Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Remember to Call

I don't remember what the gentlemen and I were discussing. I can't remember where we were going either, someplace over by Flamingo and Paradise. Maybe the La Quinta. Now that I think about it, I don't even remember where I picked the guy up. Maybe it was Caesars. What I do recall was us being the only car sitting at a red light on Flamingo at Howard Hughes, directly in front of the Tuscany. It was late and my cab was the only car around, like in the movies. That was when I noticed a very large red truck coming from behind us in my rear view mirror. The numerous blinding lights mounted to its front grill made it impossible to tell for sure but it appeared to be approaching at an incredibly fast rate of speed. When you see this scene in the movies you think to yourself, this truck is going to plow right into us, but it’s ok because I will hit the gas in time. I’ll floor it right away, burn through the red light, manage to avoid the oncoming crossing traffic and pick up just enough speed so we only get a bumper tap from the truck, which does nothing but help us along our merry way. But that's not real life, at least not tonight it wasn’t. In real life you see the emblem coming right at you in the rear view in 3D and your body is frozen as you stare at the truck, now in slow motion as it steams right towards you. A split second seems like minutes but even in the slow motion affair you are helpless. This was a tall truck, with big tires and it's name was Ford. I'm certain the stock model came equipped with a braking system, but we'll never know if they were functioning because the bitch at the helm never even applied them. Three drunk girls with Papi's jacked up F-250 decided to drive home and in the process plowed into a motionless cab at better than 40 miles an hour.

The collision was the loudest thing I’d ever heard. The two vehicles exploded as metal was torn like aluminum foil and glass from multiple windows shattered, littering the entire intersection. My body flailed around uncontrollably from the force of the impact, only succumbed by my safety belt. Once the cab finally rolled to a stop it seemed like a dream. I wasn’t in my body but more a daze of ignorance. My thoughts seemed to take forever to collect themselves but when they came around I noticed that I still had all of my fingers and toes. I was alright, or so I thought. Once I turned around however, I quickly realized that my passenger was not nearly as lucky as I was. He took that truck right in his backside and since there was no screeching of the tires, there was no warning. He probably didn’t even know what was coming. Thankfully, he was conscious and didn’t appear to be bleeding anywhere, but it was clear he was in excruciating pain. My first thought was that his back was broken. His head was planted firmly against the headrest and his body lay ridged against the back seat like he was already strapped to a backboard. It seemed like he was afraid to move, for fear of causing himself more pain I believe. When I tried to talk to him his entire body remained still and he only moved his eyes to address me. I reached for my phone and dialed 911 and told them my location and that we needed Fire & Rescue and Metro immediately. Thankfully the Fire House on Flamingo was less than a mile straight down the road. I tried my best to talk to the man.

“Help is coming right now sir, the Fire House is very close to here they will be here any second,” I said. “Just be still ok, you’re going to be alright.”

“What happened?” was all he could say in between his groans of agony.

“We got rear ended, we’re going to be alright though I promise ok? I can hear the sirens already.”

I picked up my two-way and informed my dispatch of my location and what was going on before getting out of my cab. As the cavalry approached, I motioned to the fire trucks to help insure that they tended to my passenger first.

“Listen friend help is here, they are going to take good care of you ok? Is there somebody I can call for you? Maybe I can tell them where you’re going so they can meet you at the hospital?”

“No,” he said without hesitation, “I don’t want my wife to worry.”

How noble I thought. “Yeah you’re right,” I said, “you call her after you find out you’re ok.”

In the seconds of confusion that followed the collision, I could have sworn that I noticed in my mirror the drivers door of the truck open and close. It was confusing. As Las Vegas F.D.’ finest began to unload and tend to my passenger, I walked over to the truck mostly to assess the situation, but also to see if the girls were alright. As soon as I walked up to the drivers door I could see the multiple empty beer cans scattered across the trucks floorboard.

“Are you guys ok?” I asked.

“We think so,” said the brunette.

