Monday, October 17, 2005

My Jeep Is One Tough Cookie

I was sitting at a red light today, minding my own business, paying attention to the road. Most of last week I had a recurring thought about gold coloured cars, and that it seemed to me that anyone owning, by design, a gold coloured car or truck shouldn’t be allowed to drive. This is one of these gems I come up with once in a while. No rhyme or reason to it.

The light turns green. I look ‘n’ launch.

And, much as last year’s cliffhanger episode of Alias, I get broadsided by, you guessed it, a gold Chevy Cavalier. Well, light brown anyway.

A few seconds later, my friend, who sold me the Jeep in the first place, calls me on my cell phone. I answer but have to put him off right away, mentioning my accident in the same breath.

The 1995 Jeep YJ is one severely tough truck. It seems society is hell bent on proving it. It’s been hit no less than four times. Count’em: 4 times!

First time, back in the first year I had it. It was the Friday after-work of a Labour Day weekend, and I was just beginning my yearly two-week vacation. I was coming out of the jailho… I mean Nortel building, onto Baseline road. The traffic was moving at the usual pace of 100km/h or so. I merged into traffic easily, heading west, when sudden traffic compression occurred in front of me. I hauled the Jeep down to a standstill, with about ½ car length between me and the metallic blue GMC S-10 pickup. I began my wait, for what I assumed was a traffic light up ahead. I had the top down, the sun was shining, I was on vacation, I was in no hurry at all.

The red Mazda 323 screeching its tires behind me was in a hurry. The operative word being “was”. He hit me full on after leaving what must have been some 60 feet or more of skid marks. He ploughed into me at whatever speed he had left, which was obviously still considerable, and pushed me into the S-10 in front. I felt like a combination shot.

My first thought was: great way to start a vacation!

I piled out and examined the front damage. The S-10’s pickup box got jammed into the cab a little, and the bumper had disappeared underneath. The Jeep? Nothing, but a little blue paint transfer.

I walked around to the back expecting carnage as I spy the front of the Mazda, or what’s left of it. Radiator is pissing fluid all over the tarmac, the bumper is sitting comfortably against the front wheels, the hood is a book resting open on a flat surface. The nose of the car, already short by design, was seriously shorter. The Jeep? Nothing, but a little red paint transfer.

The insurance company didn’t really need to know about this, I thought. The kindly police officer let me and the S-10 guy go with our papers and a report number. He muttered something about having a few words with the Mazda driver.

About 2 years later, on my way home from work, I think: not again? As a blue Toyota Corolla mows me down.

It was raining on the Island Park parkway, and a shining new yellow Jeep TJ came to a stop in front of me. There was a brown and gold land-yacht turning left into his driveway, across a solid double yellow line, among piles of traffic. I have it on good authority that this is frowned upon. One can attempt a left-hand turn across solid yellow traffic lines if and only if it can be done safely and does not impede traffic flow. The land-yacht might have been safe, but nothing else was.

I stopped in time, but there was little distance left between me and the TJ. I immediately looked into my rear-view mirror to see the Corolla realizing the situation at hand. I could hear the swishy screech of tire slippage in the rain and braced myself. Again, a combination shot.

The TJ had very little damage, but the high-mounted spare tire, just like my own, crunched my right front fender a little. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a well-placed hammer blow. If it hadn’t been for the colour of the car, I could have sworn it was a picture perfect replica of the Mazda 323 a few years before. I couldn’t tell if the radiator was leaking as everything was sopping wet anyway.

The poor girl in the shiny TJ got whiplash. I suspect she wasn’t paying any attention to her rear when I nailed her. She said something about having just bought her TJ not long ago. I really felt for her grief as I had lived a similar experience of course. An ambulance came and took her away. I drove off leaving the Corolla owner with the police.

At this point the Jeep already had a few battle scars, and some rust. So I never did bother fixing the kink in the fender.

A few years ago, my wife and I had traded trucks, for a reason I cannot remember. As she was leaving a party headed for home, she pulled out in front of a parked bus, which blocked all visibility of oncoming traffic. As carefully as she could, she edged forward, but had to take a chance with traffic coming from her left.

Bang! The Jeep got it in the left side. The oncoming car took out the nerf bar - side runner - of the Jeep, which in turn saved some bodywork. To my wife’s recounting of the story, the front end of the car that hit her looked much like the Corolla and the 323. I removed the nerf bar seeing as it was all bent up, and left the other battle scars as is. Otherwise? Nothing, but a little blue paint transfer.

Finally, we get back to our lady in her gold ’98 Cavalier. Her car is in sad shape. Broken windshield, both airbags popped, the radiator pissing fluid all over the road, both fenders crushed, hood folded up, no front end left to speak of. She was pretty shaken up, this being her very first accident in her life. I look at her with some compassion and quietly allow that it isn’t mine.

Oddly, I'm not shaking. I’m not upset. I’m not angry. I’m not even concerned. Not only do I take all this in stride, but I’m a little surprised at how the whole presumably nerve-wracking experience is so anti-climactic! I don’t recommend being involved in any car accidents, but when you’ve been in as many as I have, it’s not déjà-vu, it’s more like having to reprogram my VCR after a power outage. It doesn’t happen every day, and it’s annoying.

Let’s see the tally now, other than my three accidents described previously, I have been in two others. One time was in Montreal. I had gotten my driver’s license the previous year. I was driving a girl for whom I had romantic designs. A drunk and stoned driver in a stolen brown juggernaut cut me off on the Métropolitain to Décarie off-ramp but didn’t quite make it. He clipped my front fender at about 80mph and lost control sailing into the cement divider. My little Mercury Lynx jumped sideways a few feet but was still drivable. I thought for sure the guy was dead. He wasn’t. And I never did date the girl.

And my very first accident, I was a passenger in a broadside hit ‘n’ run. My mother hit a green Dodge Scamp, as he made an illegal left-turn from the oncoming lane to cut in front of us, and he ran.

Other than the accident on the Met, which was minor for me, if I had been driving a Smart, I’d be dead.

NoA: The 1995 Jeep YJ weighs in at more than 3000lbs, that’s more than a ton and a half, metric or otherwise.


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