I’m driving home on Highway 12 after an appointment in Santa Rosa. I turn off NPR; they are nattering about slimy politics on this sunny February afternoon. Approaching Sebastopol the highway narrows to three lanes, the center lane for turning only. A fifty mile-an-hour zone.
From the other side, a sedan shears across the highway right at my Prius. I swerve onto the shoulder, but the car slams my driver’s door. Buckling, crunching, folding, my car rolls first on its side, then over onto its roof, and settles to a stop. Glass rains.
I notice that adrenalin hasn’t kicked in. I’m calm, at ease, even. How curious! I’m hanging upside down. A brief thought of fire. I kill the motor, and consider my predicament. Take a moment to assess: wiggle my fingers and toes–they seem to be in working order. Don’t feel cuts or see blood. All my weight is suspended on the seat belt. My neck is bent; I can’t completely straighten because I’m hanging so close to the roof. I don’t really want to drop to the ground anyway. Might injure my neck.
I see a woman leaning down outside the passenger window. I smile and wave. She looks startled to see me respond. “I called 911. Help’s on the way,” she says. “Hang in there.”
Can’t do much else.
Sirens. A police officer gets on his hands and knees and asks permission to break a window so he can talk with me.
“Please,” I say. “I’d like fresh air.”
He smashes it with his billy club, then asks my name. “You okay? Can you move your hands and feet?” I nod. Other policemen try to wrestle the doors open, but no luck. They talk among themselves, then come back. “Fire department’s on its way. They have the equipment we need. It’ll be a few minutes,” he says. “Hang in there.” This time I chuckle.
I remember my little purse which I wear across my body. It’s nestled under my chin. I retrieve the phone and call my husband. I’m glad to hear him say “Hello.”
“Sweetie, I’m fine, but I’ve been in a serious car accident. My car rolled, and I’m hanging upside down waiting for the firemen to cut me out.” I tell him approximately where I am.
“Good heavens,” he says. “I’m on my way.”
There’s a lot of pressure from the belt at my hips. I press my feet on the floor above to shift my weight. From time to time, people talk to me. More sirens, and then I hear the fire truck growl to a stop. Male voices. Then, “Excuse me, Miss, but we are going to make a lot of noise.” Why is he excusing himself?
More talking. Then prying, screeching, and the door creaks open. A paramedic looks at me carefully, and instructs how to support myself by pushing hard on my arms, and bending my neck as he releases the seat belt. I curl on the inside of the roof–which is now the floor–unharmed. He encourages me, using his gloved hands to protect mine from the glass that’s everywhere as I crawl out the passenger side. I’m a bit dizzy as I stand. I glance at my watch. I hung upside down for half an hour.
My husband enfolds me in a hug. The paramedic takes my blood pressure. Normal range.
A policeman walks over to me. “Ms. Blaine, I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad day.”
I look at him, surprised. “Officer, all I feel is gratitude. I’m breathing, walking, talking, no blood. This is a very good day.”