I heard I'm still alive

I almost died last night.

I had just picked up my cab and was beginning my shift. As is fairly usual, I turned the meter on and "soon to cleared" zone 111 (inner southeast), and got onto 405 southbound, with the expectation of hopping over the Marquam Bridge and getting to work. It had just rained, and the roads were slick.

Getting onto 405 from NW 16th, you're immediately placed in an "exit only" lane that takes you directly onto the Sunset Highway (the exact opposite direction from where I wanted to go). I was going at a relatively slow speed (about 45 mph, speed limit's 50) due to the weather conditions. As I merged onto the highway proper, a car merged in behind me at about 65-70, and there was another car in the center lane (left of me) going about my speed, maybe a little faster. I had my turn signal on, and the guy in the center lane was neither slowing down nor speeding up to facilitate my merge, and the car behind me was riding my bumper. With the off-ramp to Sunset fastly approaching, I accelerated and attempted to merge left.

This is where I lost control of the cab and began hydroplaning.

I ended up doing a complete 360 degree spinout in the middle of the freeway, and was stopped by the curb (thankfully just a regular curb, and not a Jersey barrier) on the shoulder of the lane I'd started in. That I wasn't hit by another car is, frankly, miraculous.

This is one of now four close brushes with death that I've had. For those curious, I've never had my life flash before my eyes, or ever thought in anything but the most mechanical and detached ways when it's happened. There's always an awareness that I'm in a situation that could potentially be the last situation I'm ever in, but instead of panic, I find myself just matter of factly thinking of things that can be done to increase the odds of finding myself in future situations. I remember very vividly what was going through my head each and every time, tonight it was "steer into the swerve, don't use the brakes, brace for impact."

That I wasn't hit came as such a huge shock that it was a good 5 to 10 seconds before I could think or move to tell the dispatcher what had happened. No cars stopped to help me. I got off the freeway with the wheel shuddering in my hands, and inspected the car. No apparent damage to the cab, except for the front passenger's side tire being knocked out of alignment from where it hit the curb. I babied it back to the garage, filled out an incident report, and went over to a friend's. My night was over without picking up a single fare.

The superintendent assures me that I won't be fired over this, but I'm still pretty shook. I've always prided myself on being a safe driver. I was hired with a completely clean driving record, and still have one. I've driven in Portland for 8 years, and learned how to drive in Dallas, Texas - where the speed limits are higher, the winter rains much heavier (if less frequent), and the drivers completely insane. When I was nine, my father broke his neck when a cab he was in on a business trip in San Francisco hydroplaned on the freeway and ended up rolling over.

I've always been extremely conscious of driving safely, and especially so in slick driving conditions.

Now this shit.

I don't know - I'm going to get completely reamed by the Safety Board. I'm not going to be able to buy a cab for even longer than I'd anticipated. But right now, at this particular moment in time, I'm just freaked out that this happened in the first place. I need to completely re-evaluate my opinion of myself as a driver, because as the superintendent told me (even as he was comforting me) - "if you hydroplaned, you screwed up and were going too fast."

And he's correct, and I almost got myself and other people killed or seriously injured because of it.

It also occurs to me that I should've checked the tread on the tires, after I took the cab in, because the guy who owns it is a notorious cheapskate and selfish bastard. I didn't think to take pictures for the blog either. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there and over to my friend's house, where of course I just felt weird and freaked out anyway.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry to hear that. terrible things can happen to everyone.

i have a question: in portland, you can own a cab and keep it at the taxi garrage where it can be maintained and leased by others? if so thats a sweet deal.

October 18, 2006 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Spencer said...

These tings come in waves. I had five incidents at the start of this year(£15,000). I had to re-evaluate. Seemed it was compounded by stress and overwork. I slowed down, waited until I was really clear at junctions etc. Fuck the people behind me. Oh...and 'relax for impact'. Saves you breaking bones

October 18, 2006 11:33 AM  
Blogger Crabbie said...

Anonymous - that's basically correct. The owner's fully liable for maintenance costs (tires, oil, etc.), but the company provides accident insurance.

If you're in an accident and it's your fault, you owe 20% of the damages. So obviously I'm hoping that the tire's the only problem in this case, but I'm doubtful that I'll be that lucky.

October 19, 2006 4:48 AM  

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