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Prelude to a 'Bird

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					At some point in my life I started setting goals for myself. They have changed over the years and perhaps I‟ve lost interest in some and was deterred by others. I think it was in 2002 that I consciously considered what three goals I wanted to achieve. By when? I don't think I got that far. What I wanted? 1. Find the girl, 2. Live in New York City, 3. Own a muscle car. Well, I achieved all of this in three years but in the reverse order. I supposed I never considered the practicality of timing. The first of these goals was the only I was proactively perusing in 2002. I wasn't doing very well, but I was enjoying my time in California and in no hurry to go back east yet. And a muscle car is something I‟ve always pictured parked in my garage, attached to my big house in suburbia some years later when I settle down with perhaps kids and could afford such luxuries. This eMemoir is about goal number 3. It starts with the deadly game of chance that I used to play twice a day while living in Southern California. Like Russian roulette, if you keep pulling the trigger, eventually you'll taste the forgiveness. I tasted a luckily less deadly forgiveness on July XX, 2003. The game was "commuting to work in LA traffic" and the bullet was a 2003 Ford Expedition. It was a big bullet. The clock read 8:53 in the morning and I was actually going to be on time for work. As usual, the far right lane was the less trafficked and I chose it. There are reasons why most don‟t. At 9:00 AM it becomes legal to park in this lane and there are always a handful of parkers who take the liberty to start early. Also, often drivers will make a right turn and slow down traffic in that lane. In both cases, I‟ve managed to avoid being caught behind such delays when possible. Or I don‟t. If I can‟t make it into the next lane safely, I stop. What are my options really? I suppose I could just barrel through whatever vehicles are in my way. The Expedition took that option. Perhaps 10 blocks from my office, I did get caught behind a car making a right turn. There are pedestrians crossing the street so of course the turning car had to wait for them to cross, as did the car behind it, and the one behind that one, and the next car, and then I as well. It was a sudden stop, common in LA traffic and especially in that lane. All 4 of us seemed to handle it just fine. As I came to a stop and looked into my rear view mirror. I consider myself an above average driver. Yes, true, so do most drivers and that statistically is impossible. Though I am assertive in my driving and my average speed is usually higher than most, I believe that so is my defensive awareness. I am not reckless, I check my mirrors every 48 seconds, and check my blind spots before even starting to change lanes, and always consider the “what ifs” ahead of me on the road. Looking into the rear view mirror I was considering the “what ifs” behind me. Problem was my only defensive move was to brace for impact. The Expedition did not slow. The driver did not check her blind spot and perhaps didn‟t even look in her mirror when attempting to change lanes. I saw her attempt it and she almost ran into oncoming traffic. Those in that lane blew their horns in fright and warning and her reaction was to jerk the wheel back into the lane she was in. Good instincts. But her careless, disregarding assumption that she‟d make it and didn‟t need to slow set her up for a fall. It set me and 3 other cars up for a crash. Her massive SUV monster plowed through my little Nissan Sentra commuter car and tossed it, along with me, onto the sidewalk, but not until after I rammed into the car ahead of me completing the second link in the chain reaction. I found myself facing a building on the other side of the sidewalk. My car was perpendicular to the road and had come close to hitting pedestrians walking by, perhaps the same ones crossing the street in the first place.

