Friday, December 10, 2010

Society calls

Vehicle crashes tend to be social activities. Travellers may not plan a mass exodus into the ditch within a couple hours of each other, but it often turns out that way.

Last night at around 18:30 we were paged to the standard "car in the ditch," which (as you know from a previous post) means someone was testing the 911 feature of their cell phone. We headed east as directed, then got an update page that said that it was actually west of town. The rescue arrived first, only to have the OPP tell them we weren't needed, but there was a second crash 10 km further west. 30 km later, dispatch informed us that the second crash was a phantom.

At 23:30 we got another call, this time for trucks leaking antifreeze and diesel fuel near Raith. We arrived to find that three tractor trailers had gotten very intimate with each other, and were now arranged in a tangled cluster across the highway. One driver was in the ambulance, but the paramedics weren't sure about the others.

During my reconnoiter to find drivers 2 and 3, I shined a light under one of the trailers. Thick, red stuff dripped from the other side. It resembled blood enough to make me hurry a little as I circled the trailer. The tractor had jackknifed hard cramming the passenger door against the side of the trailer. The driver side door was pinned shut by another truck. Driver 2 had the interior lights on and was moving around. He rolled down the window when I approached.

"Are you okay?" I ask.
"Yes, okay," he says in a thick Spanish accent.
"Do you need help?" I ask.
"No, no. No problem here. Quite comfortable, thanks."
"What's that red stuff dripping from your truck?"
"Ah, that. Yes, it is jam. I haul food."

I kept going and found Driver 3, who complained of a little pain on the side of his torso. I escorted him back to the ambulance to get checked out. Meanwhile, Driver 2 had climbed out his window and was walking around extolling the beauty of the stars, the crisp winter air, and the blessings of life in general. He pulled out his cell phone and showed me a photo of his wife. Then he told me how he saw the other trucks spin out of control ahead, and had tried unsuccessfully to avoid the collision. After coming to rest surrounded by trailers, he expected to get slammed by someone else. But the worst didn't happen, and he was very, very happy to be alive.

I busied myself covering the antifreeze on the road with absorbent (which was the reason the OPP called us), then went to check on the socialites who had unexpectedly gathered to spend the evening together. Driver 2 was sharing a cigarette with Driver 3. Driver 1 was strapped to a stretcher chatting with the paramedics. Three OPP officers joked with each other while they jotted notes and waited for an army of tow trucks to arrive. The party was just getting started, but I'm a social klutz (and had nothing useful left to do), so it was time to go. With a car in the ditch, a phantom, and a herd of tractor trailers tied in knots, it had been a crashingly social evening. But there was still a hundred kilometres of unused ditch for others to join the party, and we had to get back to the hall in case we got invited to join them.

On a semi related topic, Paul Combs has another piece of artwork done, and you can see it here.


  1. Tim,
    What an exciting life you live! I will wish for many uneventful nights ahead for you heroes of the cold north! LOL

  2. Thanks Kathy. We do have many, many uneventful nights . . . and occasionally an exciting one.


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