Unexpected Turns

This post was supposed to be about the merits of attending author events – in this case, the Tennessee Valley Fair, where you can currently find my colleagues Christopher Woods and Amie Gibbons (waves. Hi, guys!). Chris set up a collaborative author’s booth and organized several of us coming in for a day or two during the ten-day fair, with a roughly 100,000 person attendance. It was an interesting way to break into new markets outside the con circuit, which while the congoers are already usually fans of the genres we write, the fair is just all sorts of people. I’ll ask Chris if he wouldn’t mind doing a full write-up once he recovers, as I know he’s had a strenuous week.

Instead, this post is about having an adventure. An adventure is someone else far away having a dangerous and miserable time. We love to write about adventures. Having them, well…

As you may have guessed from my phrasing, I didn’t make it down to Knoxville yesterday. We were on the road, having both worked long hours at the day jobs to get off early Friday, arrange the babysitter at home, and pack my little SUV. Boxes of books and art filling the back, we took off down the road. And about 50 miles from home, there was a loud BANG!

I lost control. It was early rush-hour traffic, a full interstate, and my tire had blown apart. I had two conscious thoughts during the time the vehicle was still on the road. First: I had to get us off the road as soon as possible. If I lost control enough to spin us across three lanes of traffic, we were going to die. Second, absurdly, I remember thinking clearly and inquisitively “is it steer into a skid, or…?” As we skidded, the First Reader in the passenger seat, I got us pointed toward the grassy side of the road I could see just ahead, after the underpass and the guardrail. I didn’t make it – hit the rail, but not head-on. We came to a stop just on the line of the right lane, and I couldn’t get the car to start (found out later the front end was a lot more crunched than I could tell at that second).

It all happened so fast. I didn’t fully process it for hours later, and this morning I’m still not sure I have processed it. The first words out of my mouth, I think, were to ask the First Reader if he were all right. He said he was, and a cop pulled over to help us, and then I sort of sat with my nice seatbelt hugging me and shook a little. Now that it’s been 15 hours since the accident, and I’m sitting here with sore muscles and stiff body, but no injuries worth speaking of, I’m thinking of what the accident meant to me as a writer, so I can justify venting at you all in this post.

Firstly: Had the spin taken us in a different direction, this post would not be written this morning. I’m not entirely sure the MGC’ers would even know what had happened by now. Something I must take steps to rectify. But I digress. Had the accident gone as badly as it had the potential to do, I wouldn’t be worried about writing. As a writer sitting here typing and digesting, this is sobering as I don’t have a back-up for my work. I’m not talking about my files – I’ve done a triple redundancy system there, one I could write about in another post. I mean that other than my First Reader, who was sitting next to me, no-one knows how to run Stonycroft Publishing. Even if it never published another thing, there would still be income I’d want to go to my kids. So I need to fix that gap in my prep.

Secondly: It didn’t take me long afterward to start thinking about how I could use the experience in a story. Hey, I’m a writer. It’s a coping mechanism. One of the things that struck me was that it happened very, very fast. I had a handful of heartbeats and two thoughts in the time it took for the accident to begin and end. It wasn’t until later that I could piece together what had happened and start to process it. I feel bad for the officer who took my statement – not only was my handwriting shaky, I couldn’t think well enough to write it out clearly. I couldn’t think clearly for most of the day, on some things. Weird stuff like simple math was just… not there. Stress is an interesting phenomenon in the human brain. I think a lot of the stiffness I’m feeling today is purely from tensing up, knowing we were going to hit the guardrail (or another car). Something I did deliberately in the wake of the accident, since we were both fine, was to push us to stay active rather than sitting still and freezing up. A friend came and got us, we watched the tow truck pick up my poor crumpled car, and we went home to hug the kids. Then we started car shopping, and I bought a replacement vehicle yesterday evening.

Which brings me to my third, and final: we were prepared. Not for the accident, no. My tires weren’t new, but they had decent tread. I’d had a flat a while back, replaced that tire entirely, and had the pressure and tread checked at the time: they were fine for a while. I hadn’t seen any weird wear, or felt vibrations. So the tire tread coming off was a complete surprise. But knowing these things happen, I had AAA, and could call just a couple of minutes after the crash and have the car towed to our mechanic. Who will look at it, shake his head, and say ‘damn, Cedar…’ because it’s toast. However, we were already prepared to replace the car, and had the money in savings enough to be able to walk into a new (to us!) car hours later, and without having to go into debt to do it.  My poor old baby wasn’t worth keeping full replacement insurance on it, the deductible would have been more than it was worth. So while the big thing was that we made it through the accident with barely a scratch (the First Reader has a scratched thumb), we were also not sitting on the side of the road wondering what to do next. Towing, a ride home, and replacing the car were all relatively easy to do.

