July 11, 2004

Fleeting nature of life, yadda yadda yadda

I witnessed a serious car accident last weekend. Driving home from a gig MCing a high school after-grad, I had a cop car pulled up beside me at a traffic light on Scott Road in Surrey. Naturally, I let the officer drive faster than me, so I was about 100 metres behind him as we approached the green light at the intersection of Scott and 80th Avenue. It was about 5:30 Saturday morning -- not a lot of traffic on the road.

I was half-asleep, trying to find an energetic song on the laptop and adjusting my headphones -- you know, typical driving activity going 55 along a major thoroughfare -- when a car shot across from the left side of 80th, T-boning the police car and sending both vehicles spinning into the PetroCan parking lot. The grey sedan that ran a red turned a couple of times, and stopped with front end damage and some serious axle misalignment on the grass between 80th and the parking lot. The police car, however, spun about 720 degrees, and added a couple of flips for good measure. It fell over a small, decorative embankment and came to rest on its roof about 5 metres shy of the gas pumps.

Pull over. Swear under breath. Run to police car.

Within 30 seconds there were several stopped cars and a terrified PetroCan nightshift worker at the end of his shift, all crowded around the window of the flipped cruiser. The officer was wedged against the top of the car, droplets of blood spattering the pavement below. He couldn't move, and had a nasty-looking gash in the back of his head. We couldn't see his face, and the weight of his body against his neck made for a rather awkward position for the young Mountie. It's distressing to hear a trained officer of the law, no matter how young, saying things like, "I can't breathe!" and "I'm scared, help me!"

Buddy in the other car wasn't physically hurt -- his response to "You okay, man?" was the ever-eloquent, "Who fuckin' cares, man? I'm going to fuckin' jail!"

Thank you, James Joyce.

Right, so back to the cruiser. One of the passersby had first aid training, so my job basically fell to keeping as many people as possible away from the cruiser, to give the poor guy some space and air. For about 8 minutes, that is, when approximately 32 emergency vehicles descended on the PetroCan like every movie cliche you've ever seen.

I gave a statement, and by the time I was done (in what, 5 minutes?) they'd used the jaws of life to cut the door off the cruiser and get the Mountie on a stretcher. He was joking with other officers (understandably, nervously) and moved his hands, so there wasn't any immediate sign of paralysis. Still, they had him on a spinal board and weren't taking any chances.

Needless to say, I've been a little more cautious entering intersections since then. Something about the fleeting nature of life, the randomness of it all -- had the cop not been next to me at the previous light, would I have booted it just enough to be the victim of the crash? Trying to figure out if it's "I want to take advantage of all of my opportunities" time, or "I need to recognize all the close calls" time. All that jive.

So whaddaya say, folks? Gimme your close calls or Rescue 9-1-1 stories.