And after being at 3000 feet and spinning and looping and rolling in the sky, I climbed in the car with Kerry for the average, earthbound, boring 2.5 hour drive home.
At least, that’s what we thought…until the collision.
The unexpected comes so quickly…it’s always in a rush.
Fifteen minutes after my lesson, stopped for the bottleneck of traffic on 405, the Blazer came up behind us way too fast...And didn't stop in time.
Bang (Whoa, ouch my head), BANG (WHOA, ouch my HEAD)! Then the sound of shattered glass and metal pieces hitting the road.
And in that moment, my beloved open-cockpit car was destroyed, both ends crushed.
The back of my head felt hot and my first thought was “What was THAT?”
Wait a minute, I had just been up in the air, triple-belted in and parachute-safe, dancing with the Decathalon alone in the sky, with my instructor guiding me every step of the way. I’d been suspended above all this earth-heavy traffic, where I was diving and spinning and upside down for goodness sake. It was all smooth and free and thousands of feet between me and the next hard object.
Still shaky with disbelief, I saw my husband ask if I was okay, get a nod from me, and steer what remained of our car, creaking and groaning, to the shoulder. Adrenaline-fueled, he had to shove the door to get it to open, and went immediately to the other cars to see if everyone was okay. Meanwhile there was something warm and wet on my face, and my touching it showed red-orange on my hand….am I bleeding already?
Funny color though….and the taste confirmed it:
It was ketchup.
Ketchup, not blood, ketchup from the hamburger I had to have after my lesson because I was starving, and I laughed. What a funny little movie this was, that used ketchup for blood, which was smeared now all over the right side of my face.
Kerry was feeling sore, but still in action talking with the other drivers, looking at the remains of our car, and the damage to the others. Not much to the tank of a pickup in front of us, just a scratch really. But our whole front was mushed, lights smashed, and the bumper pointed strangely down to the pavement. To the car behind us, well, his front did not fare well either, and it dripped radiator fluid yellow green on the ground. The driver was hugely apologetic and I felt so sorry for the despair in his voice. “This has never happened to me before…I can’t believe it. I’m so sorry.” My heart went out to him. Poor guy.
Being in the middle of all this, literally, is not a good place to be for a car, and the image of an accordion is an accurate one, all crumpled at each end. Our rear doors wouldn't even open anymore. Suddenly uncomfortable with being in the middle of that crushed metal, I got out and tried to do something useful, while Kerry thoughtfully took photographs of the damage.
Kerry came back to check on me…was I sure I was all right? I said I thought I was, but he dabbed at a little red spot near my eye. “It’s ketchup,” I said, smiling. “No, it won’t go away,” he said. “I think you’ve got a cut.”
In moments it seemed, a fire truck arrived, blocking the following traffic from running over us and the shattered debris we’d left behind. Strong men with too much equipment on came over to ask if we were feeling dizzy, could we breathe all right, and did we feel we needed any hospital attention.
I said the back of my head hurt, and so did my neck. Kerry said the same, and that he had a bruise and tightness where the shoulder belt went across his chest. He’d seen it all developing in his rear view mirror in that split second, had his foot hard on the brake, and had been bracing for the impact so he got it worse than I did, me being oblivious to what was coming, and not hearing him say “brace yourself”. I was actually fairly relaxed during impact, and that might have helped.
Since no one needed the EMT’s expert help right then, after a short cleanup they moved on, leaving behind a jovial police officer who was happy to have a case like this: no one drunk, no one yelling, no one seriously hurt.
Next on the list: How do we get home? We’re over 100 miles away at this point, and the Seattle rush hour is just beginning!
We decide to barnstorm it. Limp ourselves home. The tune “On a Wing and a Prayer” started playing in both our heads, and I could imagine that WWII B-17 coming in all shot up, but still bringing her boys safe home anyway. I sang the chorus:
Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer
Look below, there’s a Field over there.
With a full crew aboard,
And our Trust in the Lord,
Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer.
With phoned-in advice from our Subaru expert friend Chuck, our eyes on the temperature gauge, and our ears tuned to hearing any new grinding sounds, we watched for the best “emergency landing” shoulders all the way back. Hours later, we made it, just as it got dark. Chuck had left a key in one of his dealer cars, so that we could land on his car lot and have a way home too. (What a blessing good friends are!)
It was only when we pulled into our own driveway that we took some deep breaths….and were so very, VERY thankful that we weren’t killed, hospitalized, or stranded on the side of the road.
Today's lesson was an unexpected one:
Aerobatic flying is safer than driving a car!