that my first sergeant wanted me to come to the company and help him fill out an incident report on me. My wife has pointed out that in the normal world you are only accountable to God and your insurance company… unfortunately we live in a fairy-tale land of make-believe notions like: “The Army knows best”, “Soldiers can’t be trusted”, and “your personal life is the entire chain of command’s business”. For these reasons, I found myself participating in two formations and waiting through three meetings, while Cassidy stood on the sideline, waiting to have our audience with the first sergeant.
Finally, at about five o’clock (the accident had occurred around two thirty) we were able to make our way home. Yes, I drove.
Today was uneventful, possibly because we didn’t go anywhere. Eating a late breakfast and watching episode after episode of 24 is a preferred method to deal with the stress of coming close to death, losing large amounts of time and money, and receiving one’s very first traffic citation.
Thinking we were in the clear, Cassidy and I had moved dinner plans from last night to this evening. There’s a new Christian couple in the company and we really wanted to get to know them a little over dinner at Chili’s. In fact, it was while we were in the process of getting ready for dinner that I noticed there were a couple new voice mails on my phone.“Harper, give me a call when you get this,” never a good sign.
The second message was no better, “Harper, when you get this give me a call.”
Evidently I had been on the sergeant major’s mind. “Yeah, sergeant major wants you to go to the emergency room tonight to get checked out,” said the voice on the other end.