Well, when one of my “meat” friends first saw my blog he said I should tell the story of when I totaled my truck in 2001.
Then reading Swishy's post about her cell phone/driving adventures today was the second sign from the Gods that the story should be told. So with two separate signs I decided I simply must tell y’all this story or risk angering the Gods. I do enough things to anger most self-respecting Gods so telling this story seems like a real gimme in the God appeasement category.
In 2001 I had a contract with IBM in Saint Louis Missouri so I traveled back and forth regularly. My airplane was broken down (never buy a German propeller, trust me on this, or as a pilot friend of mine says, "Friends don't let friends buy MT Propellers") and even before 911 and the so-called "security" we have now, I simply despised the airlines on so many levels that I could not make my self do it so I just drove to Saint Louis.
I was on I-44 about half way between Tulsa and Oklahoma City heading home to Dallas. I-44 through Oklahoma is GREAT since the speed limit is 75 mph. That makes it well worth $13 to cross half the state of Oklahoma on it. I generally run 7 mph over the speed limit so I had the cruise control set at 82 mph.
The sky was very ugly. It is going to rain but it had not started yet.
My wife calls me for a position report and we were still chatting when I came over the top of a hill and whoosh! It had been raining like crazy on top of this hill and the highway was covered in standing water. I immediately started to hydro-plane. I felt the rear wheels break loose first. I dropped the phone first thing, killed the cruise control and tried to get the truck back under control. It was like I was on a sheet of ice, nothing I did really had an effect on what the truck did. I was fishtailing back and forth slowly at first but on every cycle I would get just a little more sideways. On every cycle I also said out loud, “Oh shit!” The further sideways I turned the more emphasis that was added to the “oh shit”. In just a few seconds I was sliding nearly sideways down I-44 at about 80 mph. I think I might have said ”Oh shit!” A few more times!
Suddenly the tires decided to grab. That would normally be a good thing but since I was almost side ways pointing at a concrete median barrier at 80 mph traction was not a good thing at that particular moment. The wheels grabbed and WHAM- I hit the concrete lane divider, spun around a couple of times and came to a stop facing into oncoming traffic in a pouring rain with a seriously bent truck.
Now something you have to understand about me. I do talk to myself. I will use pilot training as an excuse. During pilot training and testing they always tell you to voice your thoughts out loud so that the instructor or examiner knows what you are thinking and why. For example, you could flunk an exam for being off course by a few degrees but if you say out loud, “I am off course but I am correcting to the left to get back on course” then you get a pass. No one is perfect so they are looking to see if you realize your error and correct it or if you just obliviously fly on into the imaginary mountain.
So, with that excuse firmly in place, I talk to myself. Immediately after the accident the cab of my truck is FULL of white smoke. I can barely see the passenger seat through all the smoke. So I say, in a loud, manly and incredibly brave voice, ”Oh shit! I'm on fire!!” The door handle is broken so I rolled the window down to reach the outside handle. The door unlatches but because of the crash damage it only opens an inch or so. Keeping my imaginary flight examiner in the loop I say out loud, “The door is jammed! I can’t get out!” I hit it with my shoulder a few times trying to force it open, it creaks and opens a little more but not much.
However, with the window open all the smoke clears out and I can see there is no fire, it was just the air bags! Well duh. I had never seen them go off before. (or since) They make a LOT of smoke!
Now that I can see I realize I am facing head on into a line of traffic that is trying desperately to stop before hitting me on the very same stretch of incredibly slick road that just took me out.
I now know *exactly* how that poor bunny in the middle of the highway feels.
I look down, the truck is still in gear and the engine is still running! So I decided to see if it would move. The front tires are rubbing the fenders very hard and I had to really gun the engine to get that truck to move against all the resistance. There was all kinds of grinding and popping noises as I forced that very broken truck to move over onto the shoulder. It was shedding pieces as it went.
Once off on the shoulder I shut the truck down and took a few moments to just breathe and shake a little (in a very manly way, of course ) .
So after that sanity break I decided I had better call the Highway Patrol. Phone, where in the heck is my phone? I start digging around and I find it on the far side of the truck under a pile of crap that used to be under the seats.
When I find it I can see the call timer is still ticking. Oh yeah, that's right, I was talking to my wife when it all hit the fan. Is she still on phone? I held it up to my ear and said “Honey?”
She was crying and hysterical which really confused me since I was the one that had hit that median. Once she pulled it together enough to explain it to me though I got it.
From her perspective the phone call went like:
“Yeah honey, I should be home around 7:00 so we should be able to… oh shit... oh shit!... oh SHIT! OH SHIT!!” Squeeeeeeel. BANG! Crash, clangity-clang.
Then my voice, "Oh shit! I'm on fire!!”
“The door is jammed! I can’t get out!”
Bam, bam, bam, bam.
Grrrr, GRRRRR, squeeeeeeeee, bang, pop, pop, pop-pop, grrrrrrrr, swish.
She thought all the sound effects of me moving the badly broken truck off the road were the sounds of a truck becoming an inferno, crackling, popping and roaring as it was consumed by flame. She was convinced she had just heard me burn to death.
So, don’t talk on the cell phone while driving Swishy, we don’t want your mom to hear you crash now do we? :)
(EDIT: Why can't I tell a short story?)