I quickly hit the foodcourt for some grub. Then walked over to the Lids store to purchase my new Panthers hat. A New Era, which in hindsight could have been foreshadowing of the year to follow. A 39Thirty, with mesh backing which allowed the flexibility to fit my big head. I always have a tough time finding hats and caps that fit me. It was perfect. Fit comfortably and looked sharp. Really sharp!
As I made the purchase and walked out of the store, I’m pretty sure I went straight to my phone to pull up the schedule to see when I might be able to attend my first game. Wearing the new hat of course. My next thought was what shirt I was going to wear that would match the hat. Should I find a shirt at another store to go with the sharp-looking new hat?
I looked at my watch and realized that I was short on time so that purchase was going to have to be made at a later date. So to the parking garage I went. Already wearing the new hat of course.
I slipped into my car. A 2015 Ford Explorer with room for days (or at least room for long legs), with the new car smell still intact. Like my new hat, my car was new a well. The first brand new car I had ever bought. I always bought used vehicles in the past so driving this beautiful “candy apple red” sports utility was a delight each and every time I entered her. I’m normally a Jeep guy, although with small children, I had decided to give up on Jeeps for a few years until they got older. Our new “Mach 12” as the kids and I named her (Iron Man reference) had all the works. Leather seats with heating/cooling, satellite radio, a oversized “moon” roof, etc… She was “purtee”.
I left the backside of the parking garage at Crabtree Valley Mall where I approached a single red light at a four way intersection. I had the blinking red where I needed to come to a complete stop. Across from me was a grey, small, compact car where 2 girls sat across from me and had come to a complete stop as well. I looked both ways. Nothing. I began to move forward since I had the “right of way”. The other car began to move forward and it appeared they were needing to make a left, which would cross in front of me. I stopped. They stopped. I inched forward. They had begun to move as well. Sensing that they must be in a hurry or just inconsiderate or ignorant of common driving rules, I slowed again as they whipped in front of me. Essentially cutting me off. But hey, I’m a southern gent… “ladies first” right?
At this point, everything seemed to go in slow motion. Or at least that’s my memory of it. As the girls whipped in front of me while making they’re abrupt turn, one of them appeared to be smiling at me. The memory is almost of an evil, devilish type of smile. At this point, after my epic game of “chicken” with this grey car, I was already about 30% into the intersection. I had come to a complete stop when I was cut off so began to press the gas peddle once this other car had passed. At the same time, a large truck, exceeding the speed limit, whipped around the corner of this intersection. Not seeing the “Mach 12” halfway out in this intersection, it blowed into this beautiful new car. Full speed impact through the right front of my vehicle. No screeching of tires. No warning. No time to react.
I remember sliding, spinning around in one full rotation and almost spinning 360 degrees again before the vehicles settled in the middle of the road. A little dazed I remember looking up to see which direction I was facing and wondering why my airbag on the steering wheel hadn’t deployed. I then grabbed my forehead to see if there was any blood. I had hit my head on the steering wheel but not hard enough to split it open (insert big-headed jokes here). A little dazed I then looked around to see if I was fully intact. The first miracle I encountered was not having one single scratch on me. An accident which was nearly head on and resulted in the complete totalling and destruction of my brand new car. Still a little dazed, I then looked up to see how the other guy was. No sign of him being upright but I did see fire, smelled the smoke and could still smell the burning of rubber from the impact. I looked like I made survived, so I began to crawl out of the car.
The other driver’s leg was trapped. He was lying in the front area of his trucks cabin, his leg bleeding but he was conscious. I began looking at options to get him out of the truck but his leg was pretty lodged in there. So after a few attempts at dislodging the door, I stopped and just spoke with him to see if he was alright. Luckily there were a few lunch time walkers that were passing by and saw the whole incident. Promptly calling the police who then arrived just minutes after we had collided. I was brushed out of the way and placed near one of the police cars. Noticing that I was still a bit shaken up, they began checking out my head and immediately started asking questions about what happened. In the next few minutes, the EMS personnel showed up. They then began with their procedures and protocol with regards to identifying possible unseen injuries. “I’m fine, I’m fine”. “Just hit my head. Please go check on the other guy first. He looks like he might be in bad shape.”
I’m an ex-athlete. A youth football coach and out of habit I immediately tell myself to “shake it off”. No blood, no injury. So having convinced myself that I had avoided a trip to the ER (actually thought for a second of the money I had saved), I then began to think about what the next steps might be. Everyone had run to the aid of the driver of the truck or so I thought. Behind me, almost hidden by me, was an EMT worker who had stayed behind to further observe me. Not realizing she was there, I then heard “Hey honey! Are you sure you’re alright?” being spoken from behind me. I turned and saw a very young, very small in stature, lady with a very pleasant, almost comforting smile on her face. With a charming southern accent and a hint of an accent distinctly from North Carolina, she began to ask me a few concussion specific questions. I of course passed the test with flying colors or at least thought in my head that I had. “Darlin’, let me take you to get checked out.” For about 5 minutes I did everything I could to avoid going to the hospital. Almost to the point to where I showed signs of irritation towards this sweet EMT. “Sweetheart, you bumped your head. The other driver is well taken care of. My job is to take care of you and I wouldn’t feel like I did a good job today if I didn’t convince you to let the doctors take a look at you.”
Living in an area full of transplanted people from all over the US and the world for that matter, I often miss the charm and distinct dialect of southern women. Yes, I live in the south, yet I don’t have the exposure to “southerners” like I did when I was young. Often questioned myself on whether or not I’m trully from the area due to losing most of my accent years ago. So hearing the words “honey”, “sweetheart” and “darlin'” immediately grabbed my attention and provided me with a calm feeling. “Come take a ride with me. I promise I won’t bite.” The way she presented her words, along with the warming smile she gave me, in hindsight, was almost angelic in nature and is something I will never forget. Her face and that smile convinced me to go to the hospital. Even when I was convinced I did not need to go and would never have made the trip if it weren’t for this person who I still cannot remember her name. Even though I had her tell it to me several times on the ride to the hospital.