Thursday, June 30, 2011
“The Roadster” during a trip to Banff, Canada, in 2007.
One week ago today I lost an old and very dear friend who, despite never having offered a word of appreciation or any declaration of support, ultimately saved my life.
At about 9:20 a.m. on Thursday, June 23, I was driving back home after dropping my wife off at her office in downtown Seattle. As usual, I was behind the wheel of my wonderful 2002, metallic gray Saab 9-3, a sporty little vehicle that’s seen me through some nightmarish roads trips, multiple visits to my brother and other family members in Portland, Oregon, and one 781-mile round-trip vacation up north to the Canadian resort town of Banff, Alberta, in 2007.
Only 11 blocks from my house, on a relatively quiet neighborhood thoroughfare, I stopped well behind a Subaru Forester that was signaling to make a left-hand turn across traffic. All of a sudden, I looked up in my rearview mirror and saw a big blue car barreling down on me from behind. Knowing that it was going to hit me, and without any time to swing out of its way, I slammed my foot down hard on the brake, hoping to stop the Saab from smashing into the car in front of us.
Sure enough, I was rear-ended. Hard. The car responsible, a 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass, was traveling at 30-plus miles an hour--and I don’t remember hearing its breaks. The Cutlass was ruined, its grill disappearing into dust and its front end buckled as far as it could go without throwing the engine into the passenger compartment. My lovely Saab, being much better made, suffered less damage, but its back end was pushed forward enough that I couldn’t drive it, without the rear bumper scraping my back tires.
The 20-something woman driving that Olds Cutlass admitted to the police officer who showed up to make the accident report that she’d been looking down at her cell phone and chatting with her girlfriend in the car, and hadn’t been paying attention to her driving. She didn’t see the two vehicles stopped in her path.
I wasn’t seriously injured, though I wound up with some soreness in my neck, back, and ribs. Thanks to my last-minute jamming of the brakes, I only tapped the Subaru in front of me--which was a damn good thing, because the mother behind its wheel had her baby in the back seat; neither of them was hurt, either. The Saab took the brunt of that morning’s violence. And performed heroically. After looking over the photos from that crash, my brother, who’s spent years dealing in cars, said the Saab absorbed the blow exactly as it had been designed to do, and that if I’d been in a smaller, less sturdy automobile, I would have wound up either in a hospital ward or under a gravestone.
Unfortunately, my beloved car--the one on which I’ve lavished so much care and affection over the years, and which I thought I would have for a decade to come--won’t be returning home. My insurance company has declared it totaled, estimating the cost of putting it back on the road at $12,000, more than its present market value.
I’m heartbroken. I loved that car, which my wife and I had come to call, affectionately, “The Roadster.” I was proud every moment I was driving it. I’ve never found such enjoyment in a car as I did in the Saab. It gave us almost no trouble over the years, and I tried to pay it back for its reliability by keeping it in top condition. But I couldn’t stop a negligent young woman from damaging it beyond repair.
Perhaps the only hopeful thing that’s come out of all this horror is that my mechanic, who has worked on the Saab ever since I bought it and knows what excellent shape it was in, purchased it from my insurance company at a good price, with the intention of dismantling it for parts to use in other older vehicles. In other words, my beautiful little car’s legacy is to help keep its fellow Saabs up and running and protecting other drivers who depend on their strength as much as I did on my car last week.
Only in that respect might its sacrifice be thought worthwhile.
Thank you, old friend, I won’t forget you.
READ MORE: “Close Shave Indeed,” by Byron Rice (Notes from the Flatlands ...).
Posted by J. Kingston Pierce at 5:16 PM