Gym, etc. blah blah blah. At work, at precisely 12:07 p.m., I heard the sound of one car rear-ending another just below my window. Apparently one good citizen, headed north on Calvert, threw on the brakes a little too quickly in the process of giving way to a westbound ambulance. And the driver of the car behind the good citizen’s wasn’t quick enough on the uptake. Counting Wednesday’s cop vs. pickup truck incident, this makes about six auto accidents that have occurred within a two block radius of my office window in the last year. (And I only moved into a front office about a year ago, so I wouldn’t have heard any earlier ones.) Thursday’s rear-ending looked pretty minor, as did the police-involved fender-bender on Wednesday, but some of the crashes have been more serious.
One day last summer, for example, some complicated chain reaction among southbound St. Paul traffic resulted in about a half-dozen cars crashing into each other and some buildings just below 25th. The police and rescue personnel were on scene already as I happened upon the mess, on my way to get some lunch at Safeway. The scene looked potentially awful, with cars up on sidewalks and starred windshields drooping from their frames like draped chain mail. But everyone was up and walking around, shaking their heads, and a bystander told me that he didn’t think anyone had been hurt particularly seriously. Which just means no one was unlucky enough to be standing at the corner waiting to cross, or walking along the stretch of sidewalk across the street from the Subway, because such a person would have ended up under either a Miata or a contractor’s junk-hauling truck.
Then, later in the summer, an eastbound 25th Street-driver ran a red light (he admitted this to the crowd that gathered afterwards) and clipped a car traveling north on Calvert Street that was being driven by a nursing student, of all people. The left front corner of his car hit the left side of the nurse’s car, almost all the way to the rear, just behind her left rear wheel. This is basically the same sort of impact that the police try to engineer when they want to stop a fleeing car: a blow perpendicular to the direction of travel, behind the rear wheels, generally causes a dramatic spin-out, and by the time the driver can get his bearings again, his car is crumpled against a jersey barrier and some very worked-up cops are screaming at him over top of their leveled sidearms. (This is why, if you’re ever running from the law, you should put a great deal of effort into never letting any of the pursuing cruisers pull next to you.)
And indeed, the poor nurse’s car spun across the intersection, only instead of hitting a jersey barrier, her car ended up wedged nose first into the basement window of the end building in my boss’s row of, well, rowhouses. Again, this would have been bad news for any pedestrian waiting to cross, but fortunately the corner had been empty during all of this.
Since this accident sounded potentially serious (and actually shook the building I was sitting in) I and a couple of co-workers hurried down to the scene, joining a rather large crowd that had quickly gathered. Notable in the crowd were two members of a private ambulance crew, the kind you hire to move grandma and her respirator from one nursing home to another. In this kind of situation, the bystanders’ urge to help can result in kind of a smothering effect, various bluff assertive men aching to help the befuddled, cute, young woman, moviewatchers shouting suggestions like “get her out of the car before it blows up!” So I just stood back and watched.
Obviously, most people were deferring to the ambulance crew, although the uniformed pair, a man and woman, seemed to me to be behaving rather strangely for emergency medicine specialists (which, come to think of it, they might not really have been, since their work involves transportation of stable patients, not rescue). For one thing, neither they nor the driver nor anyone else seemed to think that it might be prudent to turn off the car’s engine and engage the emergency brake. I could see the brake lights bright and red, so, as far as I could tell, the only thing keeping this car in place was the injured driver’s foot on the brake pedal. I gave the ambulance crew a few minutes to think of this on their own, but as more and more passersby started stacking up around us, some standing right behind the car, I leaned in and told the driver what she needed to do.
Then, suddenly, astoundingly, the ambulance crew members were opening the car’s door and having the young woman, blood trickling from a cut in her forehead, climb out of the car and walk ten feet down the sidewalk to a shady spot under a tree. I wasn’t the only one to recognize that this contradicts some pretty basic first-aid principles. (I actually had the distinct impression that the crew’s main motivation was just to sort of assert firmer ownership of the victim by moving her away from the crowd that was breathing down their necks.)
“I thought you wasn’t supposed to move her!” shouted a man carrying a window-washer’s bucket and tools. Others in the crowd murmured agreement.
“We checked her already for disability!” snapped the male ambulance crew member. I recognized this as a reference to the mnemonic device for the order in which a first responder checks for the most dangerous types of injuries when arriving on an accident scene: A (airway); B (breathing); C (circulation, i.e., is their circulation system compromised by, say, a major laceration?); and D (“disability,” although what this really means is checking to see if the victim shows signs of a brain injury, such as by shining a light in her eyes to see if the pupils dilate independently and asking questions to check for general disorientation). Still, it’s not really in a first responder’s purview to decide that there is no brain injury; an emergency room doctor should also get to weigh in, and there may be no way of telling without a CAT scan. (I think; I confess I don’t know much about the hospital end of this stuff.)
And that’s not really the point, anyway; while it may be interesting to know whether there is a brain injury, the real question is whether there’s any chance of a neck injury such that the spinal cord is in any danger from a broken or dislodged vertebrae. And basic principles of first response tell you to assume that this could be the case in the case of any trauma to the head that results in bleeding. (See “blood trickling down her forehead” two paragraphs above.) As far as I know, a victim in this condition needs to sit still, her head and neck immobilized with what’s called a cervical collar, until she can carefully be placed on a stretcher and taken to an emergency room for evaluation. So all signs pointed to these two ambulance crew members not exactly being who you’d want rendering assistance after your car crash.
Still, the woman was sitting on a front stoop in the shade by the time I’d had this thought process and didn’t seem to have dropped dead or become paralyzed yet. (Such, supposedly, are the stakes when you go moving an accident victim; in my training, we were told the possibly-too-dramatically-apropos-to-be-true story of a car crash victim who was walking around and looking at the damage when someone called his name. He turned his head, causing the jagged edge of a fractured and askew vertebrae to slice through his spinal cord, and died instantly. Again I don’t know if this was really true, but it’s supposed to be physiologically feasible.) And by this time, a real amublance was arriving, and some cops, and I was tired of standing around in the sun. I retired to my office and got back to work, and I have no idea how it all turned out.
But if you’re ever waiting to cross a street at a corner with me, perhaps now you’ll understand why I sometimes tend to hang back and keep a sharp eye in the direction from which a curb-jumping car is likely to be traveling.
I stopped by Giant after work to get a few of the staples Safeway had left out of Monday night’s delivery. By the dairy section, I passed a middle-aged woman and a young girl, maybe four years old, pausing by a freezer case.
Girl: “Can I get some Ice Pops?”
Woman: “Long as they don’t have no trans fats.”
Much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the movers’ estimate. Turns out we’d really rather just have the Buick that we could buy for the cost of the full-service movers who gave us said estimate. Plus, it’s not like we have very much in the way of what you’d call Nice Stuff; in fact, we could probably replace all of the furniture we actually need for less than those movers would cost us. We’re going to go with ABF, the “you pack it, we move it” company. They drop off a freight trailer on a Friday, you load it over the weekend, and then you secure your stuff in place in the trailer with a special bulkhead that keeps it separate from whatever else ends up in the trailer. They pick it up on Monday and eventually – whenever it’s full enough with other households’ stuff or regular freight shipments – bring it to your new house. I looked into renting a truck and doing it ourselves, and, while I guess you do get your stuff exactly when you want it that way, the estimated cost is about the same.
Hmmmm… pack it and drive it ourselves, or pack it and have someone else drive it for the same price?
Not the most difficult question I’ve ever encountered.
So mark your calendars for the weekend of August 4th. I figure if we can get about a thousand of you to help, it shouldn’t take more than five minutes or so.