Jess Go Boom

A windshield seems like a huge thing until its in a million pieces all around you.

I’m still picking out pieces of glass from my wardrobe.  40 hours and two shoots later I’m still apologizing for scattering glass on the studio floor as I pack and unpack my various shootables.  The little mementos rattle in the dryer, which unaccusingly removes the water from my rain soaked things.  Shards stick in my sweater even though I’ve washed it once, and scurry into the corners of the house – serving as future reminders during spring cleaning or a fit of dusting.  The windshield now seems very little.

I saw a doctor Wednesday morning, mostly for documentation and to stop the phone calls from Ric and my mom.  Both were sure I had a concussion or a spinal injury or worse.  Despite my best assurances I was fine, the phone kept ringing.  $75 bucks at a walk in clinic got me Diagnosis 723.1: Cervicalgia (pain in the neck, ha ha) a scrip for pain killers and muscle relaxers, and importantly – silence from my phone.

Ironically when you total a rental car getting a new one is as easy as going back to the counter and asking for one.  It would have been more difficult for me to rent through a different company than it was for me to return to the same counter and ask for a replacement for the car I put in a scrap yard.  They handed me the keys, and made me sign my revised contract.  I was in and out in 90 seconds.  So at 4 AM Wendesday morning I boldly returned to the driver’s seat and made my way back to Long Beach from LAX.

Getting to LAX was probably the biggest part of this adventure.  I crashed about 4 hours north of LA, 15 miles away from anywhere.   The highway patrolman, Matt, kindly drove me to a somewhere by the name of Los Banos.  Being so far away from any of my resources, I had no idea what to say when he asked me where I wanted to go.  The local rental companies don’t do one way rentals, so it was the bus for me.  Matt dropped me off at the ‘bus stop’.  A dirty flickering Grayhound icon over a crumbling adobe charity thrift store.  When I asked about the bus schedule, the boy behind the counter gave me a blank stare.  I got the feeling few people leave Los Banos.  The store owners did not speak English, but managed to communicate that a bus was leaving in 3 hours.  I sat in a duct tapped office chair and waited.

The bus headed to LA and through Fresno finally came.  As I boarded, the loitering meth heads and parolees who had been my company in the unheated store waved a heartfelt goodbye.  The bus driver informed me he only had room to take me to Fresno, and I’d then have to find another way to LA.  “Okay”, I said.  At this point I was simply trying to move South.  Finally in a relatively safe place, the sound of the horn, the noise a car makes when it hits another, and the sensation of rolling played itself over and over in my head.  I wondered how I ended up so far away from those who love me, working so hard for people who don’t care.

People reading this from the Southwest know what I’m talking about when I reference a Mexican bus station.  It’s not the dingy Grayhound down town, or anywhere near an Amtrack, or run in anything resembling an officious manner.  There are a few ‘stations’ but most of the stops are unmarked, in parking lots or outside of shops.  The signs are bold and entirely in Spanish.  They advertise glamorous Mexican destinations.  These are the busses people who live in Mexico or who have family in Mexico use to travel to and from the US.  In California, this is the InterCalifornia bus system.  I got off my bus from Los Banos at the Fresno station cobbled together enough Spanish to buy a ticket to LA ($36, not bad!) and got on the second bus around 10 PM Tuesday evening.  We stopped a few times and I drifted in and out of sleep until I finally woke up in downtown LA.

Downtown LA is not a place I ever wanted to be at 3AM.  But I was there and needed to get to LAX to get another car.  In keeping with the theme, there are no real taxis at the Mexican bus station in downtown LA as there might be outside other bus stations.  I cross my fingers and take a ride from an unmarked taxi to LAX.

