07 July, 2006

Playing in Traffic

I'm still getting settled in my mom's house. So, I had to drive today from the northern suburbs down to San Diego proper for to get me some of these. On the way down I had ample opportunity to contemplate the fact that SoCal drivers are... how shall I say it? Crazy!!! I can't count the number of people who (with and without turn signals) cut into my lane about two feet in front of me on the freeway as traffic moved at speeds approaching 80 mph. On inclines when I could see ahead, I swear it looked like a video game up there. I can't count how many times narrow misses ahead left me with visions of my position in a multi-car pileup, either. And my brain just refused to comprehend that in the lane next to the slow lane the prevailing speed was 75+ mph.

And yet nobody crashed, and traffic kept going rather smoothly in the early afternoon as I headed south. But purchases purchased and stowed, I returned north during rush hour. Bad idea.

Not too bad, though. Traffic zipped along for half the trip until I rounded a curve and was confronted with a sea of redlights out to the horizon. But two miles of hills in a Honda Civic with manual transmission at 5 mph with the sweet sounds of baseball emanating from the speakers wasn't intolerable.

Happily minding my own business next to the exit lane, relaxed and unstressed over it all as I coasted along in neutral... beautiful hills... puffy white clouds... idiot in the SUV behind me...

Yup. Wham!!!.

She hit me nice and solid with her big SUV. And I wasn't even stopped! My previously happy and relaxed body bounced and flailed around the front seat. Fortunately, no damage to me other than a bit of a headache this evening. But my three-year-old car now has some very colorful streaks and mangled whorls on the back bumper.

But oh no, it's never simple.

Traffic was crawling along at about 5 mph, so I got out to talk to the woman who looked at me like I was crazy, saying nothing. I asked her for her insurance info and she demurred, suggesting we first move from the 2nd lane to the side of the freeway. I protested, as experience has taught me (painful lesson) not to move the vehicles after a crash. She seemed quite prepared to argue--pointing out the traffic backing up behind us--so I figured she'd be more cooperative if I acceded to her wishes.

Bad move.

Perched in her SUV behind me, she patially blocked my view to get over a lane, and unlike Arizona nobody slowed down to let me in. Behind me she started to aggressively nose her way into the lane, and I figured she was getting impatient with me. But as she pulled out and passed me I began to have a very bad feeling. I memorized her license plate and managed to pull in two or three cars behind her.

By the time I got to the exit it was obvious that she was gone.

I followed the exit to a new and unfamiliar freeway. It promptly led to another right-bearing exit, and each yard led me deeper into unfamiliar territory. Shaken by the accident and panicking, I ended up in the space between the freeway and an exit, without a callbox, business sign, or street sign in sight.

How did I tell 911 where I was? I didn't, 'cause I wasn't really sure where I was, though I tried. The CHP eventually found me and the officer was very nice. They'll be tracking down the driver and if she doesn't fess up, they'll put her in a photo lineup for me.

Mostly I just wanted to sit and cry. These last two weeks have been so hard, and this was kind of the last straw. But I was still twenty minutes from home in freeway traffic and falling apart wasn't an option.

Managed to still be rattled enough to take the wrong exit home... the very one that required miles of backtracking and side roads to correct. Finally made it home, of course. Ugh.

I really hate driving. And going from the Arizona outback to SoCal freeways? There are no words...

Update: Playing in Traffic, part deux