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Touched by Greatness

I should like to share with you a small series of thoughts regarding automobiles and SUVs, especially BIG SUVs, which are NOT "cars", regardless of what our "Representatives of the People" and auto manufacturers would have us believe … BIG SUVs are TRUCKS.

Please note:Although "doing", briefly, automobiles and trucks, I am not, nor considering becoming, a muttering rotter …er, motoring writer.

Let us jump right in and go, shall we?

On Wednesday last (08/04/10), at approximately 7:45 PM, I was taking the "back-way" to a Lowe’s Home Improvement center, to purchase some "slightly larger-diameter" lag bolts to mount barres on the walls of my youngest daughter’s ballet teacher’s new dance studio, two Air Admittance Valves (mechanical venting valves for use in plumbing) and to look at flooring for the "den".

(I was also celebrating Judge Vaughn Walker’s Prop 8 decision, in my wee mind, thinking that maybe a certain "tide" was turning …)

Unlike most of my motoring "occasions", of late, I was not under pressure, time or emotion-wise, neither did I have to deal with traffic reluctant to go through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.

I was heading west on Saltsburg Road, still in Penn Hills, Pa., my "place" of residence.

I had just passed Tilford Road, which joins Saltsburg Road from the north, that is, to my right hand side, going west, as I said. Tilford Road is a side street with a stop sign at Saltsburg Road.

Saltsburg Road, a two-lane road at this point, going west, descends slightly, turning to the left …

As I approached the beginning of the curve, I realized that a BIG, red SUV was pointed right at me … at the driver’s door … and approaching very quickly.

I was going to be clobbered, I had no place to "go", as, to my right was the berm of the road and what is now termed a "guide rail", when I was young,it was termed a "guard rail". ("Terms" do matter, by-the-by …)

So…..? I purposely relaxed and looked "forward", determined to maintain such "control" of my "situation" as I could, after the SUV had had its way (weigh) with me …

Next to me was the aforementioned "guide rail" and then an "open" space of some twenty-odd feet … "open" to the hillside on my right and "unknown" territory. Beyond the "gap" was another section of "guide rail" which I intended to remain on the "right" side of, actually the left side, where I wanted to "go" for various reasons.

I figured not to apply the brakes, in a big way, until after I parted "company" with the SUV.

The impact exploded the side-window glass into my face (and other places) and I felt the inward-rushing door panel slam into my shoulder, but I concentrated on what was in front of me …

Eventually, after driving me broadside into the first section of "guide rail", the SUV pirouetted away from me, pursuing its own fate.

I felt curiously weak on my left side, trying to turn to the left of the second section of "guide rail", and realized that I was going to hit the first post of the "rail" dead center, accepted that, and stood on the brakes.(A subsequent visit to the "scene" showed that I had "plowed" two tire-ruts about two inches deep into the grass and gravel-covered berm, across the entire width of the "open" space between the sections of "guide rail".)

Anyway, I managed to slow to approximately 15 to 20 MPH at impact, having been "doing" about 30 MPH when I first noticed the big SUV’s "approach".


The hood of my car buckled up, the radiator blew … and my car stopped,I stopped as well.

As I appraised my "situation", steam began to rise furiously in front of and around the hood … so, I thought, "Hmmmm, maybe I should get out?"

I knew my left collar-bone was broken and that all of my ribs on my left side hurt. However, I figured I could crawl out. Unfastening the seat belt, I climbed over the gearshift and the center console onto the passenger seat, opened the passenger door and crawled out, grabbing my shoulder-bag in which I keep my billfold and cellular phone, as I went.

I slid out on my stomach and crawled about fifteen feet away, downhill and toward the rear of my car, a 1998 Toyota Camry.

Trying to dial my wife’s cell phone, blood kept falling on my phone. I couldn’t imagine where the blood was coming from, as neither my nose nor my mouth were bleeding …

My wife did not answer … but I must have left the phone "on", because my daughter could hear noise and a voice she did not recognize …

I recalled that there had been a vehicle behind me, some fifty or sixty feet … but had no idea if other people were around.

Just then, a black couple rushed up, I gave my phone to the man and asked him to call my wife, whose name I gave him. The woman then said, "Your key is still in the ignition, would you like me to get it?"

(So much for my "presence of mind", which I was figuratively patting myself on the back for …)

I said. "Yes, thank you." She then said, "I will get you a towel for your face." I never learned her name. The man then said, "I talked with your wife and she and your daughter are on the way." He then put my phone back into my shoulder bag.

Then I heard, " …it was not my fault, first my … went this way, then it went the other way … but it is not … my … fault …"

Now, as many of you know, I am an unpleasant curmudgeon with a nasty disposition,

Determined to see just what manner of person was saying such a thing, I crawled to the back of my car, pulled myself up …and beheld …a "heart-throb" of a twenty-something, white, handsome, obviously upper-middle-class young man … talking to nobody that I could see, he seemed uninjured so I looked for the SUV. It was back up the road, in the direction from which I had come, almost across the road from Tilford Road. I could not determine its make, but it seemed little damaged … and it was … red. It was also facing toward me, downhill. It had spun at least 180 degrees.

