The Wreck I was In

A month ago, I was in a pretty severe car crash right in front of a toll plaza. The crash eerily echoed the opening pages of my last novel Tollbooth. (You can read the first chapter here)

Here’s what happened in my real life wreck on the highway: I left work early in order to make it to a midday doctor’s appointment in NYC. I was headed highway north from New Jersey on I-95, approaching the toll plaza at Seacaucus. On the top of the toll booths there is a large sign that says: GEORGE WASHINGTON BRISGE KEEP LEFT, LINCOLN TUNNEL KEEP RIGHT.

After the tollbooth, the turnpike continues north with more exits into New Jersey, but an elderly woman in a silver car, who was lost and going the wrong direction saw the signs above the toll plaza and figured she’d be pushed into New York City with no hope of escape.

At 35 mph+, she decided her only option was to do a U-turn in front of the toll plaza. There were cones on the far left side dividing the north and south lanes coming and going from the toll plaza.

I was in the third lane over. A tractor trailer on my right side slammed on the brake and horn, began to fish tail. The woman in the silver car narrowly escaped being struck by the tractor trailer. When she was in my lane, she was completely perpendicular to me, crossing my lane like the turn pike was an intersection. I hit the brakes and veered to the right and collided unavoidably into the rear of her car. We spun out. Plastic exploding. Metal twisting.

She rolled into the cones and came to a stop. I was stuck in the middle of the turnpike cars whizzing by. The trucker was too. “WHAT THE FUCK WAS SHE THINKING?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“I’ve got to wait for my air brakes to recharge. I’m stuck here.”
“Well so am I,” I said. My car was fucked. Front end crushed in. Car blood everywhere. Leaking. Sputtering. Smoking.
I called the cops. The truck driver wouldn’t stay. I tried to get him to, to be a witness for the cops but he wouldn’t. He write his name on a card. CZAR it said and I couldn’t make out the last name. Or the phone number. The tractor trailer sailed off trough the toll plaza. My witness, gone.
I walked to my car, tried to drive it but it wouldn’t move. But I had to move soon. Another car almost careened into me zipping towards the toll booth. I got out of the car and grabbed onto my fender that was crushed flat onto my driver’s side tire. I bent it up. Thank god it was aluminum. My hand tore up, blood on the steering wheel as I drove.
I parked by the cones too. And began my long walk to the silver car.

The elderly woman was getting out.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m so sorry!” she said.
“Fuck it, it’s only a car. But you’re alright? You’re not hurt?”
“No. I’m okay.”
“Air bags go off?”
“Just a little.”
“Cops are on the way, you need an ambulance or anything.”
“No no. I’m okay. I’m so sorry! I needed to go south not north. I don’t know why I did that!”
We exchanged information. She said she had a daughter about my age. The woman was shaking. I asked her if she’d like to sit in my car and listen to the radio till the cops came.
There was nothing good on. But we listened anyway.
When the cops came, the woman told them it was her fault 100%. Explained the panicked u-turn. The cop took her license and cut it in half. I said, “did you really have to do that? She apologized to me. Jesus.”
He bitched at me because my car was overdue for inspection. Then he told me he was going to call a tow truck for me.
“That’s four hundred dollars,” I said.
“Yup. Four hundred.”
“I’m driving off the highway.”
“No you’re not.”
“Put your lights on and drive behind me, so nobody gets banged up.”
I got in my car. To his dismay. And crossed four lanes of traffic. My car hissing and screaming and shaking.
Immediately off the turnpike, I parked in a hard ware store parking lot and called my insurance company. They had a body shop just a mile down the road.

The car is fixed now. I’ve got it back. Been driving it around for a few weeks. I’m fine. Sometimes when I drive through that toll booth though, I get a little worried.


10 Replies to “The Wreck I was In”

  1. Same thing happened to me when I was in Alaska. I was abducted by a herd of elk. They tied me up in their mountain hideout and forcibly rear ended me for several weeks. Today I am a truck driver and a better man for it though my but still feels a little weird when I poop. Bless you, Bud!

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