Just As I Thought

Why I need two beers this afternoon

7:48am. I’m listening to Morning Edition and driving south on 101 in North San Jose. There’s a length of what looks like fire hose in my lane, the second from the right, so I move over one lane to the left.

My car explodes.

Or so it seemed for a few moments. I’ve never experienced an air bag “deployment” before — that sounds so quiet and uneventful. In fact, it’s an instantaneous explosion and a mass of white fabric in your face. (And weirdness: my inside wrist was burned and blistered by the airbag. Scary.)

I had no idea what happened. I regained my senses pretty quickly and moved to the left shoulder, but was puzzled by the lack another car in front of me or behind me, which I assumed I had hit. The car was filled with smoke and my first instinct was that it was on fire, so I got out of it on the side of the freeway. That’s when I saw it.

A flat tire.

What? All this over a flat tire?

Then another car came over to the shoulder behind me. A good samaritan, I thought. But then I noticed he had a flat, too.

And then, another car pulled over. And another. And another. In all, about a dozen cars were pulled off on the shoulders, and finally a CHP officer came up, stopping traffic to look for whatever it was we had all hit.

This happened, that happened, I stood around, I shook a bit, I whined on the cell phone, and then the CHP officer told me he thought it might be a piece of a FORKLIFT. Bwah?

The burly female assistance truck driver helped everyone in turn to put on their spare tire, but when she got to my car she was unable to budge the damaged one. I was told to call for a tow. I was also told to go ahead and get my car off the freeway, so I gingerly eased it up the exit ramp that was literally a few feet away from the incident.

How do I know who to call? My insurance agent wasn’t in yet so I had no recommendations and had no idea what to do. Turns out that I have the Audi Roadside Assistance program, which was a nice surprise. Unfortunately, it took them an hour and a half after I called to get to me, sitting in my car in the heat with a couple of guys watching me from plastic lawn chairs who didn’t speak any English.

After I made it to the Audi dealer, they presented me with an estimate for $890 just to assess the damage, of which I’ll owe $500 as a deductible. Then I was chastised by my insurance agent for going to the dealer.

And she told me that my premium, thanks to this little incident in which I wasn’t at fault, is going to go up $300 a year. After almost 20 years accident-free. Lovely.

So, whoever left that debris in the roadway already owes me $800 and nothing has even been repaired yet.

I don’t think anyone will likely begrudge me a second beer this afternoon. Will you?

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