Obligatory beginning to an entry like this: Don't worry, I'm fine. Physically, anyway; emotionally a little shook up.
I was already a little off-kilter this afternoon, for reasons I won't go into here (but nothing really bad, just offbalancing). Then a little after 6 p.m., I got in my car to drive to Arthur & Pam's for dinner. I drove the block and a half from work to the only largish intersection before the freeway. I stopped for a red light. When the light turned green in my direction, I started through the intersection, going straight, toward the freeway.
Suddenly there was another car in my peripheral vision to the left, coming toward me at what seemed like very high speed but was probably rapidly decelerating from around the 35 mph speed limit. I hit the brakes and/or turned the wheel to the right to avoid the other car. The other car struck the front of my car, just in front of my front left wheel. My car spun clockwise maybe a quarter turn; my head hit my door, but not too hard. I, panicking, managed to bring my car to a limping halt at the side of the road.
I was shaking. In this kind of situation, I've heard of people saying that everything slows down, but for me everything speeds up—it's all over before I have time to think or react. I gradually got to the point where I could get out of the car— the door still worked fine. By the time I got out, the other driver had pulled over to the side of the road in front of me and had gotten out of her car as well; I think the first thing she said to me was that her light had been green and mine had been red. In a tone that suggested that she hoped I would do the sensible thing and agree with her that I had been in the wrong.
I didn't think that was what had happened, but I was too flustered to say anything. I'm really not good in an emergency. I remembered a lot of insurance-agency documents saying never to admit fault, and though I'm annoyed by the idea of not apologizing in a case where I really did do something wrong, in this case it seemed wise to not talk to her about whose fault it was just yet. I called 911, and told them it wasn't an emergency but there'd been an accident, and the 911 dispatcher was very nice to me and sent some police right out.
I called Pam and Arthur to let them know, and Arthur left instantly to come get me.
Sometime early on in all this, after the other driver had said that I'd been running a red light, I glanced up at the stoplight in the direction I'd been traveling; it was just turning yellow, and I'm pretty sure it had been less than 30 seconds since the collision. Which boosted my confidence that the light had indeed been green in my direction. Not long after that, the guy who'd been in the car behind me came over to tell me that the light for us had indeed been green. He gave me his name and phone number. I thought maybe he worked at the same place I do, but I just looked him up in the employee directory and didn't find him, so he must work at the other company on that street.
I tried to call my insurance company, but the after-hours guy I reached said it would take 15 to 20 minutes to take down my information, and the police showed up around then, so I told the insurance person I would call back soon. Meanwhile, the other driver was asking me if I had cigarettes.
"Cigarettes?" I said, dumbfounded. It seemed really important to her. "Yes, cigarettes," she said, holding her cell phone in one hand and gesticulating toward my glove compartment with the other. "For your car." It eventually turned out that she didn't speak much English, and her husband was on the phone telling her to get my insurance and/or registration info, and she was trying to repeat what he was telling her but didn't quite have it right. I feel a little sorry for her—it can't be easy to deal with having been in an accident when you aren't entirely fluent in the language everyone else is speaking. (What threw me was that she sounded fluent in English; I think she was just lacking in vocabulary. And, presumably, rather flustered herself.)
The police looked at the mess—the whole front bumper area had been torn off my car and was lying on the ground, and fluid was leaking from a little hose of some sort, and my hood was caved in on one side and crumpled on the other—and said there was no need to take a police report; he said we should just have our insurance companies talk to each other and sort it out. He set out some flares around my car—probably not strictly necessary, as I was only slightly in the road by that point, but nice anyway—and he called a tow truck.
The other driver and I traded insurance and contact information, and then she drove off. (Her car had minor damage to the front right headlight, but was quite drivable. An old-looking Chevy Nova.) I'm hazy on chronological sequence; at some point the tow truck showed up, and at some point I called my insurance back and started giving them information, and at some point Arthur showed up.
