A Palpable Hit

A happy, carefree day transformed in an instant into a… well, a day less happy and quickly filled with cares and responsibilities. Any time your auto becomes embroiled in a spontaneous demonstration of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion you can’t call the situation ideal. No. But when you emerge unscathed with a repairable (we blithely hope) vehicle you must admit the worst has not been achieved.

We have our regrets, sure; our “if only’s.” If only, for instance, the excitable fellow behind the wheel of the antic Jeep Cherokee had been driving, say, a SmartCar instead…

“Did you hear a noise?” “Yes. I believe I did. A ping. Some gravel in the road I think.”

If only the Jeep Cherokee driver not been chosen that day to be the Designated Demolition Derby Driver…

If only we had departed five minutes earlier; or five minutes later; or at the exact same time in an alternate universe where cars are made out of marshmallow…

If only the Bridge of San Luis Rey had not snapped, sending six disparate travellers plummeting to their doom in a Peruvian Gorge…

But “If” is a dated youth movie. We must live with the facts as they stand. “Live” being the operative word when you take a gander at the Madman’s wrecked vehicle. Behold and tremble:

There’s the shamefaced culprit sprawled senselessly on the tow truck’s bed, its tongue lolling drunkenly, stars and tweeting birds circling its battered head. Let’s get a closer, albeit blurry, look at the damage it received while ramming or side-swiping seven or eight cars:

All the adventure occured on Highway 10 heading oceanward out of Redlands, south of San Bernardino. We’d just had a jolly day touring Mlle Nicework’s picturesque campus of Redlands University and had begun the return trip when our 60 mph velocity suddenly and briefly rocketed to 90 mph with the unsought aid of The Demon Cherokee. Nor did the Crashmobile pause for thanks after its assist; instead it shot forward and disappeared around the bend. Less sanguine, we scooted onto the shoulder and stopped to gather our wits. There we were soon joined by the driver of a spanking new Boxster (now less new), a driver of an eighteen-wheeler and the driver of a Scion, all of whom, along with three or four others (we’re unclear on the Jeep’s final tally) joined us in an instant fellowship of common aggrievement. We’d all been hit, one after another.

You want to know what our innocent little Camry looked like post-Cherokeeing. The phone-camera obliges:

A helpful San Bernardino cop blocked traffic while we drove, with the whole gang, to the next exit. We gathered sadly in a Home Depot parking lot where calls were made, forms were filled, and everybody took cell phone photos of everything. I say “we drove” which makes the Camry sound more mobile than it was. What we did was crawl along as the the stove-in bumper and wheel well pressed tightly against the tire, sending up blinding clouds of rubber-scented smoke. The arrow in the picture below indicates the point of contact:

Good old super-efficient Allstate directed us to a close-by body shop — where they actually smelled us coming before we arrived. There, even now, our addled Camry awaits damage assessment by, um, damage assessors.

And what of its owners? Unwheeled and 90 miles from home on a Sunday evening, we had to doss down at a very comfy Country Inn until Enterprise Car Rental blinked awake in the receding shadows of the mountains to the east.

The crew of the Enterprise stuffed us into a snappy white Pontiac G6 which wafted us uneventfully to our door, to our cats, to our fresh socks, to our coffee, to our computer, to our Old Spice body wash, to our box of Cap’n Crunch, to our new NetFlix delivery (yay), and most of all, to our relief that only metal and plastic had suffered serious damage.


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