Speaking of which, I need to get up and doing so I can put plates on my new ride today. And because if I just sit here I’ll only get stiffer, and my hand is too sore to write. I’ll break out Dragon Naturally later in the day. During our brief drive, the First Reader evil mused at me and I know what the scene I’ve been stuck on needs!

The end of Jade.

Achievement unlocked. This is Smoke.

47 Comments

Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON

47 responses to “Unexpected Turns

  1. paladin3001

    Damn, that sucks. Having been in an accident or two in my time I know exactly how you are feeling post situation. This will probably be affecting you for at least a week.
    As you said though you were prepared for the results one way or another. Glad to hear that you are okay and recovering nicely. Now I have to think about future stuff as well, and think about getting stuff set up in place.

  2. Neil Frandsen

    Glad you made it thru!
    Skids are summat that a High Plains of North America growing-up prepares a person for, due to all those nicely frozen sloughs out in the pastures! Steering away from the skid results in startling results.
    Braking, hard, creates a ride in a 4-wheeled tobaggon, eh?
    Standing on the throttle is oft an excellent way to wind the skid into a spin to remember!
    The Alaska Highway has areas that get freezing rain showers, coating just one section of black-iced highway. If this is on an uphill part of your wintertime trip, the 1st notice of the problem is a “whirrrrr!!!” sound from both rear wheels, followed by a skid to one side, or t’other. If ye be an experienced ‘standard’ driver, the clutch pedal hits the floor, and stays there, whilst the attempts to spin the steering wheel fast enough to get ahead of the skids, begins = because the vehicle _will_ change skid-orientation, from left to right, each time you get completely sideways!
    I did this about 10 miles south of MP 75 (Sheperd’s Inn), one 2AM time. Three times completely sideways, each way, ere enough speed had scrubbed off for the Dodge Dually 1-ton 4×4 to snap straight, slowing down = I pulled the 4×4 lever into “4”, geared down to 3rd, and let out the clutch, while adding throttle-angle to the Cummins Turbocharged inline 6 cyl Diesel. The Song of the Turbo whistled up the scale, and we carried on to the top, where the snowdrift at ditch edge got crunched, so a radio-phone call to the RCMP highway patrol could be made, suggesting calling out the sanding trucks. The Fort St John Mountie on-duty questioned the need for sand – I replied it was up to him, sand now, or sand later, while writing up accident reports…

    • And some just won’t believe me when I tell them there are conditions under which I steer with the clutch.

    • Cedar may remember the time we hit black ice on the Alaska Highway. We were on our way to Whitehorse from Tok, Alaska (where we were living at the time). It was cold enough in Tok that the roads weren’t slippery, but when we were only an hour or so out of Whitehorse, we hit black ice — thankfully on a straight and level stretch of road. We were in a big old heavy Suburban; started slowly spinning around in circles on the road while continuing in the same direction down the road. An oncoming car saw us spinning and tapped their brakes and THEY started spinning while continuing towards us. By the grace of God, we spun past each other and both went off the road, which ‘just happened’ to be a nice wide gentle shoulder (if it had happened a mile back we wouldn’t have fared so well). Both vehicles were able to just drive right back onto the road; the two young Canadian Air Force pilots in the other car, who were just out for a drive, turned around and went back! We both went very slowly the rest of the way!

  3. John in Philly

    “we were prepared.” Sometimes that makes the difference between life and death.
    I am both sorry that the accident happened, and glad there were no serious injuries.

  4. In the movies they go to slo-mo. In real life something like this is incredibly fast. You did good. Sorry about the car.

  5. ((Hugs)) Glad you (and First Reader) are all right.

  6. Amie Gibbons

    Sounds like you handled the whole thing beautifully.

    The actual in the moment crisis and the clean up. 🙂

  7. Damn.

    Thanking God that you and First Reader made it out with a single scratch between you, and that nobody else was injured.

