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The Column

How to Destroy Your Car
11/7/04

If you've never been in a spinout car crash, I highly recommend it.

This past Tuesday, while the rest of the country was crashing and burning at the polls, I was doing the same in a 1993 Saturn. That's right, I'm not letting this election thing go without a whine. Okay, I'm done. Now, to almost dying.

I really did total my car on Tuesday. It had nothing to do with the election, as I was listening to Jim Breuer rather than CNN call and uncall various states. (As I type this, they're about to let us know who won Florida).

I was 20 miles south of Cincinnati, coming around a blind curve, when I noticed a police car parked in my lane. That's an exaggeration – only half the police car was in my lane. There had been an accident ten minutes earlier, and the cop thought parking in the fast lane of an interstate would protect anyone from hitting the tow truck. It did – I swerved, completely missing everything (including the road). I spun around, slid off the highway, and hit an embankment before stopping with nothing on me damaged. Except my pride. And my Saturn.

When you're spinning on a highway, there are six thoughts that go through your head. The first one is "I can regain control of this!" The second is "Crap, I'm gonna die!" The third is "That cop is a jerk." The fourth is "This is going to make a pretty good column." The fifth is "Wow, this is taking a while." And the sixth is "Crap, I'm going to die. Stupid cop."

I trashed the car, which is hard to do. As I said, it was a 1993 Saturn, which rolled off the assembly line trashed. I sat there and cursed myself while contemplating my second car accident in the first few months I was driving. I already put 10,000 miles on the car, but I didn't expect the last few feet to be through a pile of mud.

After climbing out of the car, I flagged down the cop and told him I was in an accident. He asked, "where?" Which was fascinating to me, considering I had just been going the wrong way on the highway in front of him. This is the kind of cop that misfires his own gun and then asks who shot him.

The cop's second question was more interesting. I expected to field, "are you okay," "was anyone else in the car and are they dead?" or "do you need help making your car stop smoking?" Instead, he asked, "can you wait by your car while I finish the paperwork on this one?" Nice guy, really.

Eventually, the first car was towed and it was my turn. The cop had me come over and sit in the back of his car, which made the day even better. It was bad enough that I wrecked my car and my dignity. Now I had to sit in the back of a squad car while all of northern Kentucky assumed I was being arrested.

"What'd that guy do?"

"I bet he swerved to avoid that cop, who should have put signal flares down, and thus destroyed his car."

"Criminal!"

The cop told me that I obviously lost control of my car and the accident report would say it was my fault. Also, signal flares are for suckers.

However unlucky I was to crash in front of Barney Fife, I was lucky to be unhurt. I was also lucky in that the guy who towed me junked my car and sold me another one. Then I was unlucky in that the new one is an Oldsmobile, which is like driving a boat. Then I was lucky in that the Olds came with sails and a guy with a peg leg in the back seat. When I want to back up, I just put it in "rrrrrr!" Okay, that was terrible. Maybe I lost a little in the accident after all.

I've already scratched one of the doors. When you drive a car that big for the first time, that's easy to do. Let me correct that. When I drive a car that big for the first time, that's easy to do.

Overall, I'm okay. I had to drop a lot of money on the new car, but I will be suing the state of Kentucky to recoup it. I hurt my ego a bit, but my friends have been telling me stories about their accidents all week, so I don't mind. And I cancelled a book signing that night, but the new car is better for traveling. It really is – you should see the trunk space. There may even be buried treasure in there.

I wonder if it's safe to drive with an eye patch.

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