Originally posted to Facebook Notes
Shortly after moving to Ann Arbor for one of my first ‘real’ jobs after College, I would often spend my lunch hours from doing technical support on the south side of town, exploring various parts of town while running errands. Being new to town I not only didn’t know the layout of town but didn’t really know any people either.
Although I was one of the first people fortunate to have a portable cell phone (actually a radio shack car phone built into a nylon bag that would make most women’s purses look small), the high cost of the handhelds and changes in the service plans that favored the company caused me to dispose of it, so I would generally rely on my trust old ham-radio to help me find my way around. But I knew where I was off to on this particular trip. I decided to head up State Street to hit Maple and head west. I hadn’t really explored a lot on that side of town yet and had a couple of stops I wanted to make on the way.
On the first stop I picked up a Snapple iced tea. It was a nice, sunny late-spring day so I had the window rolled down and was enjoying the weather. I had the radio clicked on talk (go figure) and I was coming past the high school and had my first stop just after the curve ahead.
Spotting my stop on the left side, I signaled to turn and grabbed for my ice tea to take a drink. I happened to glance up into the rear view mirror just in time to see some ‘GQ’ type guy in a small white convertible – top down – pulling into my lane. Only problem was, he was looking over his shoulder to see if the lane was clear of traffic from behind and didn’t see that I was already almost to a stop with my left turn signal on!
Before I could think or react, BLAM-CRASH,BOOM!
My Mazda truck got shoved up about a good 4 feet and was now slightly side ways in the road. I couldn’t tell though because my face was completely drenched in iced tea including my eyes which were burning now from the sensation of sugar and tanic acid. A few after thuds band bangs alerted me to the fact that the fiberglass cap on my truck had been shot straight up into the air being ripped clear of the truck and was now bouncing in the right hand lane. A few more seconds to re-adjust and settle the obvious manic stream of thoughts and the pain hit me in the front of my mouth.
I fumbled for the center console to put the iced tea down and felt – both front teeth chipped and quite sore from the impact of the rim of the glass.
The guy, luckily wearing his seat belt (and me as well) was perfectly OK, but his car couldn’t say as much. Although my truck absorbed the impact on the bumper and barely had a scratch on it – being mostly lifted up and then pushed forward, his car which stoved under mine had a nice ‘v’ wedge pushed into the middle of it (or so I later found out as I still could not see) and would ultimately be considered a total wreck. But he had managed to get out and come to my passenger window – still open – to see if I was ok.
He was obviously at fault for the accident and I wondered if his concern was as much for my safety or for his own liability. Having just finished my own self-assessment and discovering my ‘half-teeth’ I tried to wipe the ice tea from my face to see (still couldn’t) and just answered. “uh, not really – and I can’t see! My drink splashed right in my eyes when you hit me!” And I also pulled back my upper lip and pointed at my two teeth, as much to show him the damage as to perhaps gauge his response as to how bad it looked. (a prior attempt at using the mirror confirmed my still frosty vision)
By that point the traffic was already backing up so we set to the first priority as trying to get out of the road. Still being right after the curve in the road, it was as much a matter of our own safety as being courteous to other drivers. With him helping guide me outside the window I slowly drove in front of my cap onto a side street. By the time I got the truck parked and climbed out, I was able to see just clearly enough to help him carry the truck cap back over and put it back on the truck – at least temporarily enough to get home to re-attach it. Then we set about slowly getting his car pushed onto the side street as well. It was barely runnable and he couldn’t fully turn the right wheel due to the front of the car collapsing in toward it’s wheel well.
By then I was already feeling sympathy for the guy. Having been ‘at fault’ in an accident about 8 years prior, I knew how vicious the insurance costs after-the-fact could be – but in mine I was fortunate enough as to not have caused any injury to anyone. Here he was, obviously at fault, my car barely scratched, his totaled – how could it get any worse?
Well not having a cell phone (he didn’t either – and as I say, they weren’t as popular in 1995 so I doubt any other drivers called) I thought back to the ham radio again. I jumped back in the truck and was just getting ready to ask another HAM to call a 911 when I saw an Ann Arbor patrol car driving by behind on the road where the collision had just taken place. Less than a minute or two had passed since the accident so I could barely make it out, still glossy-eyed from ‘tea-eye’.
Instead of keying up the mic, I beeped the horn a couple of times and the gesture worked. The cop turned on their lights and sirens and backed up to the side street we were on, pulling behind the guy’s totaled convertible.
If there was any way this guy’s day could possibly get worse, well fate found a way to drop it. As I stepped out of the car to walk toward the cop, she hesitated (I couldn’t even see clearly enough to tell it was a she – those damn uniforms make some women look so ‘butch’ – but her voice gave it away) and it took me a moment to realize, she had called my name in the form of an inquiry. “Scott??”
So you’re a young overly-self-confident guy, driving around stylin’ in your nice, shiny convertible, ya go to change lanes and don’t see the bright red truck stopped in front of you, slam into it, total your car, injure the other guy…. and the cop that happens to drive by knows them by name!!! Now you have to feel sorry for the guy.
I told the cop I couldn’t see and explained the tea, and before we even got down to the nature of the accident ended up shaking hands and getting a short “where ya been” back and forth with Lisa Ladd-Billig from high school. I told her about how I was working on the south side of town doing Tech Support after going to Oakland University. She told me about how she had married Jeff Billig and they both went through police academy and were (then) working on the Ann Arbor PD.
Suffice it to say, we both had to worry about getting back to work eventually and her sooner than me, so we got into the details of the accident, she arranged for a tow truck for the other guy, but my truck was again, barely scratched so it was just a matter of exchanging the appropriate information, filing the reports and getting the rest of my vision back. My teeth weren’t bleeding so I went back to work but was allowed to leave early to get my teeth worked on under the circumstances. All an all an interesting day as a new resident of the A2!