I was dazed. Adrenaline running, I consciously moved slow trying to break my disorientation and be sure nothing was broken on me. I lifted my arms and turned my neck feeling no pain. Slowly, I stepped out of the car still feeling physically fine. There was on an adrenaline high, but nothing more. The whiplash wouldn‟t show itself until the next morning. As they say, it does take a while for it to show. And apparently tensing up and bracing for impact just makes it worse. Yay. I turned my attention to the other drivers to see if they were ok. They also turned to me and each other, all assuring each other‟s safety. Pedestrians and witnesses did the same. It gives me goose bumps thinking about that again. That innate human need to go to the aid of those in need of help fills me with wonderment. I despise plenty about human nature. And the routine of life in our society seems to suppress such good gestures at times. It‟s a shame really. I don‟t even say “bless you” to the person who just sneezed on the train next to me. Why not? Everyone was ok. The only person not out of her car was the Expedition driver. I went over to check on her, but she was fine. She was talking on her cell phone and I wondered if she had been on the phone while driving too. She held her finger up signaling to me that she‟d be „just a minute‟. I shared that with the others, also explaining that she was the cause of it all. For me it was easy to tell. For the person in front of me it probably seemed like I did the job, and so forth. But looking at the layout of the impacted cars, it became obvious what happened. The Expedition was actually passed all the cars she smashed. Her momentum carried her through us. I didn‟t want to lose sight of her, nor did any of the others. Someone quickly jotted her license plate number down. Another had already called the police. In Los Angeles, there is a huge issue with uninsured drivers. It‟s insane how common and accepted it is. There is a simple loophole in the DMV practices in California that allow you to have license plates, giving the illusion that you‟re legit, but no insurance or registration for that matter. Out of this fear that this woman may bolt without swapping insurance info, we all had our eyes on her like cats watching a mouse before pouncing. Turns out we didn‟t have to pounce. She did come a minute or so later, insurance info in hand and we all traded information. She was in shock a bit. At least I assume she was. Her comfort level seemed too high for someone who just caused a 5 car pileup. She seemed calm and poised which made me think either she was in shock or she was an experienced crasher. I guess both could be true. She didn‟t say sorry or take responsibility. She offered no excuses or reasons which could be attributed to shock or a defensive liability posture. I thought she seemed nice enough. She could have been my age, perhaps a little older. She was wearing a nurse‟s uniform, no doubt on her way to work as well. The police had come as we where swapping info. At first they didn‟t want to. To answer to every single traffic accident in LA would severely handicap the police force. It‟s understandable. But this one was pretty big and still blocking traffic. Well, my car wasn‟t, unless we count foot traffic. I turned my attention to my car as the policeman took statements from others. I think I was the last he spoke with. My trunk was gone. It had completely crumpled and just no longer existed. Glass from the rear windows had shattered and shot forward, hitting me and scattering across the interior. Pieces of my car and contents of my truck were in the street and on the sidewalk. I picked up my bumper and threw it into the back through the newly ventilated widow. Luckily that day I put my laptop in the front seat, not the trunk. I check on it, brushing the glass off. It seemed fine. After clearing retrieving my parts and things, I took a step back and looked at my 1997 Nissan Sentra, shaking my head in mourning. Too early, I thought. It was still in its prime. I had bought the car used only a little over a year ago from a dealer in Glendale. Though I had some check engine issues in the first few days, which the dealer took care of for me, the car had been a good one. I could hear the timing chain rattle on occasion and knew it would eventually go, but not right away. It was a perfect commuter car for LA and the miserable traffic I had to

face every day. The Sentra was a good car to pimp too. It wasn‟t as common as the Hondas, so a bit harder to find parts. But I was set on upgrading and increasing the horsepower on the little guy. Because it was so light, just a few more hp would have really given it some zip. I suppose it‟s a good thing I hadn‟t started yet. I made a call to my office and told them I‟d be late to work because I just go into an accident and had to deal with towing the car away. They thought I was crazy and told me to just take the day off. The HR person even called me asking if I was alright and insisted that I see a doctor even if I was feeling ok. It was probably good advice. I could have been in shock. The police officer finally took my statement. I was the last he spoke with. I described exactly what happened and that was it. He had called a tow truck and my car was being loaded onto the bed to be carried back to Pasadena, 19 miles and $180 away. I fronted the cash knowing the Exhibition‟s insurance would surely reimburse me. It was rather clear who was at fault here and having so many witnesses who also volunteered their contact info made me confident that all would be ok. The only variable was the insurance company and if they were a bunch of dicks. But they weren‟t. In a matter of a couple weeks, I was reimbursed for the expenses of towing, given an allowance to rent a car, awarded $1500 for medical treatment and personal distress, and $5,300 for my car. I could have gotten more for the distress, but I really wasn‟t too distressed. $1500 was the max the claims manager could give without needing investigations and delays. I was happy with what they offered and the amount they appraised the car for was fair. I even got them to raise that amount a bit. The pain in the ass part of this was what to do about getting a new car. What will $6,000 approx get me? I paid a low $5,600 for this Sentra. I searched long and hard for it doing much research and testdriving crap before deciding on it. It really was a great deal. At the time this car was probably worth close to $7,000, but the dealer had gotten a good deal from wherever he got it from and was able to pass on the savings. So what now? Well, I started the search all over again, two searches actually, one of practicality and the other of lust. I knew the practical thing to do would be buying another Sentra or alike for commuting purposes. But what I wanted and had been dreaming of, more so in the recent months, was a muscle car. Driving a Muscle car 40 miles round trip every day is not a good idea. It is very unfair to the classic car that should be cared for, not abused and used as a daily driver, especially in LA traffic. What a horrible thought, especially for a historian. No, that just wasn‟t practical. Well, it wasn‟t practical unless I owned two cars! I could have one crappy commuter car and then my muscle car! It was a great idea, but for $6,000, I‟d just end up with 2 crappy cars. Practicality had won over and I was deep in search of another Sentra, but not finding any contenders. I did not want to buy a new car and have to deal with a car payment. As a matter of fact, I‟ll never buy a new car. From my perspective, it‟s a waste of money. I was in car-less limbo for weeks with no way out. My roommates Mikee and Matt were generous enough to lend me their cars to get to work. It appeared I would have to simply put in some of my own money or get a small loan to cover purchasing another used vehicle. There were no deals to be found. But my dreams of muscle-car-ness were saved by a Gold Line. (To be continued)


				
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