Saturday, April 19, 2008

Anatomy of a Car Wreck

It was about midmorning today when we were cruising along ADB Avenue next to the Robinsons Galleria mall. I was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car next to our family driver, while my mother and sister sat behind us in the back seat. It was a little past ten in the morning, and I was a little short-tempered -- I was already late for the start of a prerelease tournament that was to be held inside the mall because my two female family members had taken a long time to wake up and get dressed.

As we approached the left-turn slot that would allow us to go up the mall's main entranceway, I unbuckled my seat belt and murmured something about exactly where I wanted to be let off. We slowed down as we made the turn at the intersection; I saw that a large white van at the head of traffic in the other lane had stopped to let us pass.

In the next moment, a sapphire-blue Toyota Vios suddenly flashed into my line of sight. It was running through the outside lane at a speed that clearly indicated that it was not about to stop -- and it was heading right towards us. I started to say something -- whatever it was, I don't remember anymore -- but the words were lost in the incident that followed.

The Vios plowed right into us, striking us squarely in our front right fender and dragging us for a few feet. I remember a loud, prolonged crunching sound, and at the same time the hood suddenly crumpled up before me. Sometime in that single moment, the inertia carried me out of my seat and onto the right side of the car. I struck my head on something -- I don't know if it was the window or the frame right next to me -- and all of a sudden there was this loud ringing in my ears.

Almost immediately after the crash, the horns around us began blaring. It was as though the other drivers didn't understand what had just happened and automatically leaned on their steering wheels as a reflex action. Mall security came running up -- we later found out that at least one guard who was directing taxicabs up the driveway had seen the whole thing.

Our driver turned out to be unhurt, although he seemed greatly irritated at what had just happened. He opened his door after a few seconds, ostensibly to snap at the offending motorist; this was just in time to see the man pull his car away from its original position and park it next to the sidewalk a little ways beyond.

In the passenger seat, I was being assaulted by the most monstrous headache I had ever imagined. It was as though there was a whole symphony orchestra going on inside my head, where all the musicians were trying their best to stay out of tune. I held one hand to the spot on my forehead that had taken the impact -- every now and then I would compulsively check my fingers, expecting blood.

Our driver had crossed the street to begin what turned out to be a very tense conversation with both mall security and the driver of the other car. The man offered to trade contact information because -- as he mentioned -- "we were both at fault". Our driver flatly refused -- it's absurd to admit your own fault in a car crash when your own car has slowed down or stopped, and the other guy's car is driving at full speed right towards you.

Back in the car, my mother asked me if I was okay. I told her to ask me again when the throbbing stopped. I still had one hand on my forehead, and I was trying to calm down, trying not to think, because somehow doing so made the sounds in my head even louder.

I called to my sister to get her to note down the other car's license plate, because I was afraid that I would have trouble recalling it myself. I felt that a bruise was coming on both inside and out; a mild concussion was probably within reason. I didn't feel any sharp or searing pains, though, so I felt justified enough to assume that there was no permanent damage involved. Nevertheless, the headache showed no signs of abating.

Our driver returned to us to report that the other person was driving a company car, and that it had been insured under a corporate account. By then my mother was on the phone to one of my uncles in the insurance business; she asked for advice on how to deal with the situation, and then gave our driver some specific instructions: Get a copy of his vehicle and insurance information. Get his contact and company information. Get signatures for everything. And under no circumstances allow him to drive away without getting any of the above.

After he left to resume discussions, there was a short episode of cursing in the car. This was followed by a more personal assessment: My mother had also hit her head, although to a much lesser impact due to her distance from the crash area. My sister had gotten away with striking her knee. I still had my headache, however, and they were growing concerned that it had not reduced in intensity within the last twenty minutes.

Shortly afterwards, our driver returned to his seat and attempted to start the car. It continued to fail even after three attempts; later on we would find out that the radiator had been warped so much by the crash that it had been rendered completely useless. I assume that more security guards had arrived by then -- two of them assisted us in pushing the car to a position beside the sidewalk.

