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[personal profile] vorlonscout
If you've ever watched a NASCAR race*, you know how it works. Someone loses control, all hell breaks loose, and there are parts flying everywhere. Then, when they show the replay, something catches your eye. That guy, right there... right in the middle of it all, easily within six inches of getting walloped by two or three other vehicles as they careen past at odd angles, and yet... at the end of it all, possibly through no effort of his own, he's gotten through without a scratch. You watch another replay from a different angle, and you still can't figure out how he managed it.

Well, tonight, at about 6:45pm on I-495 north, between I-93 and Route 28 (I guess that'd put it in West Andover or thereabouts)... I was that guy.

I was headed up to visit my family in Maine (where I am now, safe and sound). There was no rain yet (I didn't hit that until New Hampshire), but it was Friday night at rush hour so traffic was being kind of stupid anyway. I'd gotten past the big backup at the Pike exit, and the smaller ones at Route 2 and I-93, and things seemed to be improving, flow-wise. I was in the far left-hand lane, and we were cruising along at about 65, maybe 70.

Then, abruptly, the white Chrysler 300 in front of me... uh, wasn't.

Even after the fact, I don't know what happened in front of him. I assume it was one of those standard oscillating traffic states, where everyone go fast for a bit, then everyone bunches up for a bit, then you get going again. But this was one of the most extreme cases I've ever seen. Luckily for me, there was a fair gap between me and the 300, so I had time to react -- kind of.

My first reaction is to ease onto the brakes. Uh, crap, comes my next thought, he's slowed down a LOT. Let's try heavy braking. Er, I'm STILL closing? Um. Ok, now it's serious pedal-to-the-floor time. I steal a glimpse at my rearview, and as I'd expected, the people behind me haven't been as attentive, as I catch the distinctive lurch of someone who's only just now realizing that the brake pedal is his best friend. That ceases to be my problem, though, as the driver spots -- or, alternately, blindly banks on the presence of -- an opening in the next lane over, and veers abruptly to the right. That's the end of my rearward glimpse, though, so I don't really know what happens to him after that. Eyes back forward, as I'm now madly working the brake pedal in an attempt to put myself as close as possible to the 300 without whacking him, hoping to give the next person every available inch to stop.

The next person turns out to be a woman in a big ol' SUV, and as I look up she's closing fast -- I'd put her speed somewhere around 20 mph. I don't see her for long, though, as she dives onto the grassy median to the left, and continuing completely past me.

Having now seen people swerve to both sides of me at speed, I cross "last-second evasion" off my mental list of options. We're in the left lane for the duration, now.

The convertible top is down, so I at least have good visibility for all of this. However, my stereo is blasting "Temple of Love (1992)" at very high volume, so it catches my attention when I hear a "crunch" behind me. I check the mirror... and I see a gold Toyota, sideways, with its hood utterly crushed, not six feet behind me.

In a moment of clarity, I think to myself huh, so this is what being in the middle of a massive highway pileup feels like right then. I was weirdly calm as I do it, too. I think I've resigned myself, on some level, that I'm going to get hit by something.

And then, it's over. Everyone pulls over into the median grass. Neither I nor the 300 have been touched (to our mutual amazement). The SUV has taken out one of those three-foot-tall PVC "BURIED FIBER" poles in the course of its off-road excursion, and has a bit of cosmetic damage. A black Honda, who may or may not have been the first car behind me, sits completely bumper-less in the right-hand breakdown lane, while his bumper cover (license plate still attached) blocks the center lane, and the underlying foam sits next to the rest of us in the median. (I challenge anyone to work out the logistics behind that.) The Toyota is a complete mess, and is emitting smoke that smells extremely unpleasant. Two other cars have bumper damage, though not enough to render the cars un-roadworthy.

I hang out until the cop shows up. He asks if I hit anything, I say no, and he sends me on my way.

Hastily-snapped phonepics (I didn't get the black Honda, it was too far away and I had a bad viewing angle):

Smashed Toyota is Smashed.

I hope that fiber wasn't important.

Owners of the less-damaged cars.

I'm hoping for a less eventful drive home on Monday.

* And if you haven't... don't you freakin' judge me! ;)
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November 2009

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