They say the world goes in slow motion in an accident.
Oh how right they were.
There I was, on the road just before dawn, frantically trying to keep the still-fresh-off-the-assembly-line Nissan Almera under control... sideways.
Yeah time really can slow down, but hey, I'm getting ahead of myself.
It was supposed to be like any other Saturday: wake up early, grab a bag, plug in an iPod and drive to places like Clark, Subic or, in this case, Tagaytay for a day. If anything, it's just to blow off some steam from the past week and really just relax.
Now normally I would take C-5 and then onto the SLEX to get there, but for one reason or another I chose the longer, more scenic route via Macapagal, Coastal Road and the new CAVITEx; after all, a drive like this isn't for speed.
On the road, I settled in to the Nissan Almera. This particular car was the entry level version with the 5-speed manual. In many ways, I actually found myself liking the way it drives; light and casual in city streets yet quite sprightly when on an open piece of road.
So there I was, cruising at 60 km/h along Buendia, past Osmena Highway and past Taft Avenue. The sky was still a bit dark, as the sun was only just starting to come up from the mountains behind me. It couldn't be a more perfect start to a day.
Just as the Almera and I were was crossing under the Roxas Boulevard flyover all of a sudden... wham!
Everything just went into super, super slow motion, and up to this day, it's still vivid in my head. I didn't see what hit me, but the sound and force of the impact was unmistakable. The steering wheel went light, and I could feel the back end of the car sliding left... and fast.
I was almost fully countersteered but headed towards that center island, an image that was getting bigger and bigger in the driver side window. Just like that, all of the things I was taught about handling a car in a slide kicked in, especially with front wheel drive.
Instead of diving on the brakes, I shifted down to 2nd right away and gave it more throttle. The car started to straighten out, pulled along by the front. When the Almera was finally fully straight, I brought it to a stop, concluding what has been be the longest 6-8 seconds ever. Kookie, if you saw that from up there, I hope that recovery made you proud.
After catching my breath and relaxing my heart rate, I finally get down from the car to see what happened. The sun wasn't fully up yet, so I couldn't see what it was that hit me. I quickly surveyed the right side of the car and yeah, the damage told the story: I was hit very hard on the rear right quarter panel and wheel. The impact threw the back end of the car left, and induced the slide. In some ways I was quite lucky; had the force of impact been any harder, I probably wouldn't have been able to react quickly enough and the City of Pasay would have had a new ornament on the center island in front of the World Trade Center.
When I got to the scene of the accident some 50 yards back, there was a smashed up motorcycle, a lot of debris and the rider sitting on the curb; obviously dazed, clearly confused and reeking of alcohol. Judging by witness accounts, in their words, he “flew like Superman”. And like the Man Of Steel, he felt he didn't need a helmet either.
As standard procedure, he was taken to the nearest hospital while I surveyed the rest of the scene. Now for those who have driven in this particular area before, you'd know that you can't cross underneath the flyover from one side of Roxas Boulevard to another. Clearly, at least by my eye, he was aiming his now-totalled, brand new, for registration motorcycle for the gaps between the concrete barriers. The kid's ambitious to say the least, but it really was stupid... even more so with alcohol involved.
Already my morning drive was ruined, as I found myself in the traffic division of the local police precinct, instead of having breakfast up on the ridge. The other party, I found out, was just 20 years old, and was accompanied by both his parents for the investigation/negotiation. Even though I was confident about the accident, I sure do wish Mom and Dad were with me too, even if just for a little moral support.
You see, I haven't seen the inside of a police station for an accident (or for anything else for that matter) since I was 18. I really was quite young and reckless, but over time, you learn a thing or two. Even though I knew that the right of way was on my side, I was still a bit nervous. The guy who hit me lived less than a kilometer south of the precinct while my address was about 20 kilometers away; yeah, he had the homecourt advantage.
What was funny about the entire incident was that after we had our respective affidavits filled up along with our own sketches of what happened, there were two toy cars on the table that the traffic cop used to more clearly illustrate our respective version of events. Yeah, it was funny, but effective in its simplicity.
Regardless, it was pretty much clear cut as on the medico-legal report from the attending physician at the nearby government hospital, it was noted that he tested positive for alcohol. I didn't even have to refer to Article III, Section 42 of R.A. 4136 (the section that covers Right of Way, vital information to know if you drive), as that medico-legal pretty much nullified any creative story they may come up with. Believe me, they tried. Fair enough.
Needless to say, it was an interesting few hours, but not in the way I thought it would be. Sometimes it doesn't matter how careful or how skilled you think you are, because all it takes is an unfortunate series of events beyond your control to turn that on its head.
After the affidavits and the agreement for them to shoulder the damages were signed, I walked on back to the poor Nissan Almera. The damage is pretty bad on the right rear panel and wheel but I have to say, it was quite controllable in a very difficult slide, and that's always a good thing. Still, I just didn't relish the idea of explaining to Nissan that their newest baby got hit.
Simply put, the rider was lucky and so was I. With an accident like this -regardless of fault- a little luck is really all you can ask for. At that moment, however, after having spent a good part of my morning at a precinct, I really just wanted a Sausage Egg McMuffin, a hash brown and a large orange juice.
What a morning.