Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mind-Bogglingly Terrifying Car Accident

So I'm driving down the 101, downhill into Hollywood. I change lanes to the left, but there's somebody behind me and they honk. I'm already halfway into the lane when they honk so I'm like oh shit, blind spot, better change back, so I swerve back in, but I swerve too hard, and my car's gunning at an angle towards some other car, so I swerve to angle back into the lane, but you can't swerve like that headed downhill on a curvy hill, so now my car's at a right angle to all the other traffic, still moving down the hill, with its front end in the leftmost lane and its rear on the lefthand shoulder. And now I'm moving backwards with five lanes of 80mph traffic headed towards me, and the only way to keep from flying right back into all that traffic is to keep swerving, so I've got my steering wheel turned as hard as it can turn, and there's this huge fucking CRASH behind me as I hit the wall, and blue smoke everywhere from my brakes, I've had my foot on the brakes slammed to the floor for a while, and my car's not moving, but I drive a 91 Toyota Supra, and that turbo engine is still gunning forward with all its mighty ferocious heart, so I keep my foot on the brakes, but it starts lurching forwards, so I drop it in park and it's still driving forwards, grinding like a motherfucker, so I turn off the ignition and the car stops. So I'm like, oh shit, I killed my car, will it ever start again? And I'm trying to figure out whether or not I'm in the carpool lane facing against traffic, or just on the shoulder, and if I'm in the carpool lane, how will I survive, but then I see for sure I'm on the shoulder. And this lady pulls up and she's like are you OK? And all the traffic's behind her. And I tell her what happened and she's like that was me! And I'm like HOLY SHIT! and I realize my calves are twitching uncontrollably. So the lady pulls into the shoulder and calls CHP but an LAPD car sees us and tells her since nobody got hit and nobody got hurt I should take her license to be safe but she's basically free to go. So off she goes, like ok bye have a nice day, and then CHP shows up, two cars, and they stop the traffic on the highway so I can turn around, because my car's like parked perfectly on the shoulder, exactly parallel to the center divider, but pointed in the wrong direction, so they do this, they put me back on the road, and MY CAR IS ABSOLUTELY FINE! Body damage on the right but it runs perfect. So I'm like doot dee doot dee doo and fucking PERFECT no problems at all. So I hit the wall going backwards at least 70 miles per hour against the flow of LA traffic and CHP tells me I don't even need to file a report and they're like you can file it with your insurance if you want to, where are you headed? And I'm like, you see that restaurant over there? And they're like, there? That cafe? And I'm like, yeah, I wanted to get a cup of coffee, you know, little bit of energy to start the day, and they're like, well, I guess you're here, but you got your energy already, and I'm like, yeah, I guess I did, and they're like, well, have a nice day sir, and I'm like HOLY FUCKING SHIT THAT WAS THE SCARIEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME AND I'VE BEEN HIT BY A CAR AND I FELL DOWN A WATERFALL ONCE AND EVERYBODY THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE BUT THIS WAS SO MUCH MORE TERRIFYING! And they're like, ok, have a nice day, so I went to the restaurant and now I'm having a latte and a pesto crepe. And this cafe is filled with all these like special FX nerds with English accents and hot blonde chicks and emo monkeys with tattoos and sexy Latinas and people writing screenplays and posturing on their cellphones and I've had the most terrifying experience of MY LIFE ever and emerged totally unscathed and they've got the Pet Shop Boys on the radio and the food is delicious and LA cops are so much smarter than New Mexico cops and so much more law-abiding than Chicago cops and the sun is shining and I nearly died but barely even broke a sweat in the process and I'm like I love LA!

By the way I obviously have an awesome car. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking! Needs a bit of body work now though.

Anyway, the moral of the story, obviously, is if an LA driver cuts you off on the freeway, don't honk at them, just let them in, otherwise they might freak out and nearly kill twenty different people, including themselves.

Update: although this post is absurdly manic, as an exercise in writing style, it is pretty successful, because I have been talking pretty much exactly like that all day. Slamming into the center divider and bouncing down the hillside backwards at absurd speeds can affect your speech patterns for hours afterwards. Also, I have to say, this is just what it feels like to have a scary but ultimately painless car accident. It's sufficiently powerful for me to realize how totally I can't imagine what actual shellshock is like (or, to use the jargon of the day, "post-traumatic stress disorder").


  1. Hey Giles, glad you survived! It kind of sounded like you overreacted a bit when you heard the honk of the car behind you. It happens. I wonder why your engine was gunning when you were trying to stop. You sure you didn't have your foot on the accelerator, pressed to the floor from the tension without realizing it?

    Drivers in California, just generally, can be pretty intolerant. I was in the San Diego area several years ago and had the experience of another driver yell at me for no apparent reason other than I braked to slow down after getting on an off-ramp. We were coming to a stop light anyway, so I wondered what the deal was. Road rage perhaps? They can be extremely impatient, too. You take just a second before you accelerate after the light turns green and somebody will honk at you from behind. Real annoying. Maybe it's just big city life. I live in a relatively small city. People take things a little more easy here.

