zippin’ through

Day: February 12th 2008

Situation outside the building: Winter Weather advisory in effect.

Awareness inside the building: Zero.

Discovery of the said situation: 4.30 pm

Radio Channel: WTOP news – Traffic pileups

Commute: 25 miles northbound on 7100

Pace: Snails would move faster under delirious vodka induced stupor.

Mood: Frustrated, anxious.

Scene: Span of 4 miles saw 2 toppled badly smashed cars, 2 wailing ambulances, 3 police sirens, a few abandoned cars on the median flanked by distraught hapless drivers.

The events in succession without further ado:

  • Listen to radio and music alternately.
  • Discover all major roads including the smaller by-lanes are backed up. The Beltway’s a long winding circular parking lot. Look all around to see traffic’s at a standstill.
  • Call immediate family to fill in on whereabouts.
  • Edge and inch way along with rest. Admire patience and imagine same situation in India. Shudder at the chaos, and marvel at the discipline and order on the road.
  • Flip between 80’s music and radio alternately. Again.
  • Watch roadside assistance to stranded cars on median and feel sorry for them.
  • Hate the pain that’s throbbing down the right leg as a result of stressful gentle braking.
  • Drive in complete silence and hear the icy drops hit the windshield.
  • Stomach’s growling like an injured bear after an early lunch.
  • Reflect on the to-do list that is obviously getting hugely cramped considering time’s a-ticking.
  • 1 hour down and 12 slow miles to go.
  • Call couple of friends but no one answers. Get bugged accordingly.
  • Frustratedly stare at the back of a blue pickup truck for the good part of the hour.
  • Sing “yess” when the truck decides to move into the right lane.
  • Swear at the driver after realizing that there was a whole 6 car space between the truck and a white painter’s van way down the road.
  • Phone rings. Daughter calls to remind me that she has a basketball practice at 6 and I should’ve been home 20 minutes ago.
  • Tell her that I have just 1 more exit to go and I should be there in a few minutes, but not before I pick up munchkin.
  • Step on the gas just a teeny little feather weight bit.
  • Gasp leading to a shout as the wheel slips out of control and brakes don’t care for me.
  • Hear daughter shouting through the phone at me, and going dumb – apart from saying “ohmygod!” a few hundred times on repeat.
  • Drop phone and hold onto the now jelly wheel, as the car hurtles down the road.
  • 3 cars distance away from the painter’s van realize the right lane’s empty and try to shift.
  • Oooh, awesome banking effect with me in the middle of the arc as the road curves to the right.
  • Slowly turn clockwise through the white lines and land in the right lane facing the now errant blue pickup truck at the 6 o clock.
  • “Oh great” shocked eyes peer through a hazy blur into the white faces of two hispanic young adults “not only am I killing myself, but am taking 2 kids along with me, dear God”.
  • Realize am on the edge of the lane sliding backwards onto the railing.
  • NO, NO, NO, not the 50 feet drop onto the soccer field.
  • Scramble to turn wheel, but no help necessary there.
  • Car turns to 9 o clock and with great speed rushes into the white painter’s van.
  • Damn Damn Damn, am hitting him. I scream.
  • Plunge headlong whizzing past the van by a mere 2 inches and land in the grassy median.
  • Jolt up and down, feel the crunch of grass beneath, and wonder why there isn’t any friction and the car was still hurtling across it.
  • Wheel still acts like it is possessed!
  • Realize if I didn’t do something I’d plunge headlong onto oncoming southbound traffic and make a beeline into a Green Meadows truck.
  • I am NOT dying like this, crushed to pulp by an ugly mud truck!
  • Yank at the wheel to head back onto the median.
  • Do a touch and go of the road, pass the truck by a hair’s breadth and head right back into the grass.
  • oooh, nice curve right there!
  • The brake and wheel continue to plot against the maestro in one final dramatic finale.
  • Light bulb moment and I decide to shift gears to neutral or park. Don’t remember which now. Whatever I did, it worked!
  • Hallelujah, car stops at a steep angle with me pushed against the door, barely missing the left lane heading northbound traffic again.
  • Sit there taking in the last minute and look around in a daze. Yeah, all’s well, and no one’s hurt, no fire’s erupting and no metal’s twisted.
  • Feel like being stuck in a bad video arcade game and that I ran out of coins.
  • Tumble out into the grass, sink into the mud, curse never to wear heels in bad weather, drag the shoe out, totter around the car surveying, with cold ice slivers pelting down hard.
  • Get back into the car and search for the phone. Call home and let daughter know am okay.
  • Realize it’s close to 6 pm and that no way would I be able to reach munchkin’s to pick her up on time.
  • Call the school, who are more than happy to hold on and that the roads are bad and I should take my time. “We’d rather have you late than not.” Morbid humor, but chuckle I did.
  • Completely confused on what to do next. Should I wait for help, do I dial, do I even need help? How do I get back? As I said, very confused.
  • Put the blinker on and wait in the middle, like a sitting duck, hoping that by sheer brute force I can pedal up against gravity, and hopefully some kind soul would let me in.
  • Someone does, and after another shaky slow 40 minutes later, I pick up munchkin at school.
  • Head home and go through the whole event in excrutiating detail.
  • Son thinks I should try Indy car racing and become the next Danica, while daughter settles for allowing me to win arcade race car games and get more tokens for her.
  • Wait for husband to show up and go through the whole experience again. Appropriately whine, crib and get cuddled for making it back in 1 piece.
  • Flop on the couch drained after dinner.
  • Phone rings and it’s mom from India. “Ivvalla Radhasaptami, nee puttinarojamma. Happy birthday, pampina cheera kattukuni gudi ki vellu” [Today’s your birthday according to the hindu calendar, wear the sari I sent you and go to the temple]
  • Smile at the irony of it all.
  • Decide I must be having spillover lives left from past life as a cat. Meow!