Some time later, our driver was able to procure the needed documents from the other motorist. Despite his previous claim, the man wasn't able to produce any insurance certifications at all -- which struck us as strange, because we expected him to carry these around at all times like any other insured driver. We ended up getting copies of his registration and papers, as well as his contact information and the name of the company that owned his car, but little else before security decided to let him drive off.

A few minutes after the tow truck arrived, my brother arrived as well. My sister had apparently called him during the interim period, and he seemed royally pissed that something like this could have happened. Over the rest of the day, he would constantly inform us of his intent to write a letter of complaint to the company regarding their driver's behavior.

My headache had been reduced to a dull throb by that time, and someone suggested that they bring me to a hospital to check on my condition. I didn't argue, although it took us about ten minutes to navigate a path to the nearest medical center. All the while I kept talking -- I was beginning to feel a strange light-headedness at that point, and I wanted to probe around and see if I could find anything wrong with my modes of thought.

While my sister waited with me in the checkup room, she remarked that I had been slurring my words. In addition, there was a tiny wound that had materialized on my right eyelid, although it had already clotted by the time I checked the nearest reflective surface. I hadn't noticed either one due to the demands of the splitting headache. I was still experiencing the dull throb and the light-headedness around this time, so I lay down on a gurney and felt the headache well up in the back of my head.

The doctor gave me a cursory checkup and asked a few questions. After a while he told me that I was all right -- it looked as though my mental faculties were still intact, so the concussion was most likely very mild. He prescribed a painkiller for me, after which an orderly handed me a tablet and a glass of water. I was also advised to keep myself under observation for the next twenty-four hours, and to watch for symptoms of physical or nervous collapse.

On our walk back to my brother's car, we decided that we felt more or less all right (apart from the headache), and figured that we could go about our usual errands as long as there was always someone around to watch us. This was already around noon today, and we were all starved for lunch.

As for me, it was already too late to pass by the tournament at the mall; I had to hope that there was another one to be held the next morning. I ended up passing by a book launch in the Serendra area near Makati City, where I accounted my lurid tales of this morning's incident to quite a few shocked people. At this point, I refuse to classify it as a car "accident" -- having been the person who may have most likely been seriously injured if we had moved forward even a few more feet, I have quite a unique take on the situation.

We're expecting the car to remain in the custody of the mechanics for at least a week. They've already told us that they first need to figure out what can be salvaged and what has to be replaced; in addition, they're also considering how the hood can be hammered back into shape.

Apart from that, the rest of the day was spent discussing various conspiracy theories on who the errant driver was, and how he could have just plowed into us like that. I won't mention any details on him or his company so that their privacy can be kept under wraps. Besides, they'll only be relevant to the discussions that we will personally be having with them.

All in all, it was an interesting experience. Maybe I'll work it into a story one day.


Dominique said...

Glad to read that you're safe. Take care, bro!

pgenrestories said...

I'm glad to read no one was seriously hurt.

banzai cat said...

Geez luis, Sean. Good to see you're okay at least.

... oh yeah. Sue the bastard!

Sean said...

I must point out that my next post involves a dancing slab of gorgonzola, so I'd hold off on reports of my sanity first. :)

Banzai Cat: I know where you're coming from. In this case, however, the offending party was driving a company car. As a result, there's a corporation that's (presumably) paying us out of their insurance. So no, I don't aim to sue them off the bat, and hopefully there'll be no suing done here at all.

Sacha Chua said...

Oh, goodness. That sounds like a harrowing experience! I'm glad to hear that you've recovered enough to write about it.

Sean said...

Sacha: I just wanted to get the details down on... paper... before time decides to fog up my memory. This blog is the closest thing I have to a personal journal, and the best part is that I can't lose it among a pile of papers in the back of my closet. :)