  8. Very glad you’re safe! E-mail on the way.

  9. I’m glad to hear that you are both safe and sound! I’m sorry about the car, but I’m happier to hear that you’re both alright.

  10. Dorothy Grant

    Cars are things: they can be replaced. People are irreplaceable! *HUGS* Glad you two are safe, if slightly battered and stress-tested.

    Wish I could send you off to a long, hot bath with some Epsom salts for your muscles – especially one with fizzy bubbly fun in a nice smell (vanilla latte?) to relax the mind, too. But if you’re like me, about six minutes in, you’d start thinking “Now I’m going to have to scrub this tub.” …By the way, ziplock bags make great waterproof “cases” for a kindle. Just saying! 🙂

    And yeah, Peter and I have instructions for dealing with the books if one or the other of us gets taken out – but not both at the same time. We’ll have to fix that, too.

    I swear the reason some people seem so much faster in incidents like this is because they’ve thought it through so many times, and may be expecting it, that they get the “What was that? What’s happening? This can’t be happening! What do I do?” out of the way immediately, and thereby free up three to five seconds to act while I’m still standing there processing. This’d be why my CFI beat stall recovery into me until it’s instinctive, and I still practice it regularly when taking a plane up – because if your body already knows what to do when cued, it can save you a lot of time, exposure to danger, and safety margin (in the airplane, that translates as airspeed and altitude.)

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate out of the airplane – I distinctly remember sitting there going “What? What’s going on? The world went white and chunks of tire are falling out of the sky at us!” while my husband was displaying combat driving reflexes to avoid said chunks of tire and debris. (He was just really happy afterwards it was a semi losing multiple tires, and not a mine.)

    • Sounds like maybe defensive driving is something to practice, too. Dad used to drive ambulances and taught me to drive, and would drill me on responses when I was driving him around, later. Sanford does much the same thing, as I drive most of the time. It started as a way to learn better driving skills – I came to driving late in life. But now it’s a habit.

      • I keep thinking I need t go somewhere and really learn how to handle my pick-up. It can do a lot more than I generally let it, although the “get self out of sand up to door-handles” but is NOT most emphatically NOT going to be attempted. That is not what Low 4 with locked differential and almost 1:1 gearing is for. (No, I’m going to avoid any place if at all possible that even vaguely looks as if it might have that kind of conditions.)

  11. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “Liked” because you both are OK.

  12. morrigan508

    Trust me, that wasn’t a surprise to the cops (your reaction and hand writing) it would have been a surprise, and without an explanation a reason to probe a bit if you were NOT shaken up, and slightly dysfunctional.

  13. You don’t know me, we’ve never met, but I’m glad that we may have the opportunity of meeting in the future. Take care and all the best.

  14. I’m so glad you’re okay.
    And good point: I need to leave instructions for the books with the kids. An IP will wouldn’t hurt, either.

  15. Any landing you can walk away from, Cedar. Good going.

  16. Doug

    Dorothy’s comment above is accurate. And the reason the military insists on practicepracticepractice until your response occurs before conscious thought begins.
    Although I was driving for years (started at about 10-11) a Navy buddy showed me driving on snow – and risked his ’55 Chevy doing so. He especially showed me how to deal with skids and slides.
    I am so glad you are both okay, except for a scratched thumb and shaken nerves.
    You did good; you kept the shiny side up. Even if it did get crunched.

  17. Glad y’all are OK! And yes on the fast. If I close my eyes, I can see my November wreck (Nov 2015) replay but it is slowed down at least ten times. At the moment it was “Car’s not stopping, evade, BANG boomf.” Boomf being the air bag. Which will knock your glasses off, by the way, if you are short enough.

  18. Maybe start showing middle daughter how to take care of your publishing stuff for now? At least basic access? Not sure how to deal with that in the long run, but at least you have time to think about it, thankfully!

  19. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Good to know that y’all are okay.

  20. Christopher M. Chupik

    My dad was in a motorcycle accident recently. He survived and he’s recovering, but damn, that was scary.

  21. Ouch! Glad you’re all safe. Front tire blowout?

  22. As Dorothy said, cars can be replaced, people can’t. Glad y’all are okay. Sounds like you handled that beautiful. Most drivers, like upwards of 95% of them, would not have done so well.

