I live on a very dangerous curve. It’s almost like living on the larger bend of a paper clip, before it runs straight, then bends again, and so on till it T-junctions at a hedgerow of privet out in the middle of nowhere. It’s the sort of road that makes a pleasant rollercoasterish ride on a sunny afternoon, threading between rolling pastures and spreading farms and lush bottomland filled with cows. But that’s during the day. At night that same road becomes one long roulette table, and if you can’t keep your eye on the marble there’s no telling where you’ll end up. What makes the road so gloriously inviting during the day makes it treacherous at night.
The upshot is that I can generally count on there being at least four or five wrecks in front of my house a year. Minimum. Blessedly no one has spun out on top of my own vehicle yet, or landed on the front porch, though I have come home from the grocery store one afternoon to find an SUV upside down in the middle of my driveway. But I’m usually home when these things happen, because they usually happen in the middle of the night. Every time I hear someone’s brakes go into lock-and-squeal mode I immediately start praying, usually a succession of “Please God no, please please no, no no no” until the screeching stops. As I’m muttering, I keep an ear cocked for the now almost predictable inflection of sound, like a familiar reverie of bugle taps, that precedes the sickening crunch-whump of the actual crash. After nine years in this house, I’ve come to know the familiar swerve-and-tack sound the careening car makes, each jerk of the overcorrecting driver, and can almost plot where they are at any particular nanosecond on the incoming curve, almost as if they were doing it on a sheet of graph paper.
Then comes the crunch-whump, and the lead-heavy silence that follows. That’s when I drag myself out of bed, get on the dirty hiking shoes, and go outside with cell phone in hand to view the state of things, and start making the necessary calls.
Last Saturday night I was jolted out of bed by one of the luckier ones. A supersized 4×4 truck spun out in style, tipped over the far shoulder of the curve, and down into the deep gully beyond – so deep that the halogen headlights lit up the underbellies of the pine trees like something out of a gothic movie. I went to the edge of the gully and called down to see if I could get any audible response. Out of the truck tipped a largish frat boy in khakis, white button-down and tie, whose very response answered several things at once, starting with the one fact that carried all the others: he was stone drunk. Wanted to know if I could fix his truck. Wanted me to explain why the service engine light had come on in his souped-up Flintstonemobile. Was altogether shocked to find that my first recommendation was to call for help.
“What help?” he said.
What help, indeed. I guess there’s no fixing stupid. Not until the patient has had a chance to sober up first.
I really don’t mind being on crash duty. If I crashed my car in the middle of the night, I would want some sympathetic stranger to look in on me to see if I was dead or not, and call 911 for me if I couldn’t place the call myself. But it also amazes me that after decades of the “don’t drink and drive” rhetoric, people with a gut-full of alcohol will still get behind the wheel and tear off down the road like it’s their right to bounce off trees and endanger other people’s lives, let alone their own.
I don’t mind crash duty. Really. But I’d rather save my efforts for honest people who get into an honest bind because a deer bolted out in front of them, or there was ice on the road, or whatever. Wrecks happen. But if you’re drunk somewhere, for heavens sake stay where you are and sleep it off first. Please don’t take it out on my neighborhood.