Every day on my way home I make a left turn from the center of a 4-lane highway. As cars are whizzing by me in both directions, I wait there, thinking: Someone’s flat tire, someone’s text, even someone’s sneeze—could ruin my life. A little neurotic maybe? Inches and instants. What are the chances?
How can you not think about that when you pass Cholame? It’s known for one thing only—the tragic car crash that killed James Dean.
As I pass Cholame I’m on Highway 46, a two-lane highway—where I’m in the middle of a line of slow-moving cars. I can see traffic approaching off in the distance….but inevitably there’s a car or two that will swerve out to the left, pass one car and re-enter the slow moving line….maybe saving seconds but also endangering their lives– and mine. And my mind goes back to that the same place—-life can hinge on inches and instants—what are the chances?
I guess it makes sense that I’m overly neurotic about driving safety— since the day in Manhattan when the windshield of a Volkswagen met my forehead—and stayed there. Decades later, I still agonize over automobiles—especially when they contain my children.
Right now my car contains only me– and I try to relax as I get onto the 5 and then the 210, headed to Palm Springs.
I’m somewhere outside LA surrounded by those endless sprawls of suburbs whose names I never remember— when I see it. It’s one of those surreal moments that unwinds in slow motion–like a bad commercial.
I’m in the second lane on the left. An enormous tire that must have shot off from an 18 wheeler, is spinning from the outside lane towards the far left. It’s going as fast as the cars— speeding across five lanes of traffic.
My life doesn’t flash in front of my eyes but I have time to think— What are the chances?— just as the tire slams into my car.
It feels like I’m hit by the truck—not just the tire.
I manage to maneuver across the freeway and off at the next exit. I’m shaking more than the car.
Inches and instants. What are the chances? That I didn’t swerve to the right or the left and hit another car. That it didn’t bounce over the hood and hit the windshield instead of the bumper. That it didn’t jam under the car.
The car is a mess—but it seems to drive fine. I find a Home Depot—where I get some Gorilla tape to hold the front of the car together.
And I get back on the road. Only now it’s dark and I’m still a few hours away from Palm Springs. Plus there are still lots of enormous trucks on the freeway.
I’m still shaky but I think of one of my favorite movie moments of all time. The scene in “The World According to Garp”–where Garp and his wife are looking at a house to buy, when a plane crashes right into the roof. Garp immediately turns to the real estate agent and says “We’ll take it.” What are the chances it would happen again?
I make it to Palm Springs where my friend Judy gives me a glass of wine. The shaking stops; I’m good to go—and so is my 6000-pound gorilla.