A comment at one of the sites, which pretty much summed it up. Braddock road curves at the exit. Dark deeply entrenched tyre treads on the grassy median were noticed up until last week.

To top it all off, the Fairfax County Parkway was a solid line of headlights from Braddock Road to Beulah Road on the westbound side, which is (IIRC) roughly 12 miles. Fortunately, I was headed eastbound southbound, which had a bit more room thanks to the four ambulances that drove through in the span of 25 minutes.”

Yeah, so anyone wants to sponsor me as I race to the finish lane, without scratching any metal and come through unscathed?

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  1. says: Praveen

    Ohh man!!! I found myself in a roller coaster ride…was this the “time sensitive” adventure u were talking about the other day, I dont think it is, u REMEMBER every bit of it after 17 days 🙂

    LOL @ “Decide I must be having spillover lives left from past life as a cat. Meow!”

    Amazing description Rads, I cud imagine every bit of it (shot by shot 🙂 ), glad ur safe and sound.

    Was just wondering what if u wud do if u were stuck in Blore traffic right in between Airport road 🙂

  2. says: guruprasad

    wow! that sounded more like a fast-paced piece of fiction than the real thing! but i know its the real thing all right.

    what makes it immensely readable is your style… the dry, subtle humor.

    keep writing and keep driving 🙂

  3. says: rads

    Naren: What’s life without some excitement eh? :p

    Pavan: hehe, marketing ideas aren’t all that creative, always 😉

    Guru: haha, if it were fictional I’d have had a hunk as one of the drivers who’d throw himself in front of my car and “save” me 😀

    Dufus: O it’s all funny. Now. 🙂

    Praveen: The draft that started on 13th released yesterday, so notes helped.
    Yes, Airport Rd traffic, it would be more of who gets trampled over whom. Considering the personal space issues I have, I’ll take the ice anyday. 😀

    Archana: I had no idea the ice storm would hit us, and I’d have to get out of the car. Have a pair o boots now as backup, good sturdy ones, ones that can double as ammunition too. 😀

  4. Glad you are safe! I still hallucinate over the ‘almost death’ rollover I had an year and a half back.

    but, yes…it’s damn itneresting to blog such stories after all that is over and you are back in one piece 😉

  5. says: rads

    DS: I know, I remember your episode. Though mine was hardly any bit like yours, the after-effects do take awhile to simmer down.
    It makes one sit up and reflect. 🙂

  6. says: rads

    CW: yea, it was. What still beats me is the absolute space I was suddenly given to do my circus feat! The place was packed bumper to bumper. Strange!

  7. says: some body

    yet to read entire post. did you really type it all in or have you acquired a dictaphone onto which you recorded a running commentary?

    i’ve got one bad traffic signal on my commute. on bad days, it takes 25-30 minutes to clear it – folks travelling in my direction (and the opposite) sit and stare as the cross street traffic whizzes by with nary a slowdown!

    – s.b.

  8. says: some body


    whoops! that was a close call (i told you i did not read the whole post the first time around) – at least, i should have rea the comments before adding mine.

    good that you (and vehicle) are ok.


    if “ok” comes here (does he?), do you think that he will think that i’m insinuating something in that last sentence?

    on second thoughts, you are not a nobody. you’re definitely some body! 😉

    – s.b.

  9. says: sirpy

    Ha..! Cool driving, ma’am..! Hats off to you.. And welcome to the danger side.. I know, you don’t wish to stay for long but the membership is temporary.. No worries… 🙂

    Lovely writing by the way…

  10. says: terri

    I thought about this post sitting in traffic this morning and was glad I took the time to look for decent underwear before I left home.

  11. says: rads

    terri: LOL, Strangely my thoughts were filled with relief after the whole drama..

    SK: It was. Doubt I’d ever forget how I felt then. Makes you sit up and think. The good, the bad and the ugly too, and how you can erase what. 🙂

    Sirpy: Thanks! 🙂

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