Friday, March 27, 2009

Dinner and coffee...with death for dessert

So last night I left the Lair in Lagniappe's capable paws and headed down to Winchester for a delightful dinner with Nicki, blogger extraordinaire from The Liberty Zone and contributor/coven member at The Sniper blog. It was a good time, regrettably cut short by the closing of the coffee shop that we'd adjourned to after dinner, and the only downside came when we discovered that one of us (HINT: It wasn't me.) had left their car window down far enough to let the rain in while we were gone. Tsk! But never let it be said that I'm not sympathetic. I'm still snickering mind you, but I sympathize.

So I headed home after a totally relaxing and enjoyable 3+ hours. I was chuckling over all of the stories that she told me about Bridget and Poet, the other two members of The Sniper's coven (yes ladies, I know everything now...and so does Lagniappe.) and I almost didn't see something faintly flickering down in the ditch next to the road as I drove up the two-lane highway in the rain and fog. But I had seen something, so I stopped and turned around to go back and find out what.

Damn. There was a pickup truck down in the ditch on it's side, it's cab in the middle of a grove of trees. And the flickering was coming from a few small flame spots on the underside of the engine compartment. Not good. Not good at all.

I got my fire extinguisher out of my vehicle as I dialed 911 and called it in as I ran around the front of the truck and emptied it on the visible flames. It seemed to knock the fire out so I went around the other side to try to get to the cab, but owing to the terrain and the tree trunks, which were now splayed out around the cab like an abatis, I couldn't to the driver. I could see him in there though. The cab was mangled and compressed around the driver's side and one tree trunk was right through the left side of the cab where the driver was. As a former firefighter/paramedic and police officer, it was obvious to me that his was going to be one hell of a complex extrication that would require a lot of equipment, manpower and time. I alternated between giving the 911 center information and calling out to the driver to tell him that help was on the way. I don't know if he heard me, but if there was a chance, I wanted him to know.

Then I heard the familiar WHOOMP! sound of the puddled gasoline under the wreck flaring up and the orange glow was everywhere. With no tools or protective gear, there was nothing that I could do but get back away from the wreck and pray that the driver was already dead. I've seen people burn to death before and it's not something I'd wish on anyone. I scrambled out of the ditch and focused on moving some of the recently arrived bystanders back and enlisting the help of a couple of them to cut traffic on the road.

In a few minutes, local deputies showed up, followed by the local fire company. The fire was put out, and eventually a firefighter was able to make it down to the cab to confirm that the driver was in fact already gone.

I have my own opinions as to the cause(s) of the crash, and while I'm not privy to results of the blood test that'll surely be done, the smell of beer around the wreck coupled with the sight of the beer can in the dash cup holder were pretty suggestive. When are people going to learn that drinking and driving is a deadly mix? I'm sure that the rain and the fog didn't help, but why roll the dice against even worse odds by adding booze to the equation?

The plus side was that I at least got to say hi to several acquaintances among the police and fire responders. And I heard that another Sheriff's Deputy had wrecked en route (You're right, Nicki...two words) to this scene and required transport to the hospital.

As I stood there in the rain watching thirty or so other people trying to clean up one guy's mess, the beginning of an old Emily Dickinson poem came back to me.
Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me...
Awful nice of Death, stopping for this fellow in the middle of the night way out in the middle of nowhere like that. And once again it's clear that none of us have a guarantee of seeing tomorrow. I'm sure that the guy in the truck had no idea when he started his truck that he was taking his last drive. Any one of us--or all of us--could die today, either because we do something dumb, or because someone else near us does something dumb, or just because. So make good use of your time--today and every day--because you never know just how much or how little you have left.

EDITED: Turns out there were actually TWO people in the crushed cab of that truck...both dead.


  1. Anonymous9:25 AM

    Sounds like you may have found a soul mate in another blogger. Congrats. Oh and sorry to hear about the drunken ditched dead guy.
    It's a tragedy, but at least he only took himself out in the process...that's a least a bonus and you didn't get hurt doing your good deed. You tried though so that gets you good guy points.

  2. I have reminded way too often enough this past week about death and its sudden calling on each of our lives. It has been a sobering week for me, I know. Death comes for all of us. And for most of us, we do not know when that time will be. Life is short. And I do my darndest to live it to its fullest.

    On a side note about the (obviously) drunk driver. He got what he had coming to him. I HATE drunk drivers. I am just thankful he did not kill or seriously injure an innocent victim.

  3. Anonymous10:36 AM

    You are right. You never know when death will come calling.Take care.

  4. What a way to end an otherwise enjoyable night! As Anon says, thankfully you did not get hurt being the good guy.

    Glad we could provide you and Lagniappe some entertainment, and as for the coven... we only use our power for good. Or try to. :-)

  5. I know what you mean, FD. After my little incident a few years back, I try to treat every day like a gift from God.

    But if that Death guy comes around here, Ima gonna pop a cap in his ass, sho nuff.

  6. Yeah, yeah! OK, funny guy! Yes, I drove home with a wet ass, but you were soakier and colder after your encounter with the drunken dead guy. Karma... she's a bitch. ;-)

    Seriously, I'm glad you weren't hurt. Cold, rain, burning vehicle, you being Superman again... could have been a bad combination. But you're OK, and that is good.

  7. Yes, it's a real word I just invented. :-) I'm awesome like that!

  8. Bummer about the crash fatality. Had he been alive I have no doubt he would have survived with you watching over him.

    I'm jealous about your dinner. The Sniper's one of my favorite blogs! Besides this one of course.

  9. Anonymous2:13 PM

    "Ima gonna pop a cap in his ass, sho nuff."

  10. Anonymous3:58 PM

    "Ima gonna pop a cap in his ass, sho nuff."

    On that note...are any of THESE real words? Does... not... compute. ;-)

  11. Anonymous1:05 PM

    Wow what a story... You did your best, and your are correct, we are promised no tomorrow's just today.

    You're a hero again. Pet the dog for me and have a great week.

  12. I lost a childhood friend 14 years ago, April 4, to drunk driving .. her own drunk driving.

    It was our last hurrah, so to speak. Our last night partying because we both decided we'd gotten out of hand and needed to straighten up and fly right.

    I was supposed to be riding with her that night.

    As much as I miss her, I'm thankful every day that she got away from me and left me at the bar.

  13. My most interesting stop ( I was working construction at the time, and there was, I discovered, a dynamic of 'being off'; that is, being on the roads without the majority of other honest folks, so you would see things outside the mainstream.)

    I watched a Lexus SUV flip end over end on a highway with five male teenagers inside. That pinwheel of blood has stayed with me for 15 years, not least because I couldn't figure out how this kid could do an endo with anti-lock brakes.

    As it turned out, it bothered me enough (I'm the inquisitive type) to do some research into Lexus and the full-time 4-wheel-drive and discovered that in fact Lexus' ABS system would not only apply brakes but also issue power from the engine to the wheels. All-wheel-drive would, quote, "divert power to wheels under 'unusual' circumstances". Quote from Lexus' promo material.

    This kid overcompensated, cut it hard, and brought one rear wheel off the pavement at 70 mph. The braking system took over and flipped the vehicle.

    No shit.

    Barbecued flesh smells like nothing else.

  14. Death didn't just happen along, this guy had called death via cell phone and asked to meet him on the drunken ride home.

    Taking foolish risks can easily end with a foolish reward.