My youngest son asked me the other day if I’ve ever been in a car crash. He likes hearing my stories. This is the story of my first automobile accident.
I was maybe 19 years old, somewhere around there. I had just gotten my hands on a car. A real working automobile. 1981 Mazda hatchback, stick shift, blue. It looked like it belonged in a junkyard, but it drove, stopped, and turned. What else do ya need really? It was a hot summer afternoon, I was cruising through the suburbs, drinking a beer and not giving a damn about anything. Somehow I didn’t notice the stop sign. I was going about 40 miles per hour, when suddenly a large SUV, towing a trailer, started crossing my path probably going 30 miles per hour. “Oh shit. This is gonna hurt.”, says the little voice inside my head.
BOOM! I run into the side of the SUV, T-bone the son of a bitch. Because it was towing a trailer, it rolled. Three times, then skidded on the roof for a good 15 feet. “Those people are fucked. I think I mighta just killed someone.”, says that same little voice. To make matters worse, I spilled my beer. I just opened it too. So now I’m smelling like a goddam beer wagon. What’s a fellow to do? It took about three nanoseconds for me to decide to turn the key, start the car back up and get the hell out of dodge. But wait. This car won’t start. Ok, option two: be a good guy and try to render aid to the other vehicle.
As I exit my own wreck, I see that the front of the hood is smashed all the way into the firewall. How am I not injured? I climb out and approach the upside down SUV to ask if anyone is hurt. A thick Russian accent informs me everyone is ok, but they are trapped, the door won’t open. I tell the front passenger seat occupant to turn his head and cover his eyes, then I kicked the window out with my steel toed boot. After that, I started helping everyone out of the wreck. There were six of them, three couples on their way back from a camping trip, all of them about my same age but with nice clothes, nice straight white teeth, and the soft dull faces of those who live happy lives.
The cops finally get there, and I’m sure I’m gonna get the bracelets put on me. They surprise me and give me a ticket for no license, no insurance, and reckless driving.
A few days later, I head down to the public defender’s office. What a joke. They had this one lawyer as the sole public defender for six different suburbs. Between Lynnwood, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Mill Creek and Bothell, they probably arrested a hundred people a day. They just signed this dude up to fulfill their constitutional obligations. The guy had a private practice too. I ain’t bitching, I was guilty anyhow.
So I get to his office and ask for the police report. His secretary says I can’t have it, but I can look at it. Ok, great. She hands it to me, and as soon as she leaves the room, I walk out the door with it.
I never bother going to court, end up with a warrant, go to jail, yawn. I think they gave me 10 days or something, and a big fine. But the names on the police report stick with me. The kid was driving his dad’s truck. Their names were uncommon.
Not very long after all this, I spot that uncommon name in the newspaper. He was big news, a Russian mobster going around snatching up the college age children of Russian oligarchs in Seattle, then calling the parents back in Russia to demand ransom. I seem to remember he cut off a finger or two to get his point across. Of course, he claimed he was merely a businessman running an import/export business and was being framed as part of a vendetta.
Of all the fucking cars I have to run into, it had to be his. The most dangerous man in the suburbs. In retrospect, I’m glad it was him and not some upstanding citizen. This dude never sic’d an insurance company on me, never tried to sue me, never asked for a dime (Not that I had anything). He just bought another truck and went about his business.