Yesterday I left the office early to pick up Ella right after school so I could take her to the doctor. She hadn’t been feeling well over the weekend and had just recovered from an infected lymph node under her left ear. She was now complaining of pain under her right ear and Yan and I didn’t want to wait until a full blown infection developed before having her seen this time. I decided to take Cade with us so the doctor could check his ears (he had just recovered from an ear infection). Yes, that’s the big game in the Garlett household – infection bingo!
When school let out for the day I intercepted Cade and Ella before they joined their after school programs and loaded them into my car, a 2011 Hyundai Sonata (which has a 5-star crash test rating – that’s important!). I travelled down Sierra Madre Blvd. and merged onto the 210 freeway for the short trip to the doctor’s office just southwest of Old Town Pasadena. I merged directly in front of an eighteen wheeler – a situation which I normally try to avoid, but traffic was bumper to bumper and I had little choice. Just as I merged, the traffic in front of me braked to a stop and so I did, too. The truck behind me, however, did not.
Luckily, in the stop and go traffic, the rate of travel for the truck was only about 5 miles per hour so the impact wasn’t violent. But the huge semi bumper completely demolished the back end of my car, and then he pushed me for a couple of seconds before finally stopping, nearly sandwiching me between himself and the car ahead of me. Ella was really scared and immediately began crying. Cade was really brave and immediately began comforting Ella. I made sure they were both uninjured and got out of the car to deal with the situation.
The truck driver jumped out of his cab screaming and swearing and pulled a piece of my car off his bumper which he then slammed to the ground. At first I thought he was just angry he had hit me. Then it dawned on me that his anger was directed at me. I said, “Wait a minute… are you upset at me!?” He shouted, “Expletive, expletive, I had the expletive right of way!!” After he hit me, as he was pushing me, I wondered why it was taking him so long to stop and now the emotion and volatility he was exhibiting on the freeway shoulder made me begin to think he may have hit me, and then pushed me, on purpose. Rage flashed through me as I thought of my two children strapped into the back seat, only a few feet from where his truck had torn into my car.
But confronting him was out of the question at that point. My only priority was Cade’s and Ella’s safety. I got back into my car, locked the doors, and called the police. I worked to get Ella calmed down and to keep Cade buckled into his car seat when every fiber of his being wanted to break free, check out the damage, and watch the police arrive. I gave the highway patrol officer my statement and called Yan to let her know what had happened. I was shaken at what had occurred and even more so by what did not occur, but might have. I am so thankful neither of my children were hurt. But the event reminded me of just how fragile things really are and how life can completely change, literally, in the blink of an eye.