Sunday, April 08, 2007

Dead at 33

Ryan Michael Powell, born December 29, 1973 in Great Falls, Montana, escaped an almost certain violent death by mere inches on this day, April 8, 2007, at 11:45 AM EDT.

Now that I have your attention…

[Written Sunday April 8, 2007.]

I almost died this morning, and I’m still pretty freaked out about it.

On the way to my grandparents’ house near Dayton, Ohio, as I drove southwest on I-71 with the cruise control set to 69, I noticed an SUV in my rear-view mirror. This vehicle was about a quarter of a mile behind me when I first saw it, but only 5 or 10 seconds later the truck had reached what I consider a safe following distance behind me. In other words, the truck was screaming down the road, doing at least 100 miles an hour.

Experience suggested to me that the truck would pass me by, uneventfully, in a few seconds. I speculated that the truck’s occupants would then move on to their destination, never seeing me again. Nevertheless, I kept an eye on the truck.

The truck got closer to me. It remained in my lane.

Even closer. Still in my lane.

With no other southbound traffic within a quarter-mile either ahead of me or behind, I was thinking This must be one of those idiots who wait until the very last second to change lanes when passing. But the truck just kept gaining on me like I wasn’t even moving, so by now the truck was uncomfortably close to me and I began to seriously wonder if the driver was even going to bother changing lanes to pass me.


Nobody does that. What kind of fucking moron would just drive straight into the back of a car at over 100 MPH when there is a perfectly empty passing lane only a few feet to the left?

In my 17 years of driving, I’ve never experienced this kind of uncertain feeling. Sure, there are plenty of stupid drivers out there, but I’ve never had to seriously entertain the idea that someone might actually ram me from behind, driving at least 30 miles an hour faster than me, especially when I’m already driving above the state’s highest speed limit.

That shit just does not happen. Of course it’s not going to happ… OH FUCK! IT’S HAPPENING.

You don’t even have time to think Oh fuck, it’s happening, because it IS happening. In one split second you change from cautious to helpless, and if you don’t do the right thing in the next split second, you’re fucking dead. There is absolutely no time to think or strategize. You just do something or you do nothing. It all comes down to instinct and luck, even if you saw it coming.

When this happens to you, you don’t know what to do because it’s totally freakin’ unreal. I guess it’s like if you were to look out the window of your house and see an airliner coming straight at you, less than a mile away. Even with the sudden state of shock you experience from this unbelievable sight, you still instantly realize the plane is going to crash. All you know is that the plane will either hit you or it will barely miss you, and you only have a few seconds to process this unreal information, let alone make some kind of decision about what to do.

Although you know this scenario is something that could happen, you’re positive it won’t happen, so there is absolutely nothing you can do when it does happen. Same thing when an SUV approaches you from behind like a speeding bullet. If you’re lucky (or a smart driver), you were paying enough attention to see it coming, and you might have a chance to make a move toward safety. But even if you do make a move, it still might not save you because it might be the wrong move or you might have been one-hundredth of a second too slow.

So what did I do?

I thought Oh fuck, I’m about to die while swerving onto the right shoulder. Another split second later I saw (or felt) the truck scream past me, at which point I became even more shocked that I was not rolling and flipping along the side of the interstate. It couldn’t have missed me by more than a couple inches.

I couldn’t believe I managed to get completely out of the way before the truck passed me, especially because the driver never swerved, veered, or braked. Not even the slightest veer or change in speed. Nothing. Just straight through me at over 100 miles an hour. I then put my hand down firmly on the horn and left it there for about ten seconds, which may have been the trigger that brought my killer back to reality because he slowed to a near-stop a few seconds later and pulled over to the shoulder.

99 percent certain that our vehicles avoided contact completely, I just wanted to get the fuck away from this person forever, but the SUV’s driver slowed down enough on the shoulder that I quickly passed them back. I think the driver may have pulled over for the same reason you pull over after a minor fender bender—to apologize or exchange information or whatever—but I had no intention of extending this episode beyond what had already happened.

While passing the truck, I looked over at the driver, probably with a major What the fucking hell?!? expression on my face. It looked like a 50-something male. I didn’t see any passengers, nor did I get a good look at the license plate, but I think the vehicle may have had Georgia tags.

After I passed the slowing truck, still cruising at 69 MPH, he got back on the road surface and remained behind me, driving about the same speed as me. Oh great, just what I need. This made me really uncomfortable. It felt like someone accidentally fired a gun at me, hitting my hair but not my head, then was stupid enough to keep pointing the gun straight at my face instead of just dropping it.

Before anyone suggests this idea… No, it wasn’t God that saved me. If God is responsible for getting me out alive, then God must also be blamed for putting me in such a horrible position. Besides, there is no god. There is only one reason I escaped without a scratch: It’s because I am an attentive driver. Most other drivers, given the same situation, would have never known what hit them.

I have plenty more to say about this event. I intend to update this entry soon, but not right away because I want to work on my Colbert stuff right now.

The Quasi-Aimless Trailer