Memory of death

This rather (actually, very) disturbing video of a deadly traffic accident in Russia has been making the cyber-rounds lately.

If you’re sensitive or prone to bad dreams or impressionable, be warned, this video is subtly intense. It portrays a death situation which is made more eerie and horrible by virtue of the fact that we never see the person being killed though we know he is. Word is that the man was a father and a husband, but that is internet hearsay; who knows. One thing that indisputable; whoever was in that SUV died, I can’t believe otherwise.

A truly hideous sight, if you braved it.

It’s not exactly consolation for me to realize I could very well have met a similar fate about 30 years ago. Seems my life has been one relentless parade of near-death car accidents. You might think I should have enough sense to stay away from the 4-wheeled coffins by now, but it’s impossible to do so in Los Angeles. You need your car in this town, even if it kills you, just as it has almost killed me once for sure, and after I saw this video, a reminder that there was a second time in my illustrious driving career where I almost checked out. It happened at the end of 1982 or begining of 1983. I don’t remember precisely. It happened during my freshman year at Cal Poly, Pomona. I used to drive about 20 miles east from my parent’s home, taking the Pomona and Orange Freeways. Being that I always traveled against the current of rush hour traffic, I never encountered that stop and go rush agony, and my commute to school was usually free-flowing and high speed. Many times I carried only one class for the day and I was careful to schedule it early as possible so as to have most of the day free. When I got in this accident, I had a morning class that finished sometime in the mid-morning allowing me to dash home by 11.

At the time I drove a 1974 Ford Maverick, an unsteady old boat of a car with squeaky springs and vestigial brakes. Powered by a sputtering V6, the car was heavy and underpowered, just as most American cars from the early 1970’s were. Once it got moving, it could pick up decent speed, but it wasn’t wise to take it high. This was hardly a Formula One demon.

One morning after my early class, I characteristically sped home on the Pomona Freeway, a large, level highway which in 1982 was slightly less congested than now, but still traffic was heavy and being that it was a parallel artery to the San Bernardino Freeway, which also traveled into Los Angeles from all interstate points east, it was also used by swarms of big rigs going to industrial spots in L.A. county or the Port Harbor. Not as many people lived in the boonies and commuted into L.A. but there were plenty of people who did. I don’t recall specifically where the incident occurred, but it was after I’d merged onto the 60 freeway from the 57 (Orange Freeway), a wide, fast freeway that ran north-south, from the Foothill Freeway into Orange County.

I’d had enough time to merge fully to the left into the fast lane which was my normal routine, being that I had a long drive ahead of me. I remember the car…is was a navy blue Toyota Cressida that wanted to merge into the fast lane as well. The man simply did not see me and he cut me off. I braked and swerved and the old Maverick had outlived all its tricky maneuvering days and reacted to my sudden emergency movements by fishtailing and swerving in contrast to my inexperienced input. I began to spin out, a circular odyssey which would twirl me across the length of the freeway. Rush hour was over but there was still a high volume of traffic. I cannot begin to explain what raced through my mind as I felt myself hopelessly turn like a flushing toilet across 5 lanes of the large freeway. My mind went blank actually. This is was what happened. I thought of nothing. I thought of absolutely nothing at that moment. I saw cars fly at me on both sides, I saw cars swerve avoid me. I saw a big rig, the size of the one in the video above, heading toward me but luckily my spinning momentum cleared me from its path, because I was surely in its path, make no mistake about it. I miraculously avoided clipping a single car in my free-fall journey that thrust me the full length of the freeway and landed me on a large grass clearing and which didn’t end until I anticlimactically came to rest against a sagging chain link fence, far from the traffic. The Cressida driver actually stopped to see how I was doing. I think he apologized, saw I was alive, and continued. Asshole.

The spin killed my engine but after a few moments, I was able to start the car and with the help of a responding CHP unit, resume my trip home, rattled for life.

The image of that big rig barreling toward me is forever ingrained in my memory. I lived to remember it but I wonder if this guy’s mind went blank like mine did. But he never had a remembrance. Sad.