4 hours, as it turns out is the upper limit of my bladder’s ability to contain coffee and Dr. Pepper.   Heading north I exited the 5 somewhere 15 miles south of Los Banos, aiming for a gas station on the southbound access road.  I rolled up to the stop sign at the intersection of the northbound access road and the overpass.  Two cars were in front of me.  They stopped and went without incident.  My turn came. Intending to turn left,  I stopped, checked left, right, then left again and went.  I’m still not sure what happened because the damage on the car is incongruous with what I’m told occurred and I never saw the SUV that hit me.  I heard a full second of horn, then a crash.  My car spun 180 degrees, hit the side of the road and began sliding down the embankment.  I probably slid about 20 feet, and then the car rolled once or twice.  I never blacked out or lost consciousness, nothing hit my head.  I remember seeing dirt and grass flying all around me and going kind of tunnel vision on my outstretched arms gripping the steering wheel.  My car finally came to a stop and the silence was profound.  The only noise was my engine revving, since I never took my foot off the gas pedal.  I landed right side up, which I’m extremely grateful for, among a long list of other things like remaining alive etc.

When you tumble down an embankment lots of people stop.  I think 911 was probably dialed 20 times in a 60 second window.  I hadn’t emerged from my car yet, and people were running down the hill to see if I was okay.  I pried the door open and assured them I was alright and thankfully no ambulances were called.  My things were scattered all over the car so I packed them up and headed up the hill.  Highway Patrol arrived shortly, and did their usual report collecting, measuring etc.  The girl in the car directly behind me offered a statement that will be tremendously helpful.  She was planning to turn in the same window I went, meaning she thought the road was clear too.  The person who hit me was way over the speed limit, and there were no tire marks on the road.  They had time to honk, but no time to step on the brakes which I don’t understand.

My mom asked me how I was doing yesterday.  I glibly replied “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.”  So for all you wondering, except for some crazy whiplash I’m fine.  Gotta get the paperwork sorted out, but otherwise life goes on.  For other reasons I’ve been considering cutting a lot of my travel, and this incident definitely weighs in favor of less travel.  Changes be commin’…I’ll keep ya posted!


11 Responses

  1. Glad you came out of it relatively unscathed. That is scary!

  2. I’m so glad you’re ok!

  3. Wow, so glad you’re ok! Major props for having a clear head and finding your way back to civilization. I wouldn’t know a Mexican bus station from a fish taco stand.

    Side note: if I grew up in a town called “The Men’s Bathrooms,” I think I’d want to escape too.

  4. Jess, I’m very glad to hear you came through this as well as you did!

  5. Wow! I’m so glad to hear that you came out of this OK… It could have been so much worse. You are a pretty tough chick though. 🙂

  6. Jess,
    Glad to hear that you made it through this. Texas girls are as tough as nails.

  7. Ye gods! I’m very happy that you weren’t seriously injured. I am curious about what “changes” you have in mind… but I guess I’ll find out!

  8. Jess, do not underestimate the “damage” that may have been done to you by whiplash.

    While you are young and therefore feel immortal and think everything will sort themselves out, these types of “damages” have a way of playing themselves out later when you get older (it happened to my Aunt). So make sure you do all the things now that you can, while it is covered by (hopefully) insurance: full scans, full physio etc.

    The gods were watching over you this time.

  9. Ouch! Glad you escaped relatively unscathed.

    You’re really quite a good writer… prose like ‘ As I boarded, the loitering meth heads and parolees who had been my company in the unheated store waved a heartfelt goodbye.’ is pretty seriously funny and makes such a vivid picture in my mind I have to LOL.

    • I wasn’t giggling at the time, but upon reflection its rather ‘Big Fish’. =)

  10. Strange mix of harrowing and ease. Wow! You definitely have Angels watching over you. The crumple zone was on the rear of the car.

    Travel is definitely double-edged. On the one hand you enrich your life experiences, gain and hone skills and develop self reliance more than stay at homes. On the other, like you say, in the end it’s only about you and very few will reach out to help absorb the damage and stress from any over-extension your travel has brought on. Who – in the end – is able to “care”,,,

    Really cool narrative. Highly evocative prose. I definitely want to read more of what you write!!!! Seriously!!!! CHEERS

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