Dancing With the Devil

Been a while since my last entry. Sorry about that! Anyway, last week was an up and down, rollercoaster ride for me. Monday: back to work, nothing too strenuous there. Tuesday: started out fine. I put in an extra hour at work because I needed to have Friday off for my scheduled colonoscopy. (Yeeha). Heading home from work I stopped off at the Quick Trip store on 65th street to fill up my Subaru Outback that is my trusty winter ride. With that done, I headed north on Hwy 52 towards Zumbrota and home. About a mile south of Pine Island traffic was the usual mix of rush hour commuters, big trucks and such. Roads were dry and even though it was dark, traffic was moving along at a brisk 70 plus miles per. A large semi came up behind me north of Oronoco and pulled out to pass. As he got along side of me he seemed to slow a bit and so we were side by side for a good half mile or so. At that point he started to back off just a bit and I thought he might be getting ready to move into the slow lane, where I was. Suddenly, I noticed his headlights were awfully close to me in my left rearview mirror. It looked like he was crowding me in my lane. Right after that I heard a crunch and felt the Subaru skid sideways right in front of the truck. Things happened in rapid succession after that. There was no time to react and I couldn’t believe he had hit me at first. It felt like being pushed by a freight train sideways down the tracks. Since my cruise control was still set, the car shot across the road and into the median but not before the semi gave the car a final spin so that I was facing backwards and still travelling seventy miles per hour alongside of the big rig. I remember seeing the headlight of the truck very close like a large unblinking eye staring me down before entering the ditch and hearing scraping, crunching sounds. The sensation of being pushed by a freight train stopped only to be replaced by the feeling of going backwards rapidly. Instinctively, I clamped on the brake pedal. Not sure if that helped or not but the car spun around and faced forward at that point, while still travelling at nearly highway speed. As I veered down the embankment the catch fence appeared and with no steering control the car slammed into it and bounced off, careening to the bottom of the ditch and coming to a welcome stop a hundred yards or so from when I first entered and not too far from the Pine Island County 11 overpass. A small puff of smoke or steam came from the left front of the car that shone in the smashed out headlight. With the car still running, I unbuckled my seatbelt and attempted to exit out the drivers door. No luck with that as it was jammed shut so I climbed over the console and popped out of the passenger side door. Another car came to a stop on the left shoulder. A middle aged lady emerged and tentatively asked if I was OK. I said I was. Looking up the road I saw the offending truck with its right blinker on but instead of pulling over, to my amazement the truck just kept going. A quick call to 911 was placed. The dispatcher took my location and assured me that a state trooper was on the way. I turned my attention to my good Samaritan lady. We compared notes as to what just happened and she said that she was behind the truck and saw the whole thing unfold in front of her. She told me that at one point I was traveling backwards in the ditch, something that I already knew. She also graciously offered to stay and wait with me until the state trooper arrived to give her statement. I stepped around to the drivers side of the damaged Subaru to survey the damage. In the dim light of the overpass streetlights I could see that the driver side door was caved in, the left front fender was mangled and the headlight lens was smashed. There was a large black patch on the left side of the rear bumper, left by the semi’s front tire, no doubt.
I should have dropped to my knees and thanked God for sparing my life at that point but I didn’t, too jittery with adrenaline flowing and quite miffed by the truckers actions, both before and after the accident. Another good Samaritan stopped his pickup on the southbound exit ramp and made his way across the highway to check on my welfare. I asked him if he had a flashlight and he pulled out his cell phone. I popped the hood on the car and we both looked for any fluids leaking out like oil or antifreeze. Seeing none, I closed the hood and thanked the man, who said he was a truck driver himself, for stopping and to please be careful when crossing the highway back to his pickup. The trooper arrived shortly after that. He took the lady’s statement, then sent her on her way and asked for my license and insurance info. I was still shaking enough that it was an effort to retrieve the cards from my wallet. He headed back to his cruiser to file the report and I took refuge in the Subaru to stay warm. I placed a call to my wife informing her of the events and to assure her that I was OK and the car might be drivable. She wondered if she should start heading my way and I told her to sit tight unless I phoned needing a ride. The trooper came back with my license and a business card with his name and a case number on it. He suggested that I try driving the car up out of the ditch and carefully cross the highway to the right shoulder. That went pretty well because there was very little snow in the ditch and the Subaru is an all wheel drive model. I stopped again on the right shoulder of Highway 52 and the trooper told me to try driving it home unless there was a problem and then to pull over and he would call a tow truck. I thanked him for his services, shook his hand and headed slowly for home. The car drove just fine but every time I hit even the smallest bump I could hear the front fender scraping on the left front tire. Arriving home a few minutes later with the adrenaline shakiness gone, I had a chance to reflect on the events that had just transpired.
As a longtime biker and frequent traveler on Highway 52, I have an accepted level of risk every time I strap on my helmet and swing a leg over my motorcycle. This also transfers to every time I click the seatbelt in a car or truck. There is not too much that happens on the road that scares me, but this episode did. Big time. I had questions to answer. As I looked around my shop and saw unfinished projects, I had to wonder: What if my life had ended right there by the Pine Island exit six days before my 58th birthday? I have things to do, grandkids to play with, inventions to complete, rides to go on, music to play, sunsets to enjoy. All of that could have been taken away in the blink of an eye. The fact that I escaped the violent energy of the accident without a scratch when I could have easily been squashed like a bug leads me to just one conclusion: I had just been the recipient of a modern day miracle. And more than that, God has more plans for me. At this point I don’t know what exactly that will be but you can bet I will be paying attention. I made a pledge to my wife to be a better husband that night and also to be a better father, grandpa and Christian as well. I have forgiven the truck driver for his mistakes and prayed that he has learned a thing or two and that he made it home safely that night to his family as well. For that’s the only way to move forward after something like this happens. You may say that I was just lucky to survive such a thing but I say God has given me a second chance at life. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. For I have danced with the devil and I fear him no more.