Long as I can see the light

I was going about 65 MPH in a section marked for 50. I’d been driving aggressively the whole trip. Been listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chronicle Vols. 1 & 2, and in a reflective, sad, mood. I’d passed the last bit of traffic a few minutes ago, and there appeared to be no one ahead of me, at least as far as I could see on that twisting mountain road.

Just past the summit of Murphy Hill, in the Van Duzer Corridor, I came over the top of a rise, and the road curved to the left and downhill, and I turned into the corner.

And felt the back end of the car start slipping, as if it wanted to be in the front.

I turned into the skid, I think. I’m pretty sure.

The accident is just flashes of images and the sounds of metal and glass, underscored by the sudden static on the radio when my iPod lost its FM transmitter with the first impact.

I briefly got control of the car again, but had slid into the oncoming lane. Since I couldn’t see very far ahead, I pulled the steering wheel back to the right to get back in my own lane… And over-corrected.

The car snapped around, clockwise, to the right. Hard. I was out of control. I smashed the brake a couple of quick times but it was pointless.

The front of the car smashed into the guard rail. Up until this moment, I still remember thinking that I could pull out of this spin. When I saw, heard, and felt the impact, though, my thought was immediately of the expense of this crash, and the danger to myself.

The car bounced off the guard rail and continued spinning. I was facing the wrong way in my lane. No cars coming. The car continued spinning, and the tail end must have smacked the guard rail. I say must have because I don’t remember that impact.

I was straightening out the steering wheel when the car slowed enough to let me steer it. I was again in the far lane, so to get out of the way I aimed for the far side of the road. It was closer. It was also wider and not on the outside of the corner. I pulled to a stop and sat there. Smoke poured out from under the smashed hood. I turned off the radio. I took off my seat belt.

I pulled out my cell phone but my hands shook too much to dial.

I don’t know how much longer I sat there. I saw one car go by, a dark SUV. They slowed but did not stop. But soon, another car pulled up in front of me, going east, and a lady and her husband got out. Her name was Heather, and I apologize but I do not recall the husband’s name. She repeatedly asked me if I was OK, and in my shock, I discovered that I felt pretty good, physically. My right hand and arm hurt, but I could move my head, my legs felt shaky but still there. I could breathe. There was no blood.

I explained that I was trying to call my sister, that I was on my way to Lincoln City for Thanksgiving, that this was a rental car. Heather offered to call for me. I pulled up the number for her and handed her my phone. Another piece of luck: I had full service, all five bars on my phone. Lisa didn’t answer, so I found Betsy’s number and handed the phone back. I laughed a bit at hearing Heather’s end of the conversation as she explained to Betsy first that I was all right, and then started to fill in the details. My sister and her husband were on their way to get me soon enough.

The trooper on the scene was serious but friendly, and I did not lie or hide any details from him. Yes, it was a rental. My insurance was through American Express, due to my renting the car on my card. I was driving about 65 when the accident occurred. My family was on their way.

So much luck that was in my favor: no other traffic or cars involved, no other people hurt, I was only about 10-15 minutes away from rescue by my sister, full cell phone service. And the trooper decided, due to my honesty, the holiday, and the fact that wrecking a rental is already a pain in the ass, to not cite me, for which I am eternally grateful.

Part of me wants to be cocky, to dismiss it as a lark. “Oh, I used up this rental car, oops, whatever.” But another part of me realizes how much worse it could have been. It is what it is. I haven’t yet imbued it with meaning – that will come in time.

For now, I’m happy I am still here. Still happy to be here. That’s enough for now.

Put a candle in the window,
’cause I feel I’ve got to move.
Though I’m going,
I’ll be coming home soon,
‘Long as I can see the light.

Pack my bag and let’s get moving,
’cause I’m bound to drift a while.
When I’m gone,
you don’t have to worry long,
‘Long as I can see the light.

I’ll never hear that song in quite the same way again, I fear.