I liked speeding. I used to do it all the time. I loved to go fast. Loved the way the wind whipped my hair into a frenzy when the windows were cracked. Loved the blur of glass and chrome as I zipped by some slowpoke in the passing lane.
I’d only been caught once, on my way to my parent’s place in Florida for Mother’s Day. I was flying along, south of Macon, on some pine-canopied Georgia back road when a cop spotted me doing 85 in a 55 mile an hour zone. “Life is a highway…I’m gonna ride it…Are those blue lights? DAMMIT!”
Oops. I couldn’t flirt or pout or cry my way out of that one. The cop kindly reminded me, all the while maddeningly filling out a yellow ticket, that I should slow down because I was “too pretty to show up at my mom’s house in a body bag.”
As he, and his annoying mirrored-sunglasses walked back to his car, I thought “Screw you, Copper! You’re never gonna slow me down!”
I should have paid him more attention.
Fast forward to May. The day had been dreary; wet and grey but full of promise. I was getting out of town that night – I had plans! Plans that included tickets to a John Mellancamp concert in Atlanta, a late dinner out and best of all, my long-distance best friend! After I’d moved to the country I rarely saw him and it broke my heart, but tonight…we would party.
I watched the clock anxiously all afternoon, practically running to my car after work. 6 p.m. The concert started at 8:00, so I’d need to hurry if I was going to get to the city, pick Pacer up in Midtown then head to the southside in time for the concert. Unlocking the door, I threw my purse across the seat and thrust my key in the ignition.
It had stopped raining, but the roads were wet. Doesn’t that sound like the ultimate car accident cliché? “The orphan’s parents had gone for a drive one rainy night. The roads were wet…Dun Dun DUNNNN! “
Well, the roads were wet, but I was in a hurry and I didn’t really care. And my tires were bald, but I didn’t really care about that either. Hey, I was broke and couldn’t afford to replace them, not to mention I was 22 and hadn’t fully realized I was a mere mortal yet.
The drive bored me. I listened to the voices in my head and the radio and the swish of my tires kicking up rain as I barreled down I-20.
I had been riding for about an hour, and reached the six-lane freeway hell of Atlanta, when I hit a patch of standing water on the blacktop. Why my car hydroplaned and not any of the other thousands passing by that afternoon I have no idea. I call unfair!
I was in the middle of the six lanes, but astonishingly alone, not surrounded by a pack of frenzied commuters, the usual pattern for Atlanta drivers. As the tires lost traction, I registered the loss of control as floating, my car slipping above the pavement instead of on it.
Reality slowed to a crawl, perhaps because my brain was now moving in fast forward. In moments of crisis, your mind does funny things. My car swung in a swooping 360 in the middle of the freeway I thought it felt ballet, a graceful, horrible pirouette on pavement.
I remembered my father reminding me to always turn into the spin, but at that moment thinking ‘Turn into the spin… what does that mean??’
In the driver’s seat, I felt unearthly calm, watching myself from somewhere outside the car, more detached than a casual bystander. The car now facing backwards, I stared into the headlights of six lanes of traffic racing towards me with a kind of fascination. What could I do, really? Then I was facing the median. ‘That’s gonna hurt,’ I thought, but the car was already beginning our second 360.
I thought I was going to die. I knew if the oncoming cars didn’t do the job, the concrete blocks of the median would crush me in an instant. As I spun towards the oncoming traffic a second time I readied myself for impact, elbows bent, hands clenched painfully on the steering wheel. I noted there was no rush of memories in these last moments, but I did think of my puppy waiting for me at home. And then I remembered.
“Oh God,” I whispered out loud. “I hope my mother doesn’t find my porn box!” That would have been the ultimate tragedy to her – her daughter dying in a car crash and then, while sorting out my effects, discovering a Rubbermaid tote full of “Blacks on Blondes” and “Anal Adventures 19.”
It wasn’t a prayer, it wasn’t even a wish, but someone out there heard me, because in the next instant my car was facing the proper direction on the road and it slid quickly sideways into the emergency lane, stopping inches from the median like an ice skater on a rink, as though I had parked it there myself. I had been gently pushed out of harm’s way. I think that left me more shaken than the spinning.
Cars driving by slowed to a crawl, drivers yelling from open windows “Are you ok?” “Do we need to call 911?”
So shocked I could hardly roll my window down I called shakily “I’m fine.” “I’m fine!” We were all astounded by my luck, or providence…two 360’s on a freeway at 7:00 in the evening and the car wasn’t even scratched? That just doesn’t fucking happen.
I believe in God. I believe in the power of prayer. But why would he save a speeding sinner on her way to party on a Friday night? The conclusion I have come to is that it was actually my mom. She’s a pretty good lady. And God realized finding her daughter’s interracial porn collection might have given her a stroke – which she didn’t deserve, especially not right after her kid was tragically killed.
I was spared, I believe, so that I could find a better hiding place for all those Triple X films I’d been collecting.
And, not that it really matters, but the concert sucked. After that kind of an opening act, it was pretty damn anticlimactic.