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  • Writer's pictureChoo Choo

Auto Died Act

I'm awake past my bedtime--a regular occurrence since I upped my daily coffee intake, shocker of all shockers--and since I don't want to edit my recording but I still want to have done something marginally more productive than reading vapid news stories, I will transcribe a journal entry from last weekend for your viewing pleasure. And also because I haven't written in awhile, so here's a bunch of long-overdue word vomit:

April 7, 2018

I underwent a harrowing experience yesterday. Now, by normal standards this experience would be considered unexceptional, even mundane, but because of my sheltered existence wherein nothing traumatic of note has thus far occurred (and here i am knocking on the largest piece of wood), this event rates as harrowing.

The short version is that my tire blew out as I was driving down I-75 South. Mundane, right? People blow out their tires all the time.

The longer, more melodramatic version that played out before me, a novice in all adventures adverse, was that there was a deafening bang, followed by lots of loud, ominous crunching as my car began shuddering violently. I was in the second lane from the left, desperately signaling that I needed to move over, but drivers sped around me impatiently as I white-knuckled the steering wheel, my car bucking and shaking so much my teeth rattled. Bear in mind this entire time I had no idea what was happening, having never had so much as a flat tire. It felt like something had fallen out from beneath the car, and I was now dragging it along at 60mph, no doubt sending sparks flying. I smelled burning rubber and metal.

I finally managed to pull over to the shoulder, but that didn't give me much solace. Mike always warned me that that was the most dangerous place to pull over, the worst trauma patients he saw were always shoulder-of-highway casualties. Always try to exit if you can help it. I thought about this as I sat helplessly in my car, mere meters from the exit ramp, vehicles zooming by inches to my left, my tiny two-door rocking from their velocity.

At this point I recall being unusually calm. I wasn't panicking, and with the exception of a few choice swear words (all of which, let's face it, were part of my everyday driving vernacular) and the fact that my car was on the verge of imminent collapse, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything wrong with the scene.

I called Mike at work, which made me feel even more wretched and helpless because I knew he was in the OR and there was little he could do, but because he is a saint, and I am a child, he patiently walked me through the next steps: call a tow truck, find a repair shop, Lyft home.

By the time the truck arrived, half an hour later, I had found an auto shop, filed an insurance claim, postponed a rehearsal I had later that afternoon (my duo partner and her boyfriend insisted upon meeting me at the repair shop and taking me home, so they deserve an enormous shout-out, thanks Stoosh), and complained to my sister.

The driver of the tow truck was a gnarled old man with a gruff demeanor, grease-blackened hands, and face wrinkles so deep it's as if they'd been etched in wood. He graciously helped me up into the truck while he strapped my car to the truck bed. That was the first time I got a proper look at the damage firsthand. Strips of shredded rubber flopped where my tire had once been, curled and chewed, glistening like bundles of frayed electrical wire.

I was still calm as I sat in the front seat of the tow truck, its floor caked with what looked like centuries of dirt, not minding the filth, even reassured and charmed by it. The repair shop was only a mile away (lucky for me, since the towing service charged by the mile), and my friends arrived just as I was wrapping up the paperwork. We celebrated my rescue by going to a Jewish deli, because if anyone understands suffering it's the Jews, and also bagels.

As far as adverse experiences go, I'll admit this one was pretty benign. I'd even venture so far as to say it was a good bad experience. No one was hurt, damage control went as smoothly as possible (I may speak too soon on this matter; let's wait till I see the bill), it was a beautiful sunny day, I ate a bagel, and we still managed to rehearse Mozart and Beethoven that afternoon.

By the time rehearsal was over, exhaustion washed over me, a primal, bone-permeating weariness. I tried to edit my recording, but the software was frustrating, and I gave up after a few half-assed attempts at syncing the audio and video. When Mike got home a couple hours later, the calm, light-hearted demeanor I'd affected up till then melted and I became a soppy, vulnerable mess, sobbing into his scrubs while he hugged me.

Today I woke up at 4:30am to catch a flight to Baltimore for a concert this evening. I wasn't even particularly tired; it's as if the fatigue of yesterday was so profound and penetrating, it would henceforth take a lot more than a mere lack of sleep to topple me.

I'm writing this on the plane. I have to pee. I also had to pee while I was waiting for the tow truck yesterday. I pretty much always have to pee. Someone on this flight smells like salt and vinegar potato chips, which normally wouldn't be that remarkable, but it's a jarring odor to confront at seven in the morning.


A couple post scripts regarding the car situation: I flew back to Atlanta Sunday afternoon, dog-tired and worried about what to do about a car while mine was being fixed; of course my lame insurance didn't cover rental costs. Upon my arrival home, Mike presented me with a set of keys. He'd borrowed his friends' spare Corolla, gotten it washed, filled up the tank, got our building management to outfit the car with a garage pass, and it was now mine to use until my car was back in business. I hugged my boyfriend and cried on him for the second time that weekend. I don't deserve him.

Secondly, the day after the accident (though not really an accident, right? More of an incident), I read John Seabrook's personal history in the New Yorker about his experience driving on black ice. He wrote about how, in those brief moments when he lost control of the car, his mind remained sharp and focused and calm, and time seemed to slow down. If I were more inclined toward superstition, I would posit that there was a larger meaning to this beyond mere coincidence or Baader Meinhof phenomenon. But since I've never been one to dwell on happenstance, and since all this transcribing is finally driving me to drowse, I shall leave it at that and return to you in a couple weeks (or perhaps, optimistically, sooner) with raised spirits and a raised glass brimming with spirits.

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