As cars go, little Emmerson was a bit timid. My previous Ford, Scout, was a big old Explorer who was brimming with confidence, loved to run, and looked on the highway as his oyster. Emmer, however, was a somewhat different story. Sometimes he got a bit uneasy when we’d be passed by some fool racing on the freeway, whipping from lane to lane, an accident waiting to happen. Whenever we’d pass an crash, I could almost feel him cringe.
And you’ve noticed that I’m talking about him in the past tense. Just a week ago, one of those accidents got him. You’ve heard stories of people who have been in horrendous wrecks, but end up walking away although it looks like they should have been carted off in an ambulance. And now I’m one of those people.
If Las Vegas isn’t the red-light-running capital of the world, it’s got to be right up there near the top. For this reason, I am exceedingly careful about crossing a street. On this day at this intersection, I had a red light. I stopped. A young man on a skate board was on the sidewalk next to me. He also stopped; well, as much as a skateboarder can — he was doing little back-and-forths and quick turns on the sidewalk, waiting for the light to turn green.
When the light changed, I did what I have learned to do in Las Vegas — I looked to my left. I don’t mean glanced or cut my eyes, no. I turn my head and I look. No cars at all. I looked right. Three lanes of stopped traffic. I started out and then like (really I think this expression is appropriate here) a bat out of hell, a car shot through the light and in that instant was directly in front of me.
The next thing I knew, Emmer was facing back the way we had come, there was smoke, the horn was honking and a voice was saying over and over “I’m calling 9-1-1. I’m calling 9-1-1.” Not a voice from above, I hasten to add. Of course, in mid day traffic at a busy intersection, I’m sure there were plenty of people calling 911.
Although I knew intellectually that the smoke was from the airbag, my instincts were screaming at me, “Get Out! Get OUT!” But the door was jammed. I pushed and pushed but it would only open a couple of inches. Suddenly the skateboarder was there and yanked the door open. “What happened?” I asked. “She ran the red light. You hit her.”
He helped me over to the median and suddenly there were paramedics and Highway Patrol vehicles converging. A troop of cadets poured out of the fire station right behind me and someone in a pickup truck pulled up and told me to sit in the back — no, not the bed of the truck, the extended cab seat.
“Are you okay?” he asked. “Shaken,” I told him, “but not stirred.” The cadets were baffled. I guess James Bond was before their time.
I realized that I had not gotten any information from the skateboarder — he saw the whole thing. “Don’t worry,” the Highway Patrol Trooper told me, “we’ve got witnesses.” It was later on that I realized it was God’s grace that I got to her before she got to him. A speeding car, a person on a skateboard — no good outcome.
The trooper sat me in the shade of a tree and asked me to fill out a form. OH — and would you believe the one time in my life I really needed it, I didn’t have my driver’s license with me? How could that happen?? I had gone for a walk in the morning and took my card case with my ID in my fanny pack, but forgot to put it back in my purse when I got home. “Don’t worry,” the trooper said, “we already got it.”
Eventually everything was done. The other driver was taken away in an ambulance, but I doubt was badly hurt — she trotted right over and climbed in, talking on her cell phone the whole time. I had two cuts and a really sore chest, not anything that I thought needed a hospital visit.
I watched as the tow truck backed up to Emmer. Parts of him were scattered all over the intersection — even now as I drive through there I see bits of glass. The driver picked up the front bumper and tossed it onto what was left of the hood. My first reaction was “don’t scratch it, ” but of course that was silly. There was no way my little guy was going to be made whole again.
When the insurance company called me three days later to tell me that the car was totaled, I was not surprised. I called the garage where they had him and arranged to go take my stuff out. I thought it would be difficult, saying goodbye.
The young technician who had done the estimate showed me where the frame was bent — it was supposed to be straight, but now shaped like an “L”. He said “I’ve never seen a wreck this bad!” I looked at him carefully. 21, perhaps — maybe 22. I was tempted to ask “and just how many wrecks have you seen in your long life?” but decided to let it go.
He unscrewed the license plates as I emptied out the glove compartment and the center console. I had some stuff — why do I always accumulate “stuff”? — in the back: reusable coffee cups, an umbrella, some notes from Bible class, a box of Kleenex. I expected this to be a terribly sad process, but somehow it wasn’t. The ragged edge of the bumper snagged me a couple of times as I passed by much as Lop Ear does when he wants to be petted, but no, I put my hand on the hood to say “goodbye, sweet little car,” but there was no one there. It was just a hunk of twisted metal and broken glass. Emmer had gone. He’d said goodbye to me in the intersection when he said, “I’m calling 9-1-1.”
He did what he had to do — he kept me alive. He went to the car graveyard and I went home. Thank you, Emmer.