Leaving work today, I witnessed a nasty car accident from about five feet away. A woman in a Camry swerved across two lanes of traffic directly into the path of a Tahoe which was motoring along in the far left lane of M Street. There was no way the Tahoe driver could possibly have missed the blue bullet in his path.
The impact was intense and in just a split second, the sidewalk in front of me was showered in glass fragments.
I felt my whole body go cold, my stomach started to flip-flop, and, dammit, I immediately had a flashback to last June's collision. And then - what the hell? - to a collision from many, many years ago, when I was hit in my mom's station wagon by a speeding red light runner back in my home town (directly in front of our insurance agent's office.)
When I regained my composure enough to speak (with that shaky shock voice you have when you've just seen something that could have ended a life or two or three) I approached the driver of the Tahoe and offered to be a witness to the accident. Very few people have stopped to be witnesses for me, so I know how important it is to have an independent voice to describe the situation.
I must have been speaking much louder than I thought. The driver of the Camry - amazingly uninjured but trapped by the crushed door of her car - kept yelling over to me, "Oh no, no - I'll take responsibility for this. You don't have to be a witness. You don't have to wait for the police. Really, you don't have to be a witness!"
Hello, lady - I call bullshit on that one.
I found one of my non-day job business cards (the ones that say "freelance writer & blogger") and handed it to the stunned Tahoe driver.
"Look, I've been in several accidents in recent years. If your insurance company or the police need to talk to me, you give them my information, okay?"
Again, the Camry driver yelled her mantra. "You don't need to be a witness! It's okay!"
As I pressed my card into Tahoe guy's hands I said, "As the Russians say, 'Доверяй, но проверяй' - trust, but verify. She may say this now, but stories tend to change overnight. Have them call me."
I've just gotten over that shaky wave of nausea. Took a couple of hours. But I think I'm going to bed early tonight. And I hope this guy's insurance company calls me.
I'm a very good witness.
Folks, if you ever have the misfortune of witnessing an accident, please don't walk away or drive away or just ignore what you saw. You may be the difference between a speedy resolution and months or years of anguish and frustration for some poor sod.
And you'll have some damn good karma on your side.