Sunday, July 13, 2008
BLOWOUT, DUMB LUCK
AND THE DIVINE PLAN
I nearly died yesterday.
After subbing Suddha's 10am class, I got in the car to drive to Dreyfus (my brother) and his wife's house. They live near my hometown, 50 miles northwest of Chicago.
On the Kennedy expressway, while going through the I-pass toll lane, I tried to call Dreyfus and tell him I was driving rather than taking the train. The call failed.
A short time later I was in the left lane, which was about to end. I started to merge to the right. I was doing about 50 mph, as were the other cars.
Suddenly, there was a loud noise and a terrible thud, and the steering wheel jerked out of my hands. The car started to veer into the right lane. It felt like half of the wheels weren't touching the ground.
Instinctively, I grabbed the wheel and tried to avoid the cars next to me. Then my car jerked the other way, and I tried to avoid those cars. I was still going quite fast. There was a noise coming from the back: THWACK! THWACK! THWACK! Did someone hit me, I wondered. Did the transmission fall out? What just happened?
But the main thought was, Please do not let anyone die. Don't hurt these other other people on the road.
And I gripped the steering wheel and steered as best I could. The car jerked back and forth across three lanes.
It was very similar to a dream I've been having lately.....
There was the screeching of brakes, and that awful thwack-thwack-thwack.
I ducked my head, steered, and waited for a car or two or three or four to hit me.
But they never did.
Then the car started doing a 360-degree spin. I steered into the spin and waited for the car to flip over. I kept the head lowered, waiting to be hit. Yet everything happened very fast. It did not go in slow motion. My life did not pass before my eyes. My only thought was, "Please don't let these other people get hurt."
Instinct did the steering. I was most definitely not the doer.
Finally the car came to a stop. In the windshield was the Rosemont Horizon concert center.
The car was perpendicular to the highway, blocking at least two lanes of traffic
The heart was being fast. There was the smell of burnt rubber. The body was shaking, but the mind was calm.
I was surprised to be alive. Very surprised.
I slowly raised my head, waiting to be hit by the oncoming cars.
But when I looked out the window, they were all in a line, facing me.
They were stopped, waiting for me.
I thought, "Someone is going to rear-end them," and realized I had to get out of there - fast.
But the engine had died. Automatically, I put the car into park and turned the ignition. It worked!
I put the car into gear and gingerly aimed it towards the right shoulder. It limped. The thwack! thwack! thwack! sound came from the back. I pulled to a stop as close to the rail as I could, and looked around.
The other cars slowly began to move forward. One pulled up behind me, saw I was OK, and left.
Three police cars in the Rosemont Horizon parking lot slowly drove towards me, and waited.
I sat and breathed. Traffic began flowing as if nothing had happened.
It began to dawn on me that I was alive, and no one else had died.
I saw that I was a few hundred yards from the Lee Street exit, and that the shoulder was some four cars wide.
So I got out to inspect the damage.
I picked up some pieces of the car as I circled it.
Then I saw the problem; the right rear tire.
Most of the outer tread was completely missing. Yet it was somehow still inflated, with steel belts sticking out and part of the tread hanging loose.
There were some dents near the wheel-well, and part of the fender was hanging loose. But it was more or less intact.
I called Dreyfus to tell him what happened. The squad cars in the Horizon lot waited and watched.
A plan came to me; I would drive the car to the Lee Street ramp, and look for a gas station.
I drove very slowly, with the thawck! thwack! thwack!, and hoped that the tire would remain inflated.
As I slowly drove towards the ramp, the state police car moved along with me in the parking lot.
But I did not see him after that.
When I got off the ramp, I took only right turns.
This whole time, I relied purely on instinct.
Cars behind me honked in exasperation, and I waved them on.
I found my way to a Steak 'n Shake lot, parked under its giant red-and-white sign, and called Triple A - which my nephew had given to me as a gift last Christmas. While they tried to figure out my location, I asked if they'd bring a new tire. But they said they could only put on the spare.
I waited for the truck to come.
I watched the planes descending into O'Hare airport.
I called Dreyfus.
i cleaned out the trunk and unearthed the tiny spare.
I did some mantras.
And I thanked Shiva, Brahman, Krishna, Kaveri, Durga, Amma, Ganesh, Dharma, Chandra, Guruji, the dead parents and grandparents and everyone else I could think of for watching over me.
Because I should have been dead (well, the body at least should have expired).
And so should many other people.
How, I wondered, could such a fantastic accident have occurred, on a very busy four-lane expressway, and not one car was scratched?
My gratitude increased when the gentleman from Triple A told me that when tires fail they usually explode - and that I was incredibly lucky that mine held together.
And I felt protected and safe and free of doubt.
Perhaps there is something to this yoga.....When I am teaching headstand in the middle of the room, I tell students to "steer" with their wrists, elbows and fingers; when they tilt to the right, I tell them to "steer into the skid" just as they'd do when driving on ice, and it will straighten them out. Apparently this also works doing a blowout - although I am quite certain that it was grace, rather than skill, that saved me.
While I was waiting for AAA, Dreyfus did some online research and found a Just Tires less than a mile away. They put on a new tire ($66), and told me that the defective one was not the correct size for the car - it was a full inch too big - but that probably wasn't the reason it fell apart.
Dreyfus and Mon'ca waited and waited for me to go through this ordeal, at home, next to the phone, their stomachs growling. When I finally arrived, we inspected the tire. Tires were our family business, and Dreyfus is an expert. His opinion: Cooper Tires suck.
Then we went back to our original plan - which was to have green pepper and black olive pizza at Half Time's in Johnsburg. But instead of late lunch, it was dinner. And it was the best pizza ever. I even had a few sips of beer - rare for me - because I was alive.
Afterwards we met my nephew (who gave me the Triple A membership) and his wife and daughter at the Fiesta Days carnival.
As I watched the thrill-seekers spinning around on the rides, I thought, "When you do it for real, it's not that much fun."
But then I thought, "In a way, these rides prepare you for what could happen."
And felt the breeze and smelled the fresh air, and fervently hoped everyone there would honor the two-second following distance rule.
I know I certainly will.
Afterwards Dreyfus took us on a scenic drive, and we saw this:
And it was very good to be alive, with people I love.
Very good indeed.