    Never had a tire blow, but have been in a few spins and crashes – the adrenaline rush and subsequent crash make for a ride as unpleasant as the crash. Shaky handwriting and near incoherence at a crash site are things O.S.P. is use to dealing with. 😉

    Please, keep in mind that it can take a couple of days for some injuries to be noticed. Abrupt stops, even ones from hard braking, can cause whiplash, so keep an eye on yourself and First Reader.

    Nice to see the newer car already in the family. 🙂

    • What @Wyldcat says is so true. I hit black ice at 50 mph one Sunday morning— on an otherwise-empty road, thank God— and ran my PT Cruiser into a guardrail. She was still driveable and I felt whole enough to go on and preach the service at the church I was heading to. But it was a godsend I could take advantage of the chiropractic care my insurance coverage provided for, and even better that that treatment included a course of massage therapy. I can think of better ways to get some good massages than to muck up my fender and driver’s side door, but I was grateful it was available. I would have had some messed up muscles and joints otherwise.

      So if you haven’t done it already, I definitely recommend you get your chiropractor to check you both out. You won’t regret it.

  23. Luke

    Yikes!
    I’m glad everyone’s ok.

  24. Glad you’re safe. Amazing how quickly we start using an intense physical experience as fodder for writing. Maybe it’s because writers have a lot of mental experiences, but not so many intense physical ones in the present, and we know the raft gets consumed on both ends.

    • paladin3001

      I find it interesting on how I have been drawing on my breadth of experience in living (jack of all trades master of none here) with how I approach my characters. Goes to the Lazarus long spiel that ends “Specialization is for insects”. 🙂

  25. Oh my. I am so glad that this turned out to be a major annoyance and not a disaster for you, Sanford, and the family.

    Sounds like you handled the immediate perfectly. The laws of physics only allow so much leeway, so many choices, and you got the best possible result out of the situation.

    As someone said above, a cop would have had his spidey-sense tingling if you had been “normal” afterwards. The one (major) accident I have had, encountering a telephone pole in Rindge, the village cop later told me that I sounded entirely calm and rational – and made absolutely no sense whatsoever. (Yeah, that was young and stupid and thinking that seven years of driving experience under the belt meant I could handle a New Hampshire January.)

    Tires… I am beginning to wonder if manufacturing standards are slipping again. It might be due to less cleanup along the roads down here, but I am seeing a lot more pieces of tires on the roadside, with what look like perfectly good treads on what is left of them. There was a real problem with “spontaneous failures” some years ago, and there are many recalls listed on the NHTSA database – you might want to check for yours there, these don’t always get to the consumer. (https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/owners/SearchSafetyIssues?prodType=T)

  26. Definitely store the experience and use it.

    You make an even better point about being sure that you have a way to pass on important stuff if the worst happens. I’m going to be doing some more of that now

  27. Pat Patterson

    These events restore your perspective in a hurry.

    Don’t you hate it when your perspective gets hurriedly restored?

  28. John Prigent

    I’m so glad you all came out of it OK! It’s so very true that prior practice helps! I hit a frozen puddle at 70 mph on a bend once, more years ago that I care to remember, and started to skid. But ‘what to do in a skid’ had been thoroughly drilled into me by my instructor, and I did it right and recovered from the skid without even thinking about it until afterwards.

    • I had to drive in an ice storm (sans chains!) in Denver once. I determined that I was driving better than most of the folk on the road, because I *knew* I was screwed if I drove badly, so I was paying incredibly close attention to my car. 10 miles, about 90 minutes. I got a call (at a stoplight) from my husband, asking if I was okay, and I had enough time to indicate that I would be a while.

      Of course, the really stupid thing is that we didn’t go straight home after that, but we went to a weekly gathering that we had with friends, another ten miles in the wrong direction. And we weren’t the only ones to show up, either. 😀

  29. Glad you’re OK. I’ve been through a few accidents and they just happen so fast. Not a pleasant experience.

  30. karllembke

    Glad you’re OK, and congratulations on having a new story.
    You’ll probably find bruises in places you won’t believe were in the line of fire over the next few days. You may also find odd bits of damage here and there. (After my participation in a six-car pile-up on the Grapevine, I was sure Uri Geller must have been at my keys.)

    And the answer is, you steer the front end of the car in the direction the back end is swerving. You want to slow down your spin, not speed it up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s