As I wrote about yesterday, I had a very good 2011. Unfortunately, a certain event happened to me early last week that could have ruined the year for me. While the event certainly did leave a blemish on the year I do understand that the outcome could have been much worse. Here is what happened.
I had a great Christmas with my family in Spokane. I got into Spokane the night of December 23, went to Walla Walla, Washington, for Christmas Eve, and then returned to Spokane on Christmas morning. Christmas fell on a Sunday this year so that meant that as a state employee I got Monday off. As it is custom for me to do, I decided to stay the whole day in Spokane on Monday and then return to Missoula early on Tuesday morning. I do this all the time…I will maximize the time with my family as much as possible and then leave for Missoula at around 5am the next morning so I get back to work by around 9am. I sometimes get a little drowsy on the trip back but it is usually nothing that really deters me that much.
Monday I had a wonderful day. My family went to “War Horse” which was pretty good and then we went to the mall together. After coming home for a little bit, I went to downtown Spokane and ate dinner with a friend I had met in Las Vegas who coincidently lives in Spokane. As it was our first time hanging out since we had seen each other in Vegas, drinks were ordered to help ease some of the nerves/awkwardness that comes with such a meeting. As we enjoyed each other’s company, more drinks were ordered. When we parted ways, my slight buzz gave me that feeling that I did not really want the night to end. So instead of going home and settling down for the night I decided to meet my brother at our local casino, Lilac Lanes. It did not take long for a friend of mine to show up along with a couple of my brother’s friends. We all were having a wonderful time. At around 1am I was still at the casino. I knew it was time to get home so despite the urges of everyone to stay I went back to my parents’ house. Once at home I got some of my stuff together and ate my leftover Mexican food from dinner. After catching up on Words With Friends, I crashed on the couch…it was just a little past 2am.
Now as I was scheduled to leave my parents’ house at 5am I had my alarm set for 4am so I would have enough time to get ready/pack. When my alarm sounded I looked out the window and noticed that it was still snowing in Spokane. Because I wanted to wait the snow out a little bit before I left and because I knew that two hours of sleep would probably not be sufficient for the drive, I slept another hour. I packed, got ready, and left my parents’ house at around 6:30am.
With the extra hour of sleep, I thought I was good to go. Most of you who know me well know that I usually get only 3-4 hours of sleep each night anyway. Well I hit the road and I was feeling pretty good and alert. I had my sports talk radio keeping me occupied and engaged along with a bunch of other thoughts that were swirling around my head that particular morning. Once I finally got out of Spokane though and hit the freeway, my eyes started to get heavy. At around 40 miles into the trip, I knew that I had to eventually pull over and rest my eyes for a minute and regroup. Kellogg, Idaho, was just 30 miles away so I buckled down and focused as much as I could until I got there. I made it to Kellogg and pulled into a random parking lot of some grocery store. I tried to sleep a little bit but with the snow still falling, a meeting at 11am, and the uneasy and seemingly ridiculous proposition of sleeping in a supermarket parking lot, I decided to continue my trek only after about five minutes.
After pulling out of the lot, I came to the intersection that would let me enter the freeway. It was a three way intersection and all I had to do was go straight and I would hit the onramp that would take me onto the freeway. I had a stop sign and made my complete stop. In front of me, traffic was moving both ways. In my tired state, I assumed that there were stop signs as well for that traffic. There wasn’t. I hit the gas and started to coast towards the freeway entrance. Out of the corner of my right eye I could see a tan Ford F-150 coming right at me.
No matter what I did, I was going to get hit.
The truck slammed into my white Mercury Sable on my rear passenger side. I spun about 180 degrees and my car came to a complete stop. My airbags did not deploy and I never got any feeling of disorientation or adrenaline. I got out of the car immediately and asked the driver of the truck if he was okay. Thankfully he was and his car was too. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about my car.
A Kellogg police officer came to the scene and wrote up the report, issued me a ticket for failing to yield, and helped me contact a towing company. The whole process lasted about an hour and by that time I knew my day was shot.
Soon thereafter a tow truck came to pick up my car and myself. Once my car was hooked up and I was in the truck, the driver talked my ear off about possible routes to go with fixing my car and how to handle my insurance issues. You see, this guy not only ran his own towing company but he also runs his own body shop. He wanted to get an “in’ with me as much as possible. We drove to his shop in a town called Osburn, Idaho. Once there I did all the necessary things I needed to do given the circumstances…filled out paperwork, filed a claim with my insurance, called my parents, notified my work, etc. It was a very lonely and sad time for me.
About four hours later, my parents were amazing enough to show up and give me a ride to St. Regis. It was at St. Regis where my good friend Rachel picked me up and brought me back to Missoula. Despite missing work, Rachel was kind enough to come out and get me. I owe her a lot. It would be the start of many extremely nice things my friends have done for me since my accident. At around 5:45pm, Rachel dropped me off at the Adams Center. I had missed the entire scheduled work day. I felt like the biggest loser in the world walking into that office to get my necessary work done. Lucky for me, most everyone had left for the day…the last thing I wanted to do was to talk to anyone about what had happened. But one of my co-workers was still in the office. As I was starting to get settled and get some work done this co-worker came into my office to check in on me and make sure I was okay. I tried to keep myself together but I couldn’t. All the feelings of failure, embarrassment, and sadness came out and I broke down. It was the first time anyone at work has ever seen me out of character.
Before I write about how things have gotten better, I just want to explain more on how badly I felt. This was my first car accident. Words can’t describe how shitty and inept you feel when you get into an accident that is your fault. I messed up big time and my mistake impacted far more people than just myself. The worst part of this whole thing is that I let my parents down. My mom continually tells me that I need to treat my body better and get more sleep. She pleads with me when I am at her house to go to bed early. The fact that I didn’t do this on Monday night kills me. My parents are also nice enough to have me on their insurance policy. The guy at the body shop said this shouldn’t hurt that much on their insurance but who knows. The fact that I am responsible for any amount of financial strain on my parents is perhaps the worst feeling in the world. I can’t thank my parents enough for how supportive they were when this incident occurred. My pride took a humongous hit last Tuesday and it is going to take quite a bit of time to build it back up again.
Things are going to work out for me. I woke up on Wednesday morning and I felt 10x better than I did the previous night. Each day since then has gotten better. Work this past week was very busy and a lot of fun so that also helped me keep my mind off of negative thoughts and kept me more focused on good things. My friends and co-workers have been nothing but supportive. They have been so generous in giving me rides to/from work. I will have a vehicle sooner than later and I look forward to that time so I will not be such a burden on everyone else.
The lesson in this whole snafu is obvious: I will never drive fatigued again. Going even further, I am going to try my best to start getting a little more sleep at night. I need to consider this a wake up call (no pun intended) and make better decisions from here on out. This has been a humbling experience and I never want to be in this situation again. Again, to my family, friends, and co-workers….THANK YOU. Don’t Blink.