By then "people" were talking to me, someone said that they had called
911 and that, " … you are supposed to sit still, they think you may have spinal injuries …"

Sitting down DID seem a good idea.

So I walked down the slope a few feet … and sat down.

The black lady handed me a towel, for which I thanked her, and I tried to wipe my face, lots of blood and lots of glass …

The first Penn Hills Police officer arrived, to tell me that they were there and that the EMTs were right behind them.

I said, "Thank you, Officer."

The second officer knelt down and asked me for my driver’s license, I told the black lady that my license was in my wallet, in my shoulder bag, she got it for me and I opened it, showed the officer where the license was and handed it to him. he took out the license, recorded my information, put back my license and gave me back the wallet, I gave it to the black lady, who put it into my shoulder-bag. The officer asked for my insurance information and I told the black lady that "it" was in the glove-box, "probably on top", she got it, gave it to the officer, he got what he needed …

Then, the first EMT arrived, just as I lay back, on my back, the EMT, whose name I was later to learn was "Jim" said, "We’re here and my partner will be right with you." And he was. His name was Greg. He asked me what I thought was wrong, I said that my left collar-bone was broken. He said, yes,that it was. I said that my ribs, on the left side, hurt, but did not seem fractured. He then said that looking at my car he was concerned that more was hurt.

At that point,either one of the police officers or the other EMT said, "There is twelve inches of penetration into the driver’s space."

Greg, the EMT, said, "We think you may have back or spinal cord injuries … we are going to strap you onto a board and use a neck collar."

I said, "Okay, you guys are in charge, and I thank you."

The board was slid under me and a most uncomfortable collar placed around my neck.

Greg asked, "What is your name? How much do you weigh? How old are you and what is your birth date?"

I answered with my name, and said, "one-fifty … sixty-three", and told him my launch date …

Greg said, "We’re going to lift you onto the stretcher, and then into the ambulance."

Smooth as silk.

As to the gentleman, the person who had hit me?

He never even bothered (though he seemed uninjured to me and I could still hear him protesting his innocence) to walk across the road to see if I were dead or alive.

My wife told me later, at the hospital, that when she and my daughter arrived at the scene, that they had passed the ambulance with me inside. At the scene, the handsome young man was bemoaning the damage done to his SUV, surrounded by about twenty-five of his friends whose cars were parked all over the place. (One young woman is probably no longer in good-standing with that crowd because she heard my nine-soon-to-be-ten-year-old daughter say, "Where’s my Daddy? I’m worried about my Daddy.")

The young woman said, "Look, he has a little girl …"

How did so many of Heartthrob’s friends know of his "accident"?

Must be ESP?

Doncha think?

A little aside: In western Pennsylvania, for young drivers, aged sixteen to twenty-five … cell phones are involved, either talking, calling, answering, or TEXTING in 4 out of 5 accidents, reported to the police. For comparison: for drivers of all ages in western Pa. alcohol is involved in one third, 33%, of accidents reported to the police.

Back in the ambulance, Greg said, "You have a choice of two places able to deal with your possible injuries, where would you like us to take you?"

I said, "Greg, I’ll leave that to you, as I know nothing about either."

Greg called forward, "Driver’s Choice, Jim"

To which I added, "I’ll second that."

Jim took me to the trauma center at "Presby", UPMC’s Presbyterian
Hospital, downtown, Pittsburgh.

That was the fastest, least hassled trip I have ever had through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.

Greg and Jim were great. And I told them so. I learned that they are to be "phased out" so that their jobs can be "contracted" out.

Lot of that going on.

Everybody, with one pathetic exception, at "Presby" was great, doctors, nurses, and the black lady in the blue dress, the "power" on the twelve floor who, finally, got me released … were great.

Everyone was a true healer and I told them so. They confirmed my essential conviction about the fundamental humanity and decency of most of my fellow human beings.

"Presby" tested me for everything, confirming my own, original "diagnosis" …

I agree with everyone, the police, the EMTs, the doctors, the nurses, and my "insurance claims adjuster" (who, along with the police and EMTs actually saw my car), all of whom said that I was "lucky, very lucky". The "B-post" of my Toyota saved my life, for certain, and my car died saving my assets, yet, I maintain my conceit that forty year’s of yoga practice and meditation saved me from worse injury. I am still pulling wee bits of glass from myself.

My regret is not having "Full Tort" coverage, simply because it would have allowed me a few more choice options with regards to "Heartthrob".

If you all find that you are not too bored with this story, so far, then, I might regale you with a few further thoughts regarding auto insurance, SUVs, and the distractions of cell phones while driving.

I am currently reduced to the use of one hand, and will be for days … no driving for two weeks, at the least, and I’m hoping my brother-in-law may have the time to help me get those barres on the wall …

The handsome young man, himself?

He has all the "right stuff" to be Chairman of a huge, global oil company, or even to be President, why he might even sit on the Supreme Court of the land, and he’d be a shoo-in for Congress.

I was touched by greatness.

It left an impression.

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