There was a low-speed automobile collision outside my house this morning, as my kids were standing on the sidewalk waiting to be taken to school. Everyone involved had strange and generally wrong reactions, myself included. My boys screeched and then hugged each other, like nervous baby monkeys at the zoo. I watched the crash from the front doorway—two compact cars, neither going more than 20 miles per hour—and then went back inside for a moment to turn off lights. Then I went to the car that was most smashed up and helped the children get out. There were two little girls in car seats, in the back, and a girl not much bigger than my third-grader in the front. She was dazed and loudly complaining that she’d lost one of her shoes. The mother, in her late 20s at most, stood by the driver’s side door for a while, saying nothing. The guy in the other car got out, looked around, and sat back down in his driver’s seat for a moment.
Now the three kids were sitting on the sidewalk, and it seemed the oldest girl was at least a little bit hurt. Her right leg was bothering her, and her forehead had probably hit the dash, although it wasn’t cut. There was broken glass everywhere, and at least some of it embedded in her skin and maybe in one of her eyes. (Later I realize I don’t know where the glass came from. Did a windshield shatter? I hadn’t noticed.) The mom looks over the kids while I call 911. The dispatcher asks me a lot of questions about injuries, damage, is the street blocked, etc. I try to come up with answers, instead of saying Just send the paramedics over, the fire station is three blocks away. Then the mother is back at the car, wailing, “My car, my car! I worked so hard for my car!” Her children sit alone on the curb.
The driver of the other car—I think it was the driver, although it might have been another neighbor—is saying, “The car can be fixed, be with your kids.” There is an argument over who’s at fault, but I’m walking away now, it’s time for my kids to get to school. I tell the drivers that I’ve called 911 and the paramedics are on the way, and then I spend the rest of the walk to school telling my kindergartner that it’s going to be all right, the kids will be okay, luckily everyone was wearing a seat belt or in a car seat, etc. A police car passes us on the way and turns on our street, siren blaring. The ambulance is not far behind it.
Walking home, I wonder if I should’ve done something else … left my house open for the kids, offered them something? But if they were hurt, any of them, they should not be moving around, going up steps, right? Who knows. When I get back, a policeman on a motorcycle is just driving off, red and blue lights blinking, and I think of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, because that’s what I was watching with my older son last night. (His request to see the first Terminator, which is far more psychotic and violent and porny, was denied. As a compromise, I watched the sequel with him and skipped over the handful of disturbing scenes; it’s mostly cartoon violence.)
One cop in a cruiser remains for a little while. Another girl not much older than the one in the front seat is now there with the toddler, I guess she was called to come get her, while the mom accompanied the other kids to the hospital? Maybe a teenaged child from the same family, or the mom’s younger sister? She’s whining to the cop about having to stay there, and he says she needs to stay there for some reason.
An hour later, all parties and both wrecked cars are gone. Nothing remains but a lot of broken glass and sand poured over the oil and radiator fluid that ran all over the pavement. The street cleaning truck comes by, but of course the driver doesn’t steer a few feet to the left to get all this mess, because it’s Friday and they only do my side of the street on Friday.
Date: January 7, 2008
Subject: Thousand-year reich / editorial policy
Jim Newell referenced this January 2008 memo the other day, written when Gawker published Wonkette and I had just come back to the company as Wonkette’s sole editor. My comrade Max Read’s new Gawker.com ban on meaningless 10-year-old Internet slang shows that every several years, some brave website editor has to do this all over again to clean out the sewer pipes.