This morning I was driving to Indianapolis for some medical tests, to be followed by a flight to NYC for an ACM meeting. The weather was horrible, with driving rain and low clouds.
Tooling down I-65 at somewhat over the posted limit (hey — so was everyone else!), I was in the middle lane of 3 lanes. A large tractor-trailer rig was to my right, and the left lane was open. I, of course, had my headlights on.
Despite my crisp progression to the south, someone in a large extended-cab pickup truck did not think I was moving fast enough, and came zooming up the left lane to pass. BIG truck. The driver got about even with me, and for some reason, started to change lanes — on a path that would put his truck right where my car was. As someone who has studied physics, I know that two objects cannot occupy the exact same space-time coordinates without some extreme rearrangement and compaction of their components. This did not bode well. I was unable to swerve to the right because then I would be trying to occupy the same space as the semi. So, I didn’t have options, other than to step on the brakes. However, doing so too suddenly would be bad, because there was another semi coming up behind me
Moments (and inches) before there would have been the sound (and feel) of rending metal, the pickup truck driver saw my car, and yanked his vehicle to the left. This is not a good maneuver to conduct at 85mph, and I saw the truck violently sway on its suspension and head towards the guardrail. The driver had overcorrected. He then swung the wheel to the right and apparently also stomped on his brakes. On wet pavement. In a heavy vehicle. At around 85-90 mph (for my non US-readers, that’s 140 kmh).
Over the next few seconds, his truck began to fishtail and then turn almost sideway. Had the road been dry, the truck would have flipped and begun to tumble. In that regard, the driver was quite lucky. Instead, the truck spun at least twice and maybe three times all the way around — into and out of my lane. The last time I saw someone do a 1080 it was on ice. This would have been impressive had it not involved 3 or 4 moments of near collision with my car.
Luckily, my life did not pass before my eyes. Had it done so, I would have been bored into a deep sleep and missed everything.
Instead, I was able to steer and brake in a manner to avoid his truck — at least twice by less than a meter as it spun and slid around. My initial braking had slowed enough so that the semi to my right had passed and I was able to steer slightly out of my lane to miss one of the revolutions of the truck. It then came to a violent rest, back end against the guardrail.
People sometimes make jokes about how driving a BMW is to compensate for some perceived defect in male virility. (I ignore such comments; attractive women are invited to contact me to discover first-hand why I have no concerns. 🙂 ) No, I drive a BMW (750Li) because it is a very comfortable, highly responsive, safe car. The car has traction control, adaptive steering, and big disc brakes, with performance tires. And I have some significant experience driving, plus, my reflexes aren’t totally shot yet. Thus, I was able to steer, brake and evade the out-of-control truck without any contact, coming to a rest about even with the wreck. However, the semi was still behind me, closing fast. Luckily, the 750 also has a fair amount of “get up and go” that is available when needed, and I really needed to go, so I stomped on the accelerator to avoid being a secondary accident.
It was clear that the truck was not going anywhere (the rear wheels were off the pavement), the passenger cab was intact, and no contact had been made. So I simply kept on. (Had the driver been injured or had there been contact with any other vehicle that I had witnessed, I would have stayed.) I called 911 and reported the wreck.
I am convinced that BMW’s fine engineering saved me from a serious wreck. And with that large truck at that speed, it would have had the potential to severely injure or kill me and the other driver — if not some some of the people coming up too fast in the rain behind us.
Oddly, this didn’t really shake me up too much. I guess I have had so much stress over the last couple of years, and so much experience with various accidents and disasters, it takes a lot to excite me. (Those attractive women are also invited to test this hypothesis. 🙂 )
10 minutes later, I arrived at the doctor’s office. Apparently there was some reality distortion field following me there, as my watch stopped about the same time that I parked. This is a Breitling (yes, I do tend to buy very good quality technology — I am a technogeek through and through) so it wasn’t a matter of some cheap watch giving out. Furthermore, I had the battery replaced only 3 months ago, so it shouldn’t be that — the batteries are supposed to be good for years. It appears thoroughly, completely dead. I will have to deal with that upon my return home. Sigh. I left the non-functional watch in my car at the airport, so for the past few hours I have been consulting my wrist and swearing silently.
Then, to make the morning complete, the doctor did 3 oral biopsies and may order an endoscopy. No, I don’t want to talk about it, and even if I did, my mouth hurts enough I couldn’t. The doctor also asked to take pictures because “I might want to write this up for the medical journals.” To hear that from a national-level specialist does tend to give some pause.
On the plane, I forgot and had a sip of hot coffee. The flight attendant saw my grimace and pronounced “It isn’t Starbucks, but I think it’s pretty good,” clearly misinterpreting my response. So much for friendly service.
Did I mention that the lady sitting next to me on the plane seemed to have pneumonic plague? I expect I’ll come down with that about Monday, just in time for my flight to San Diego. The headache has already started. It’s made worse by this cab ride with a driver whose knowledge of English and personal hygiene are both highly suspect.
I can’t wait to see what else happens this trip.
My doctors keep telling me to avoid stress. THey forget to tell me how.