Sunday, November 30, 2008

So the drive home to Chicago today was fun.

And by “fun” I mean “so snowy and treacherous that my shoulders still hurt from hunching them up for six hours as I stressed about dying in a horrible car crash.”

To pass the time and to distract me from our impending death, the domestic partner and I listened to these CDs in this order: the new Gypsy, the new A Chorus Line, the original Big River, the original (the only, actually) La Cage Aux Folles. Plus we finally compared notes on our prom dates’ dresses. (Mine wore magenta; his wore red. Mine had ruffles; his had beading. Mine went home without a kiss; his … well, we don’t want to talk about that right now.)

The normally 4.5-hour drive took us six hours, but that included a stop at a small-town convenience store for a Diet Coke that ended up taking 20 minutes because the CO2 canister needed to be changed and the rheumy lady behind the counter was struggling so much with the mechanics of it that we changed it for her.

But we made it to Chicago in one piece, and by the time we got to the east end of Lower Wacker Drive—where the street is four lanes wide and protected from the elements by Upper Wacker Drive—the horrible snow had become a slight drizzle. We were thrilled to finally be safely in downtown Chicago, and we were greatly looking forward to getting home and peeing … when the car ahead of us and one lane to our left suddenly fishtailed, did a powerful 270, skidded across the lane to its left and slammed violently into a support beam. It’s amazing that it missed hitting all the cars around it. And it’s revolting that only one of those cars stopped to help.

By the time we pulled over and ran to the car, the domestic partner had a 911 operator on his cell phone and the people from the car behind us had started yanking the doors open and helping the dazed people out. The car had hit the support beam squarely on the rear passenger’s side door and crushed into it the depth of a human body, but miraculously nobody was killed. The front of the car had bucket seats, so we were able to extricate the driver and passengers—totaling four adults and a baby—pretty easily.

Nobody looked hurt beyond some minor cuts, but the driver was in some state of catatonic shock and the front-seat passenger was in the kind of shock that made her hyperactive. They were both unstable to the point of collapsing every few minutes, but they wouldn’t let go of the baby. So I spent my time holding them up and keeping my arms around the kid to make sure they didn’t send the poor thing crashing to the glassy pavement as they swayed and staggered and babbled out of their bloody mouths.

By the time the ambulances, fire trucks and police cars arrived, I was sure the crashed car wasn’t going to explode and everyone we’d gotten out of it was in pretty good shape. But one preliminary police report I found online says all five people are in “serious to critical” condition at various hospitals, though another says the injuries aren’t life-threatening.

A police officer took witness information from me and the driver of the one other car that stopped, who it turns out was also driving home to Chicago from Cedar Rapids. We didn’t exchange information ourselves because it seemed to be an inappropriate place to make a new friend connection. The officer thanked us and then kind of implied that at this point we were just in the way and we should leave. So we got back in the car and headed home … and finally peed.

On our drive home from the accident scene, the domestic partner and I compared our memories of what we’d seen, and we both came up with matching stories and details about stuff … which makes me think we’d be reliable witnesses if we get called. I love that in this day of the Internets I can go online within hours of something like this and get some semblance of an ending to the story. But am I weird to be kind of disappointed that the officer has yet to call me with any questions? (Potential sample questions: Who is that tall hunky man in your car with you? What color dress did his date wear to prom? Does Patti LuPone chew on all her vowels in the new Gypsy cast recording?)

If he does call, though, I’m ready with all my answers.

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