Thursday, October 21, 2010

Car story from long ago

I like cars, so part of my daily reading is the Jalopnik RSS feed. I just saw this post about a man who maneuvered his car in front of that belonging to a driver who had passed out behind the wheel (due to a heart attack), and successfully brought both cars to a safe stop.

This reminded me of a very similar incident from my past. It was 1992, I believe. I was driving on one of the highways through Minneapolis, when I saw a Oldsmobile Cutlass ahead of me drift out of its lane and bump into a car in the next lane. It then bounced the other direction, knocking over several construction barrels in the closed-off left-hand lane. My first impression was that it was one or more teenage hooligans out for a careless joy ride. But I pulled up closer to take a look and saw that the driver was a middle-aged woman slumped over the wheel. Maybe she had her cruise control on, because her velocity was steady, neither accelerating nor slowing.

This was obviously most likely going to end in disaster for her and/or others. It's lucky the construction workers were all off that day, or on break or something, so that she didn't hit any of them. But sooner or later she would hit something--or someone--for sure. I decided that the only thing to be done was exactly what the hero in today's story did: pull in front of her, then gradually slow down until she ran into the back of my car, and try to bring both cars to a stop with my brakes.

But just as I was starting to accelerate to get around her, she veered off to the left again just enough to clip another line of those orange construction barrels, and, luckily for her and everybody else, one of them rather miraculously fell so as to get lodged under the nose of her car, and caused enough drag that it brought her car to a halt over the course of a couple hundred yards, without hitting anything else. It was pretty amazing. I stopped my car just ahead of hers, backed up so that the cars were almost touching (in case she started moving again), killed the engine, put the manual transmission in reverse, and put on the parking brake. Then I went to her car, found that the door was unlocked (again, lucky for her), got her transmission into park, and turned off her ignition. She was still breathing and had a pulse. She looked classically post-ictal, i.e., as if she had suffered a grand mal seizure.

This was in the days before I had my first cell phone, but apparently somebody had already called 911, because police and paramedics showed up within a couple of minutes.

I never heard any ending to this story. I assume that she was OK, but I didn't learn her name or see anything about it in the media in the following couple of days, and the police, despite having taken my name and phone number, never contacted me to give them any more details, so I really don't know what had happened to cause her to pass out, or what became of her afterwards.

It's pretty rare that I have any occasion to be reminded of this rather memorable incident, but when I am, I'm proud of myself for being willing to act selflessly, but also glad that I didn't have to.

1 comment:

Memphis MOJO said...

Amazing story and quick thinking by you.