The Crash

Over on Rowan’s blog, she talks about some phobias and fears of hers…This post was originally going to cover all of my own but when I started discussing one of the fears that comes-and-goes it filled up a lot more of the page then I expected. Guess this will be a series ’cause I’ve got a couple more major phobias to talk about…

One of the fears that has come and gone (mostly ’cause I don’t hear it much anymore) is the screeching of tires and then the subsequent crash of a vehicle (everytime I hear the screeching I tense up, although it’s not as bad as it was)….There is a history to this fear though. When I was in Virginia Beach in the Navy, I headed out on the town with a couple of buddies (we’ll call them J and M) and we hit some of the nightclubs on the strip there. One of the guys, J, was 20 years old (found out later, I was under the impression that he was 22 and he had an ID saying that as well).

We hit up a haunted house, grabbed some dinner, had an all-around good time. Well, the clubbing began and the drinks began to flow. Since we were in separate cars, I slowed down and began drinking water like there was no tomorrow about 2 hours before we were to leave…By the time we had left, I was just about stone-cold sober. Well, we all thought the “other guy” was fine. When we left the parking garage, I was in front and J was driving behind me. Both him and M lived on the ship and I had told them that if they’d like to, they could come crash on the floor of my apartment so they didn’t have to go back to the ship. They agreed and followed me out of the parking garage. As I passed the security guard he gave me “the head nod” and I nodded back.

It was one of those spiral parking garages and I got a bit ahead of them. I guess J was worried that he’d lose me so he floored it and came around a turn way too fast and all I heard was the squeal of brakes and the skidding of tires. Usually those sounds don’t bug me much. What followed is what haunted me for years and still gives me chills (told you it comes and goes).

The tires skidded, there was a loud crash. Then another one. Then another crash. Then a scream and a groan. Then J shot past me as I stared in my rear view mirror and watched the security guard stumble out from in between a Blazer and another car and then collapse on the ground in a heap.

The squealing tires carried off into the distance and I sat in my car for what seemed an eternity but was truly only about 5 seconds before I jumped out of my truck, turned around, and raced full-throttle back up the exit ramp to the guard. He was drifting in and out of consciousness and moaning about the pain in his legs. It was amazing to me to see how many witnesses appeared out of the woodwork. I didn’t even have a chance to call 911 because one of the witnesses had already done it. I could hear the sirens within about 2 minutes.

One of the witnesses began questioning me as to whether I was with them or not. I confirmed that, yes, they were coworkers of mine. While waiting for the police to arrive, I called J quickly and said “Hey man!!!! You hit somebody!!!! Get back here!!!” He told me that he couldn’t do it and he was going to do this that and the other. He then hung up on me.

I called both of my parents and told them exactly what had happened and said “Oh shit, I’ve got less than 6 months left in the Navy and they’re going to try to hang me for this.” Both parents said that I needn’t worry but I knew how my ship was. I knew how they seemed to get pleasure out of punishing the enlisted men. I was not holding out any sort of hope. What was really bad (and I knew this but am not one to “pull rank” out on the town) was that I was the highest ranking one of the three of us. I knew that would have something to play in the whole drama.

The police arrived. The witnesses that were around nodded in my general direction and said “that guy knows them”. The police came over and asked me if this was true. I said that yes I did know them. I gave the name of J to the police officer and she asked if I had anyway of getting ahold of him. I said that yes I did and I would try again.

After repeated calls, frantic rebukes, and finally talking to the passenger, J agreed to return to the scene. As soon as he arrived, the police grabbed him out of his vehicle and M was forced to come over to me. Neither of us was allowed to speak to J. He was put in the back of the police car and we were both asked a few more questions, then the night was over. Turns out that what had fully happened was that J nailed one vehicle and created a domino effect. He had ruined 4 vehicles, pinning the security guard between the first two.

By the time I got home to bed, it was 6 am. At 7am I was woken up by a phone call from my ship asking what the hell had happened. I explained as best as I could in my half-awake state and then went back to sleep for a couple more hours.

When I woke up, I went to the hospital to visit the security guard. He was not friendly. Since I had been with J and M and he knew this (not sure how unless somebody told him) he refused to see me. I actually had been the one to help him as best I knew how. When he was moaning on the ground, I held his hand and his head telling him that help was on the way. He didn’t hate me during those few moments, it almost felt that him and I were the only two people in the area. He told me his name and I kept reassuring him by name that all would be fine (I honestly don’t remember his name anymore).

So, anyway, back to the hospital. I asked the nurse how he was doing since he wouldn’t see me. She said that his legs were bruised up pretty bad but he didn’t break anything and he would be fine.

The fallout when I got to work on Monday was immediate. The ship was full of gossip like a bunch of old ladies sitting on the front porch chatting. The story was so distorted that nobody had it right.

We (J, M, and myself) had a disciplinary review board where the “case” was reviewed by several Chief Petty Officers. As much as I disliked my chief, I disliked him even more when he made efforts to hang me out to dry. He seemed to be volunteering reasons for me to get in trouble. Luckily for me, one of the chiefs who liked me (and I played movies for him all the time…you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours!) brought up my decent reputation, the fact that I was “short”, and the fact that I had nothing major on my record. I got a stern yelling about being the highest-ranking sailor in the group but that was the extent of it. Not to put it off lightly, it was a very unfriendly talking-to but it was nowhere near as bad as they COULD have done.

I got subpoeanaed to appear in court as a witness in September of 2001 (I left the Navy and Virginia in August) and I called the lawyer from Florida. He said that the guard and his family were suing and he could probably get all the information he needed from me over the phone and not to worry about it. I guess they withdrew my name as a witness and that was that.

Now you know. It was ugly and that’s one of my phobias that comes and goes. I’m sure plenty of people have that fear ‘cause nobody wants to crash their car unless they’re in a demolition derby but that fear has extra significance for me because I’ve never tensed up really like that until AFTER that whole mess.

Thoughts? (Stealing W’s closing line again!)
posted Fri, 05-13-05

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