2003-08-12 - 10:59 a.m.
Yesterday evening on the way home from work, my girlfriend Bonney and I narrowly escaped severe disfigurement and /or certain death when I stupidly ignored her advice to slow down as we approached an area of standing water on West bound I-70 just before the Wadsworth exit. It had been raining out there for quite sometime apparently, as everyone was driving much slower than normal and had their lights and windshield wipers on.
The sun was setting behind the foothills, but the low storm clouds had obscured all but a wet, gray haze that covered everything within the limited visibility that was available. Bonney and I were commiserating about our newly finished workday on the way home. It was raining off and on as we made our way home from the hospital we work at in Aurora, CO. We took I-70 to avoid the traffic snarl that was I-25, which is our normal way home.
I was driving along at the speed limit in the rain with my girlfriend beside me and the radio on when I spotted it: A puddle. When I am driving, I can not resist puddles. I absolutely love throwing good sense, and my father�s oft repeated advice to avoid puddles on the road at all costs, right out the window. I can still hear him giving me this advice: �You never know how deep it is! You have to ask yourself: �Why is there water standing on the road? Because there is something there to hold it' �! I guess he assumed I understood hydroplaning and knew to avoid it.
As it is, when I am driving, I love running my tires on one side through puddles and the �rooster-tail� plume of water that inevitably results. It was no different yesterday. I saw the puddle and a gleam came to my eye: This was not just any puddle, a huge puddle about 25 feet across jutting out well over 15 feet into the road, completely covering the third lane and taking a respectable bite out of the middle lane.
Bonney saw this before I did and sagely told me to slow down, just like everyone else was doing. I instead tucked my tongue out of the right corner of my mouth and pressed firmly down onto the accelerator and directed the car towards the right hand lane. I wasn�t going to try to go completely into the right-hand lane; that would be stupid! I just wanted to make a big splash� I have been told on several occasions to be careful what I wish for, as I may just get it. This advice still has a great deal of merit.
As she the realized what I was doing, Bonney let out a pleading �Adrian�! through clenched teeth and braced for impact. I dimly remember starting to hoot with glee when the right passenger-side tires, moving at 60 miles an hour and rotating, made contact with a large, deep, and utterly motionless body of water.
My heart stopped briefly as the car yawed violently to the right and began to decelerate immediately, the tires shrieking in protest. We were still doing 45-50 mph. I instinctively turned the wheel to the left, to correct the over-turn. I saw that it was working and relaxed the turn back again, too late. As we swung back straight the tires were still turned to the left when the back tires moved deeper into the water and were dragged even slower than the rest of the car. Physics took over, once again.
The nose of the car was whipped around to the left and we found ourselves heading backwards. As we were looking at the oncoming traffic nose-to-nose, it dawned on me that the road curved and there was a rather large, stout, and solid looking retaining wall directly behind us and was getting uncomfortably closer. I hit the brakes to slow us and cut the wheel to the left once more, hoping that the front wheels where still attached to the car. The nose of the car shot away from the oncoming wall and whipped around to the right, towards the direction we were supposed to be facing. I decided to straighten the wheel and pump the brakes to get us slowed down to a stop. Which worked a lot better than it should have.
As we came to a stop, the car was still rocking side to side as the momentum had its final say in the matter. So there we were, stopped fully in the middle of a 65 mph section of I-70, just having had a brutal close encounter with raw human stupidity and narrowly escaped shaking Death�s hand, when we realized that there were still cars behind us!
I looked into the rearview mirror and confirmed that there were indeed several dozen cars behind us, but since they had the good sense to slow considerably, there was a significant amount of space between us and them. I calmly straightened the wheel, pushed the gas in, and continued on going home.
I began immediately apologizing to Bonney, who did not respond. She wasn�t physically hurt, but emotionally traumatized. Needless to say, once she was over being scared, she was absolutely furious, and I don�t blame her. I was shaking from the adrenaline for sometime to come. I realized I could have killed us both, or worse yet badly injured Bonney and not myself.
I can still justify taking a calculated risk when the only thing on the line is my own well-being. I do it every time I go to work or to Kung-Fu class. What I will never do again is take a foolish, immature, unnecessary risk when someone else�s well-being is on the line.
I didn�t sleep very well last night, which I think is understandable. This morning I woke up very early to drive Bonney to the airport. She wasn�t leaving because of the near-death experience, though I wouldn�t blame her. She was going to visit her grandparents in Virginia. It was a trip she had booked in advance and had been looking forward to for some time.
Thankfully it won�t be the final one-way trip back to the one place on Earth that she is happiest. Hopefully, with a lot of luck and a great deal more caution, she won�t have to for quite a long time.