Driving and Biking in the Big City

Clarence takes a hit for me

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Clarence decked out for Christmas

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and I was commuting to the city as part of our skeleton workforce for the day. It couldn’t have been a smoother ride. I’d breezed in without a hitch, not even bothering to take the toll (it was closed anyway) because there was so little traffic. I’d say it was among my most pleasant drives ever. Until it wasn’t.

I’d spoken to my niece — hands free — on the cell phone, but we’d finished our conversation minutes earlier, me saying I was in the final one-mile stretch before I arrived at work. I remember looking at the passenger seat on my right, taking my eye off the road briefly, perhaps. It was in that seat that I had all the paraphernalia that I insist on bringing into the office every day. Books, pencils, pads, iPad, lunch, etc. I know I had leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner and that was unusual but nothing else. I’m not quite sure why I glanced away from the road.

Then, here’s the surprising part, I heard voices screaming “no.” A ton of commotion erupted in my head just as, to my left, a car came careening at my driver’s door, T-Boning me and Clarence and shoving us the rest of the way out of the intersection and near the right side of the street. Did I hear the cries of the folks in all the other cars? Was I imagining it? Is this some adrenalin rush that happens when your instincts kick in and tell you of danger? I don’t know, but I heard warnings.

The unique part of this car crash, unlike about a dozen before in 40 years of driving, is that it happened out of nowhere. I didn’t even see it coming. You know how it typically is when a car pulls out in front of you on a rainy road, like my first crash ever, and you can’t stop and instead see it happening for what feels like hours. You are helpless for what feels like a long time.

Instead, this was: One minute totally fine and wonderful. Next minute: Totally crushed and out of commission.

The other driver and I had a he-said; she-said situation on the sidelines. He felt like I’d entered the intersection too soon and before the red light had turned green. I felt like my light was green and I just have quick reflexes.  I suspected he was crashing through a yellow, near red light, into me. In the end, I was guilty enough at having taken my eye off the road to knuckle under and not continue with my objections.

No one got a ticket. As a matter of fact, in Houston, you don’t even have to call the cops if you can get both cars to the side of the road. Later, Houston police came to the scene at the insistence of our insurance folks (none of whom quite understand the dynamics of Houston traffic, certainly being from smaller cities.) But the two patrol cars and their officer-occupants didn’t even take out a notepad.

Everyone looked at the tragedy that was Clarence, wheels bent in like he was pigeon-toed. Then, they expressed concern at my condition – totally uninjured but high strung, edgy and standing in the middle of the intersection of Fannin and Binz in  one of the most congested cities in the country. The other driver kept being overly concerned about me and kind of over-the-top gentlemanly. His license plate was New York so certainly he knew about city driving. Maybe he was sincere, but I felt undermined. Of course, I’m prepared for a wreck. I drive Houston streets every day. I’d be silly to think this wouldn’t happen every few years or so. I wonder now at the social implications of such a pleasant person at the site of a car wreck. Did he suspect he could send me over that edge too easily so he needed to be extremely friendly? Probably so. All turned out for the best in the end.

So, it is today, almost two weeks after the incident occurred, that my true holiday begins. Clarence has been cleaned up, polished and repainted. Fortunately, his engine experienced no damage so he’s as good as new. I picked him up today and decked him out in his Christmas finery.

And me, I feel more attached to my new road warrior than ever. It didn’t hurt that while I was in a rental, I came to appreciate my First World attachment for my new Rogue with his moon roof, hands free phone, full navigation gear, Sirius radio, keyless entry and electric seats that can be warmed in the cold weather. New is good.

The same type of crash had happened in the early days with Vinny and then four more rear-enders. So, while I feel unscathed in my daily travels, I’m certainly not. Clarence had the tough wheels of Vinny to fill, but this life experience has accelerated my growing affection.  He took a hit for me and we both survived.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

December 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm

One Response

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  1. Yea Clarence! Thanks for taking the hit and for taking care of Denise. Glad that you’re back on your tires.

    Dave Andrus

    December 13, 2013 at 3:08 pm

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