Never drive your car with snails in a cup next to you in the cup holder. It’s possible you may grab the wrong cup. And yes, that’s what she said.
My daughter and her college room mate have pet snails and a small potted tree named Bon Bon. I know this because they all accompanied me on a car trip to Indiana yesterday afternoon, the snails in their travel cup happily sliming and sucking or whatever snails in a cup do. Marybel, Alyssa’s roomie, chatted and slept and chatted and slept while shoe horned amongst all of the suitcases, musical instruments (a flute, a French horn, and a violin), yoga mats, and other college girl paraphernalia packed into the back seat of my little VW Golf. Alyssa relaxed comfortably next to me, surrounded by her bags, pillows, playing DJ using her cell phone, letting me hear the music that she enjoys and sharing the joy with me. It was time for them to go back to college, a drive through south Chicagoland to I65 south through northern Indiana to Lafayette, then straight east across the state on I26 to Upland, Indiana, home of Taylor University. It’s a nice 4 hour drive, always easy with my daughter, pleasant in its solitude on the return trip to Chicagoland.
We made one potty stop along I65, at Fair Oaks Farms, a favorite stop that Alyssa and I discovered early on in our college trips. Alyssa explained to Marybel that her father requires frequent potty stops, a misnomer for yesterday’s trip as I restrained my intake of coffee in anticipation of the trip. Fair Oaks was still a welcome stop, the girls needed the potty break more than I. Lafayette was another 45 minutes farther, a planned meal stop as there really isn’t much between Lafayette and Upland. Dairy Queen was on my mind, and the girls agreed to stop there when we exited I65 and turned east on I26 at Lafayette.
Dad was happy. Dad is easy. Dad likes DQ hot fudge sundaes. We chatted happily as the girls ate their food, drank their Orange Julius, and stole glances at the boys in uniforms sitting at the table next to us.
Back on the road, we braced for the 90 minute trip east, Alyssa and Marybel snug in the spots in the car. I26 is a county highway, usually a trip that requires patience as I deal with ambling Indiana drivers and small town speed limits, the opportunities to pass slower drivers on the narrow blacktop limited. I passed a young woman driving carefully along as we left the Lafayette city limits, aware that I needed to pass the slower driver while the road was still four lane. I26 becomes that simple country two lane highway shortly after it leaves Lafayette. The speed limit is 55 mph, slow by today’s standards but appropriate for the old style county highway such as I26.
A few miles down the road, after the road narrowed to two lane (one lane in each direction), we caught up to a couple driving a late model mini van. The young woman I had passed earlier was a small blip in my rear view mirror. The couple in the mini van slowed in front of me, left turn signal lit as they stopped to wait for oncoming traffic before they could turn. I stopped the car behind them, my left foot depressing the clutch pedal and my right foot on the brake as I stopped to wait for the mini van to turn in front of me.
The last thing that I remember was turning around to check on Marybel behind me, just as the front grill of the young woman’s car smashed into the rear of my car. There was no warning, only sudden violence of a collision from behind, the force and weight of the large late model Ford Taurus driving my little VW into the back of the mini van in front of us.
An eerie silence remained as time seemed to stop. I groaned as I tried to gain my bearings, the world swimming in a blur. Alyssa exclaimed “What just happened?!!?” from the seat next to me, checked on her friend who mumbled that she thought she might be OK.
The car’s engine was still running. My foot was still on the clutch, the gear shift slipped to neutral.
“Dad, are you OK? Can you move?” Alyssa was calm, in control. Remembering her composure gives me more respect for my little girl as I think about it now.
I slowly responded, weakly, my vision still blurred — “I’m not quite sure, but I think so.” I couldn’t sit up, not realizing at the moment that my seat had broken and I was lying on my back.
“Should I call 911?”
Alyssa called 911 as I figured out why my vision was blurry. My glasses were gone. I leaned over the steering wheel as I searched for my glasses.
“Alyssa, I can’t find my glasses. Where in the world are my glasses?” I was very disoriented. Alyssa turned to check on Marybel, who thought her neck and head hurt. She was afraid to move.
As I groggily searched for my glasses, supported by the steering wheel, my phone rang, loud in the speakers of the car through the Bluetooth connection. The car was still running. The caller was Miriam, who had received a text message from our cell provider that Alyssa had called 911, frantic as she should be. I assured her that we were OK but had been in an accident a few minutes before, told her that I or Alyssa would call her in a few minutes.
Alyssa did call her right away. I called her a few minutes later as I circled the car.
I shut the engine off, afraid that the collision may have caused a fuel leak and would start the car on fire. Alyssa helped me get out of the car as a paramedic approached the car. We asked him to check on Marybel as we walked around the car. There was no fluid leaking, so I started the car again and to keep the inside warm, but the paramedic instructed me to shut the car down for safety. The police arrive quickly, an ambulance shortly after as it was decided that Marybel should be checked out at a hospital.
A sergeant from the county sheriff department took my information, checked on the girl in the car behind us, talked with her for a while. I walked around the car, amazed that the car was not in worse shape than it was. Impact had been bumper to bumper, my car absorbed the impact. There was no broken glass, even the tail lights were intact. The front end of my car was in bad shape, taking the worst of the force. The mini van in front of us had fairly minor damage. The car that hit us was leaking anti freeze and had the kind of damage one would expect from a front end collision.
As the policeman went back to his car, Alyssa approached the young woman who had been driving the car that had hit us, the girl scared and shaken but unhurt. My daughter put her hand on the girl’s shoulder, hugged her, and a few moments later she was praying with the girl.
My daughter is awesome.
My glasses were on the floor of the back seat, found once Marybel was out of the car, folded like they had been placed there, under her legs. Marybel couldn’t find her wallet, which had gift cards and money in it. We couldn’t find it either.
The county policeman loaded Alyssa and I in his car as the wrecker took my car away. He offered to take us to the hospital, instructed the wrecker to meet us at the hospital so all of the suitcases and instruments and supplies could be unloaded before taking the car to the holding lot. He stayed with us until everything was in order.
Somewhere during the fracas, Alyssa had managed to call one of her college friends. That friend was also travelling back to school and able to pick her up. Alyssa asked me if it was OK for her to go, waited for the hospital to admit me and made sure I was OK, then left for school.
Marybel’s parents arrived a few hours later. She was discharged with no serious injury. A cat scan and xrays showed no injury to me, although the force of the collision caused soft tissue damage to my lower right leg, likely because I had kept the brake on during the collision. Miriam and her sister drove to the hospital to pick me up and took me home, exhausted and asleep in the back seat of her sister’s car.
It seems like a miracle that my car was not completely destroyed and that no one was seriously hurt. My guess is that the car was going at least 55 mph when it hit us, the speed limit. There were no skid marks. The young woman (19 years old) was distracted and did not see us in front of her.
I am waiting to hear the status of my car. The insurance company thinks it can be repaired. We shall see. The girl’s insurance is paying and is accepting her fault in the accident.
Oh.. the snails are alive, but dang did I smell like snail water all evening after the accident.
Marybel had left her wallet at the Dairy Queen.
So, the new year has started with a BANG!
(My car no longer looks like this….)