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January 1999
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Death of a Fiesta

Once of an evening some number of years ago I was driving along one the curving two lane highways of which New England has a great abundance. As I drove along in my little red Ford Fiesta hatchback I came to a stretch of road which curved sharply to my left. Said curve was the terminus of another road which tee'ed into it from my right.

As I came into the curve I could see the lights of a vehicle coming from the other direction. As I came closer the vehicle appeared in view and started a left turn immediately in front of me at a distance far too short for me to do anything about it.

It is a remarkable thing but time really does slow down in such situations; unfortunately one's reflexes and thought processes do not operate any faster. I remember distinctly dithering about what should I do. Should I cut to the left on the hope that he continued his turn or should I cut to the right on the hope that he straightened out and went back into his lane? None of these actions would have been of any use - he was almost immediately in front of me. In fact, I slammed on the brakes and continued straight ahead.

The other driver continued his turn in blithe indifference to my existence and I broadsided him. The other vehicle was a Ford minivan - a very top heavy Ford minivan. It promptly tipped over and spun around on its top for about twenty feet before coming to a halt, resting on its now somewhat caved in roof. The Fiesta came to a halt more or less at the point of collision (it bounced back a few feet) with an engine compartment that now was approximately one foot long. On my web site there is a picture of the Fiesta, not a very good one, taken after the accident.

After the accident things happened. The police came and blue lights flashed. You will be pleased to know that nobody was injured to speak of - all parties were wearing their seat belts. I was slightly stunned. The driver and his two passengers of the minivan had more of a problem. They were hanging upside down and the doors somehow no longer worked, a problem which the police and their cohorts duly solved.

The occupants of the minivan and I did the insurance and papers thing whereupon I discovered that they had a quite different problem. The driver and his friends were all teenagers. The minivan belonged to the driver's father; it was a business vehicle; the young gentleman had borrowed it quite without explicit permission. He was facing the prospect of making a phone call of a sort that no one likes to make.

Fortunately or unfortunately for him, the necessity for the embarrassing phone call was eliminated quite dramatically. Who should drive up, quite by chance, but mama and papa. They stopped when they saw their minivan sitting topsy-turvy in the middle of the road. Their emotions must have been excessively mixed, what with dismay at the loss of the minivan and relief that their offspring went unhurt. Alas, I did not witness the actual moment when Father and Son came face to face but it must have been priceless. Papa came over later and profusely apologized.

Oh yes, why did our hero make his left turn immediately in front of me? It seems that he was looking for it and, not knowing the road, didn't know where it was. He was concentrating on looking for his turn and, when he saw it, he took it. I don't think he even realized that there a car coming from the other direction.

These days I make a point of slowing down and watching carefully whenever I come up to that curve. One never knows who is going to be making a left turn.


This page was last updated January 18, 1999.

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January 1999
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