I go to a knitting group every Wednesday night at the Columbia Borders, and we stay there until late. Last week, I left at my usual time, just before the store closed and headed home. However, shortly after I got on I-695 (the beltway around Baltimore and a trafficy nightmare of doom, for those not from the area), I encountered a strange obstacle obscuring most of the rightmost lane. It looked like one of those salt patches or maybe a pile of snow. I started to hit the brakes, thinking I’d just change lanes, but there wasn’t room to get over.
That’s about the time I realized that I was about to hit a boxspring. Unfortunately, there’s only so much that antilock brakes can do, so I hit it square on, still going something over 40 MPH. The boxspring exploded right before I ran over it, and I began to drag the boxspring with me.
My car began to shimmy back and forth in the lane. Attempts to steer were not going so great. Then the car fishtailed so that I was facing the wrong way, skidding sideways at the same time. At this point, I was smack in the center of 695, facing four lanes of oncoming traffic, and my car was stalled out (I drive a manual). I got my car started and safely moved into the right hand shoulder, and I got out to inspect the damage. Sure enough, the boxspring was still under my car.
A young woman, maybe my age, had pulled over to see if I was all right, and after fighting with the boxspring for a few moments, we both realized that it wasn’t going anywhere. I called up roadside assistance, but while I was waiting to be connected, it dawned on both of us that the car was putting out a lot of smoke. The woman called 911 on her cell phone to ask for the fire department while I stayed on hold with Toyota, and sure enough, my car started putting out sparks. Moments later, just as the fire department arrived, flames were shooting out from underneath my car. They got it out quickly enough, thank God, but there was a tense half hour or so while they tried to get the boxspring out from under my car to make sure it wouldn’t catch fire again.
At this point, a police car had also arrived, so I told the woman that I was fine, thanked her, and watched her drive off. I really wish I had thought to ask for her name. Her quick thinking saved my ass.
After that, it was a waiting game. The police officer called for a tow truck himself, and after the fire department got the car off the boxspring (I still don’t know how they managed, as it was seriously wedged in there), he let me wait in his car. The tow truck arrived, the police officer gave me a ride home, and I spent the next hour and a half calling my insurance company and my parents (who were probably a little unglued to be hearing from me at 1AM).
I really don’t know how I survived this. I walked away without a scratch, just a dent in my wallet.
I want to thank the woman that stopped to help me, the fire department for saving my car, and the police officer for driving me home. I also want to thank my auto insurance company (Erie Insurance) for not totaling my car. I will be out a $500 deductible, not the $4500 estimate that the body shop gave the insurance adjuster.
It took me a week to find the words to write this down. Let’s hope this is my last near-death experience for a while.