Monday, March 28, 2016

Week 13 of 2016 - Accidents and the Lessons Learned

In 1975, Gary, my kid's Dad and I had a 1972 Green Lemans 2 door coupe. It was by far my favorite car that we ever owned...It looked just like the one pictured below. Ok, so I am a girl...a woman and I know nothing about car engines but I can tell you that this one had a lot of “get up and go” and I suppose I thought I was pretty hot stuff cruising town in it. It had a green vinyl landau roof. 
By Crwpitman - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Gary worked for his Father, Howard and Uncle, Harold at Tietz's Family Restaurant in Imlay City. We only had one car so if I needed to go some where during the day, he would come home after the morning breakfast rush and we would load up the kids and I would take him back to work.

Gary's Uncle and Aunt, Harold and Mary, had two boys; Roy was 2 years older and Jason was 2 years younger than our son, Shawn. All the boys were very close pals when they were growing up and Mary and I were close friends too. I would baby sit for her kids and she would babysit for mine. I can not remember what Mary was doing for the day but I was watching all the boys. I piled all the kids in the car and off we went. Jason was strapped into his car seat, he was a one year old. Shawn would stand on the hump and Roy would stand on the passengers side in the back seat. (I cringe when I think of this today) I was just making a quick trip to my Dad's store one mile away and then to the restaurant a mile further down the road before returning home so the boys could play.

Dad's store was a challenge with three boys. He had the bulk candy counter which the kids could  easily slip into.  You could not see them unless you went behind the counter to look for them.  It did not take them long to figure out how they could fill their little faces of 10 different kinds of candy at once.  If I turned my back on them for a second, they made a beeline to the candy counter. We had to work really hard to keep them away from that area of the store. And if that was not bad enough, he also had the usual full rack of candy bars conveniently located at the front of the store next to the cash registers. Since it was a Ben Franklin Store, he had toys too!

Every trip to the store started out with “Mom, can we have.....” the moment we walked into the door. Dad and I had a routine. If it was OK with me, he would offer the kids some candy but he always asked me first.  We had this little eye trick we would do. He would look at me, if I nodded yes, then he offered. If for some reason, we did not make eye contact he would say, Jan, “Have the kids been good today?” If I said no, then there would be no candy.  After a 20 or 30 minute visit with Grandpa, we piled back into the car with a small bag of candy in hand for a trip to the restaurant.

When we got there, I would park on the west side of the restaurant. The boys could not get out of the car fast enough! We would go in the back service entry and I would be yelling at them the whole length of the hall, “OK boys, no running!” It was the same routine every time we went. They would be laughing and the employees always knew we had arrived. They would be dodging kids. The kids  had their favorite food. They loved pickles the best. They would get them off the prep table by the handfuls. Next was french fries, of course.... and then they would go just outside of the kitchen to the soda fountain for pop. Their OWN pop with ice and a straw!

The employees always greeted us warmly. I often wondered why because for the next 30 minutes or so chaos would ensue in the kitchen. As they did their prep work for the next meal rush, they knew they would be dodging kids playing in the kitchen. I usually pulled up a stool in the corner to watch the activity and often Uncle Harold would join me. In those days, I smoked and so did Harold so it was a good excuse for a break. Their Dad did a pretty good job of trying to keep them in line. After about 30 minutes, he would give me the “look” and I knew it was time to leave.

We piled back into the car, Jason in his car seat and Shawn and Roy at their positions in the back seat, with paper cups full of pop and ice. I was just going 2 mile to get home so I did not put on my seat belt or Roy and Shawn's. I negotiate a left onto old M-21 driving a ¼ mile west to Almont Ave where I put my blinker on and stopped to waited for the traffic coming towards me to clear so I could turn left. I probably had the radio blaring. I never looked in my rear view mirror again. I did not see it coming....

There were three cars coming towards us in the east bound lanes, when a full size pickup truck traveling at the speed limit rear ended me. Everything went into slow motion. I could see my son's pop and ice as it flew out of the cup and drenched the inside of the car. I am hanging onto the steering wheel and standing on the brake pedal when I see the first eastbound car go by me on my right. We are spinning and suddenly I am looking eastbound back at the restaurant which I had just left with a second car about ready to hit me from behind. The driver of the second car did a great job of avoiding us by entering Almont Ave. As we continued to spin, I see that Roy has hit the back of the front seat so hard that the back of the seat collapsed forward sending him tumbling like a rag doll onto the floor of the front seat under the glove box with my son Shawn following right behind him. My chest was driven into the steering column which collapses and my knees are smashed hard on the dash. I looked up and see the third cars as the driver reacts in time and narrowly miss us. We come to a stop in the east bound lane headed westbound. I am in shock. I had never been in an accident before and I think...this was a bad one!

The kids start to try to untangle them selves from one another. I ask them if they are all right...They say they think so. They remain pretty calm and are not crying. I look in the back seat at Jason who is safely in his child safety seat. Aside from the fact that he has shattered glass from the back window all over him, he has not moved at all. Snug as a bug and even smiles at me as if to say, “that was fun, can we do it again?” I try to open my door and it won't open, so I sit there not sure what to do next. One of the drivers of the eastbound cars come to ask me if we are OK. I tell him I think that we are. Before I knew it the police are there and my husband. News travels fast in a small town.

He looked at me in the window and said “ Did you have your blinker on?” At first I think, is that what he said? I looked at him in almost disbelief...Really, is that your first thought? “Did I have my blinker on?” What about “are you and the kids alright, is anyone hurt?” I glared at him and said “Yes, of course I did!”

Once the fire department got there, they were able to get us out of the car. None of us was hurt other than a few bruises and a couple of personal disappointments! .... My favorite car, which we had only owned for six months, was totaled. God was watching over us that day!

From that day forward, I have faithfully used my seat belt, all children are buckled in before the car moves and all adults are strongly encouraged no matter how short or long the trip is. I learned that in moments of extreme stress, people's words and actions are not always what you think they should be. While I know that I can not control other, I made a “mental note to self” that day so that when I am on the other side of this coin, I chose my responses carefully so as not to hurt someone with a careless response. I also learned that a car (even your favorite) is just that...a car and can always be replaced. I can not imagine how I would have felt if Shawn or Roy had been ejected from that car and they easily could have and they would have been killed and my life would have forever been changed.

Please remember to always buckle up!


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