Monday, October 11, 2004

Under cover of darkness

1. I'm walking our dog Silver at 2 a.m. in the back yard on a moonless night, with only a distant porch light to illuminate my path. From the powdery, granular collapsing sensation, I know immediately what I've stepped in. There is no solution except to rudely interrupt Silver's sniffing around and scramble back to the porch, where I frantically brush the fire ants off my foot. Ow! Dammit! Calamine lotion, here I come.

2. I'm driving home from the bar at 1:20 a.m. Saturday (or actually Sunday, I suppose) after the football game. It has been a night of drunken revelry for thousands of fans, despite the fact that the local team lost.

The car coming the opposite direction has only one working headlight, which the driver blinks on and off at me, trying to tell me something--possibly that there is a DUI roadblock ahead. I don't waver; I am sober as a judge and want to get home as quickly and directly as possible. A quarter-mile later, I round a curve and see a confusion of blue police lights. I come to a stop and soon find that the line of cars in front of me isn't moving. More emergency vehicles--fire trucks, ambulances, and pickup trucks driven by volunteer firemen--are arriving every minute. There has obviously been a terrible crash.

I wait there 35 minutes. A couple of cars leave the line and double back, but for me there is no easy alternate route. After a while a couple of cops walk by, pointing flashlights into the shadows. "We might have to get these vehicles out of the area," one says, gesticulating and me and my fellow idlers, "so we can see where the scene starts." But the other spots something about 30 feet back on the road and points. "There," he says. "There's where he crossed the line. And then he started yawing."

Eventually I see a stretcher rolled to one of the ambulances. I see a man's feet. Nobody is hurrying.

Soon the vehicles start to leave the scene. A police car guides our line of cars around the wreckage. It looks as though a bomb has gone off. There is glass and metal everywhere. I slow for a moment to gawk at what was once a pickup truck, twisted and sheared along the side of the road. I can't see what the driver hit, only that he hit something very, very fast and hard.