  2. Sheesh. Everyone's a critic! Trust me, you take a Supra from 70+ to 0 in a second or two, the engine will still be revving. My foot was hard on the brake, nowhere near the accelerator at that point.

  3. Terrifying, but a very funny account of driving in L.A.!

    God I hate the 101.

    You ever drive in Hawaii (especially Kauai)? It's a far difference experience. Everyone is laid back. Nobody honks when two people going the opposite way stop and block traffic to have a chit chat.

    In L.A., I'm jaded. My immediate reaction to a honk is the finger then dunking. Even in my home office, when I hear a car honk outside, I throw up the finger and duck.

  4. Yup. LA driving in a nutshell.

    "Oh my God that was the most terrifying thing I've ever experienced!"

    "Have a nice day."

    I've driven in New Mexico, it's very similar to Hawaii in that respect. But it actually drove me nuts, made me very impatient. I love LA, although I think I'd be less enthusiastic if anyone had gotten hurt. In fact I think my car might be a bit fux0r3d, seems a bit wobbly on the freeway now. Certainly has me very worried. But during that brief moment where I was simply glad to be alive and amazed my car still ran at all, it was like the best roller coaster ever.

  5. A rollercoaster in which riding once is plenty, eh? ;)

  6. Glad you're ok, Giles. I like your blog & the Seaside videos. Keep up the good work! :)

  7. You don't know me, but I'm glad you were unscathed and able to write that full-tilt account.

    (BTW, the twitching calves of terror are known in climbing circles as "sewing machine leg". It often precedes a fall by a few seconds.)

  8. cheers vamsee. yes haacked, once was more than enough.

    I was en route to a cafe with my computer when it happened, so I blogged it nearly immediately afterwards. having told the story to a few humans in the so-called "real world," I'm beginning to suspect I was actually incredibly lucky. apparently if you lose control of your car at high speed on the freeway in fast and heavy LA traffic and you manage to avoid even scratching another vehicle, then hit the divider at high speed, and finally drive away with nothing worse than a wobbly wheel, you are in fact doing relatively well.

    although, I should mention, I do have a headache now. I'll probably have to see a chiropractor.

    I definitely remember the highway patrol guy looking surprised to find my car all neatly parallel with the divider. he was like, is this how your car ended up? or did you straighten it out afterwards? and I'm like, that's how it ended up.

    also, one of these real-life humans I told this overly exciting story to was my roommate, who specifically pointed out that the fact that I had just crested a hill is probably very relevant in terms of understanding why my car swerved in the first place. (normally it handles pretty nicely.) he went on to explain this to me in detail, which, unfortunately, I didn't listen to, because he was talking about physics, but I generally listen to him when he talks about programming and he is in fact quite bright.

    his theory had something to do with your upward momentum lifting the car, and then the possibility of oil on the road not being washed away due to LA's extremely infrequent rain. certainly, the road wasn't responding the way a person might normally expect it to. I was sliding all over the place like a hockey puck. my car has great handling generally so I think I got a little overly bold; I'll certainly never attempt a lane change near the crest of a hill ever again in my life.

    anyway. more programming content soon.

  9. cheers steve. I want to learn rock climbing, by the way. odd coincidence.

  10. @Giles

    Just trying to get more details. That's me--inquisitive. I was interested in your harrowing experience. As for my criticism of CA drivers. What can I say? I'm not used to it. If you're cool with it, that's all that matters.

    Cresting the hill is a possible explanation for what happened. A few years ago I was driving in North Carolina. I was on an in-town road at night, and I passed through an intersection where it dipped suddenly on the other side at an angle (unbeknownst to me). I was going 35, which the sign said was the speed limit, and when I hit the dropoff for a second I could literally feel my car lose contact with the road. The dropoff was that abrupt. There was no warning about this either. There was another intersection not too far from that point with cars stopped. It gave me a scare and I slammed on the brakes. I thought if the line of cars that was in front of me was just a bit longer I would've rear-ended one of them going 35. There would've been no way I could've stopped in time. I wished I could find whoever was the road engineer who set up the road signs around that intersection to give them a piece of my mind. They're just asking for accidents.

    I know there are intersections in other parts of the country that are far worse. I've heard about them on the news. The mystery to me is why no one works to make these places safer.

  11. A) OMFG and Yay for still being alive and in one piece.
    B) WHERE is that cafe? I totally want to go there... except for the having to traverse 3k miles to get there...

  12. @mark -- the hill is pretty steep, but I was living in New Mexico for years before I moved to LA, in the mountains, and I wasn't expecting this. I think it's that I was cresting a hill, combined with the high speed, and the smoothness of the tarmac. could have been residual oil on the road, but that's impossible to determine.

    @masukomi -- I am totally down with the OMFG YAY for being alive. the cafe's on Cahuenga near the 101. Literally right at the 101 exit. but it's actually pretty run of the mill and a tad overpriced. if you're in any major city with a nice sunny part of town you should be able to find something similar -- it was a more or less standard French crepes cafe. there are Portugese ones too.


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