May 2nd, 2007

Live fast

Skid Vicious and Bernie Rubber

This morning, I paid the price for my Veronica Mars obsession.

Had I not come home to watch and post, I would have spent the night in the Argonaut Hotel, woken up in a fancy bed, and gone downstairs to continue the off-site. Instead, I woke up in my regular bed, saw the dismal ratings, and left my apartment much later than I'd intended. To top it all off, it had been raining, so I couldn't speed without abandon. Or at least, I shouldn't.

I've taken the ramp to 24 literally hundreds of times. I use it more often than any other ramp. I very frequently accelerate up the ramp, preparing to reach highway speeds.

This morning, I accelerated up the ramp on the inside lane, curving to the left. I could not have been going that fast. 40, maybe.

About halfway through the turn, the back of my car decided it didn't really want to follow the road anymore, and it began to follow its own trajectory, pulling me along with it.

For a control freak like me, skidding is one of the most terrifying experiences there is, as it's a total loss of control. You are trapped in a big hunk of metal with a steering wheel and pedals that are now at the mercy of physics. To be honest, though, I wasn't terrified. I was mostly irritated.

I know enough not to fight a skid, so I rode it out as I slid ninety degrees and then came to a thumping halt for no discernible reason. I felt like I had hit something, but there was nothing in front of me/to my side that I had run into. I hoped my car wasn't damaged in some way that wouldn't allow me to get to San Francisco. I was already late.

I looked to my left to see that in the outer lane, a white pickup had stopped, and in the inner lane, two cars had stopped. It was a disorienting position to be in, perpendicular to traffic. I reversed out a few feet, then put the car in drive and straightened myself out as I continued on, telling myself I could afford to be a little more careful the rest of the way. Every single curve, every turn, I was afraid my tires would betray me again. I remembered once marveling at the ability of tires to cling to the road when you're accelerating along a curve.

It was only later that I realized how lucky I had been. If I had been in the outer lane, I would have collided with the railing on the right, and I would have had to get out and look at the damage, and that would have just wasted time. If that white pickup hadn't stopped, it would have nabbed the back of my car, causing me spin around right into oncoming traffic. I'm honestly not sure that the pickup didn't ding me just a little; I can't tell what dents and scratches were there before. I don't really know what caused the strangely abrupt stop. I don't think I had been braking. If the cars in my lane hadn't stopped, they would have crashed right into my side, which would have hurt. I don't think there was any chance of my being seriously injured or killed because it was an uphill, curved ramp coming off of a street, so no one was going homicidally fast. But I really really really could have gotten into an accident. Excuse me: traffic collision.

This was not my first time in a skid, but it was the first time I had been driving. The first time was in Melanie's car, on the way back to Ann Arbor from Up North. The roads were icy, and the car suddenly lost traction and slid across the other lane of the two-lane highway and rotated another 180 degrees, depositing us in a ditch. We were lucky there had been no oncoming traffic and that we had a ditch to fall into and not, say, a bottomless chasm. The second time was in Sean's car, on the way back to Ann Arbor from greeting prospies. The roads were icy again, and the car suddenly lost traction, and we drifted toward an exit and turned around once or once-and-a-half, leaving us half in the road. We were lucky Sean had kept us from running into a pole, and we were lucky no one was exiting and slamming into us.

I'm just getting this disturbing feeling that one of these days, I'm not going to be so lucky.