The clear thought at I-787

Ugh. Rainy Saturday morning.  Normally, I take my laundry to a wash-and-fold place in Watervliet, but since their prices recently increased, I found a different wash-and-fold place in Albany at the Hannaford Plaza.  One basket of clothes later, I was on my way.

Normally I have two ways of leaving the Town and Village of Green Island to pick up I-787.  I can access I-787 through the intersection at Tibbits Avenue, or I could drive down Lower Hudson and enter I-787 through the Exit 8 on-ramp.  This time, I felt like taking the Tibbits Avenue interchange.

As I approached the intersection and waited for the light to turn green, I saw a white Honda crossover vehicle in the 787 breakdown lane.  Hmm.  Flat tire?  Out of gas?  I changed my turn signal from left to right, and when the light turned green, I pulled up behind the Honda.

“Everybody okay?  Do you need assistance?”

The driver was walking around his vehicle.  I noticed some cracks in his car’s rear fender.  “I’m okay,” he said.  Then he pointed behind me.  “That woman in the car that hit me, I don’t know…”

I looked in the rearview.  There was a Hyundai Elantra stuck in the middle lane.  Its front end was completely caved in, compressed like the bellows of an accordion.

You have no idea how fast a man with a broken foot can run.  I got over there as quick as humanly possible.

Inside the crumpled car was a woman in her mid-30’s.  She seemed unhurt, but was frantically searching through her glove box for her registration and insurance.  “Are you okay?”  I asked.  “Do you need assistance?”

“I’m stuck,” she said.  “I can’t move the car.”

I assessed the situation.  Other drivers were giving her plenty of room, driving slowly around her crumpled car.  I thought about whether the car could be pushed to the breakdown lane, but the front end was completely torn up, fluids were leaking from the engine, and car parts were strewn all over the ground.  “Stay in the car,” I said.  “I’m calling 911.”

911 on the BlackBerry.  I immediately reached a dispatcher, who patched me through to the police and to the fire department and the EMT’s.  I gave the exact location of the two-car accident.  They said help was on the way.

Flashing lights zipping up 787.  Another set of strobes coming from Tibbits Avenue.  And after making sure that the police didn’t need me for anything else, I drove away.

And all through my mind … I’m thinking.  Those drivers are going to be okay.  No matter what caused the accident … their lives may be disrupted, but in time things will get better.   Cars can be replaced.  People, not so much.  I know this first-hand.

So instead of driving to the laundromat for a Saturday morning wash-and-fold … I treated myself.  A quick stop at Colonie Center, and two brand new flannel button-down shirts from L.L. Bean are now in my wardrobe.  A nice Chuck-to-Chuck Christmas present from me to me.  A personal reward.

I’ll take care of the laundry on Sunday.