Arthur and the tow-truck guy and the guy who'd been in the car behind me were my heroes of the evening. Arthur for coming to get me on a moment's notice and for being comforting; the guy behind me for stepping forward and volunteering information at a moment when it otherwise might've been possible for the other driver to convince me that I had hallucinated the green light; and the tow-truck guy for being incredibly helpful, competent, and reassuring. He quickly cleaned up the car bits that were strewn across the road; he came and got my keys and moved my car so it was angled correctly for towing; he quickly and competently got the car onto the back of his truck; he was friendly and calm throughout. Turns out their lot is located like two blocks from my house. If you ever need a tow truck in the Mountain View area, I highly recommend Bill's Towing.
The insurance person, on the other hand, was not at all helpful. She was probably just following normal procedure, and I was probably not helping matters by being on a cell phone in noisy circumstances (so she had a hard time hearing me sometimes even when I spoke very loudly); I suspect normal procedure is probably designed for someone who has gone home and relaxed after the accident before calling. She spent a couple of minutes verifying my contact information before we even got to the point of my telling her there'd been an accident. And I mean all of my contact information—full street address, two phone numbers. I was half-surprised she didn't ask for my mother's maiden name.
Anyway, I was barely holding it together, and she was telling me that at State Farm we believe in giving customers choices, and she gave me a long explanation about one of my options, and then she launched into a long explanation of another option (which seemed to involve my calling a bunch of repair shops and collecting estimates and deciding who I wanted repairing my car), and I couldn't tell how many more options there would be and I was on the verge of tears, and I finally just told her "Look, I don't care; just give me whatever option is the easiest for me. I don't want to make any phone calls, I don't want to shop around, I don't want to get estimates, I just want someone else to deal with it." So we went with option 1.
She probably didn't actually handle it as badly as it felt to me like she was handling it; I think it was just that she wasn't prepared to deal with someone as distressed as I was. Which is weird, 'cause I always thought they said the first thing to do after an accident is contact the insurance company. But I may be misremembering.
(Damn. It just occurred to me that I had my camera with me and I should have taken a whole lot of photos. Wasn't thinking.)
Anyway. Arthur took me to his place, and he and Pam fed me and gave me hugs, and we talked for a few hours, and then Arthur brought me home, and here I am. Very very tired, still a little shaky. My head's slightly sore—both on the left side, where I know it hit the door, and in the same spot (just above the ear) on the right side, where it must've hit something but damn if I know what. My back is also a little sore, but I'm pretty sure it's nothing serious.
I can't imagine that the insurance company will want to bother with repairing the car. I paid $5000 for it ten years ago; the blue-book price at this point is well under $1000. The engine seems to still be working, and everything from the front wheels on back seems to be in fine shape, but I'm pretty sure the cost to repair the car would be several times the value of the car.
Which sucks. I like that car a lot, despite its flaws. I drove it around the country for a year. It's the only car I've ever sat in where the driver's seat was comfortable for me for long drives. It still gets well over 40 miles per gallon when I'm driving it on freeways regularly. (Only in the mid-30s when I'm using it to commute to work, but today was gonna be the last day of that for a while; now that my foot is feeling better, next week I was going to force myself to return to biking to work. Perhaps this was the universe's way of telling me I really ought to bike to work more often.) The car's tires are brand-new; the stereo is relatively new. It certainly had many flaws, but I was fond of it.
But I think it's probably time to let go. Sigh. Kam will be happy about that at least, I suspect; she's always felt that a Geo Metro is too small and light to be safe. I'll wait and see what the insurance company says, but I suspect I'm now in the market for a hybrid.
I'm really really glad that the timing and spacing weren't just slightly different this evening; if I'd gone a little further before she hit me, she'd have hit the driver's door. But that's the kind of counterfactual that seems more likely than it is; a lot of factors went into the exact details being what they were.
If that didn't make sense, never mind; I'm tired.
So far, I have to say, 2005 is not my favorite year ever.