“Was there somebody else driving or something?”

“No,” she said, “ I was driving.”

I don’t think it mattered much, they were both drunk by the looks of things.

By the time the police arrived my passenger was already on a stretcher being loaded into the back of the ambulance. Being in such a vulnerable state, I walked over to him and grabbed his hand and apologized.

“I’m real sorry about this sir, you’re going to be alright buddy just take it easy ok?”

Nothing is worse than being in the hospital on your vacation. The medics closed the double doors of the ambulance behind my passenger and were driving off sirens blazing in seconds. I ventured back near my cab where the first cop to the scene seemed to be surveying the damage.

“This is your cab?” he asked me.

“Yes sir.”

“You’re not injured?”

“No sir I think I’m ok.”

“What happened?” he said.

“We got rear-ended. We were in the #2 lane here, first and only car at the red light here and these guys came out of nowhere and plowed right into us,” I said. “I already talked to the girls, there are beer cans all over the inside of that truck.”

The officer game me a stern look, I continued, “There’s something else sir, after the impact I coulda swore that the drivers door opened and shut, I think these girls either switched seats or the one that was driving is no longer here. I don‘t know, I got knocked around pretty good I think.”

“Really?”

“Yeah I’m not sure.”

“I’ll bet you’re right., your mind doesn’t just make stuff up like that. You probably witnessed it you’re just don’t believe you did. Well,” he said in a gasp, “if she’s smart she’ll go right to a bar and start drinking.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I said if she’s smart she’ll go straight to a bar and start drinking. If she fled the scene drunk and we find her at a bar drinking we can’t prove that she was drunk at the time of the accident. We’d have her on the felony hit and run easy, but it’d be difficult to make the DUI stick.” The Officer said. “I’m going to figure out what’s going on, you go over there and stand on the sidewalk off the road ok?”

“Yes sir.”

“You’re sure you’re alright?” he said walking away. “This is a pretty bad one.”

“Yeah.”

The officer got both of the girls out of the truck and made them sit very far apart on the curb so he could interview them separately. The oldest trick in the book. Meanwhile my companies supervisor arrived at the scene along with their insurance adjuster and in short time a Taxicab Authority Officer was on the scene as well. Obviously, the liabilities involved in the cab business are astronomical so naturally my employers take whatever steps they can to try and limit those exposures. You would do the same thing. One of my obligations as a cab driver is to notify my dispatch of any accidents that I may be involved in. And I do mean any. At one time my companies handbook defined an accident as; “If your cab touches anything other than air, you have been involved in an accident.” More recently this language has been amended to be more concise because by this definition, anytime it rains or a bug splatters on my windshield I have been involved in an accident. I only share this definition with you now to help illustrate how serious the companies are about their drivers reporting their “accidents”. Failure to notify dispatch of any accident is grounds for instant termination, even if there is zero damage or if the accident wasn’t your fault. My super, the insurance representative and the T.A. Officer are all here to serve that end in one way shape or form. There will be dozens of photos taken, passengers interviewed, witness statements, driver statements, seat belts tested and even accident reconstruction. Attempts are also made at achieving signatures from those involved who are denying medical attention. That’s right, they will try and make you sign a sheet of paper, a contract essentially, saying that you are ok. These sorts of things are not insurmountable in court I don‘t believe, but the companies sure love to have those documents in hand when people try and sue them later. And it’s not just you, they make me sign it too.

The cop returned, “you’re right” he said, “there was definitely somebody else driving.”

“They told you?” I said.

“Not yet, but they will. I’m just over here letting them pine on it for a minute.”

The insurance adjuster got busy taking pictures and speaking to the girls as well while my supervisor and I began filling out the seemingly endless paperwork that revolves around these incidents. Anything and everything to limit liabilities. The cop returned hassling the girls.

Right around the time my cab was making it’s way onto the flatbed tow-truck now at the scene, another large Ford pick-up pulled alongside the accident and parked. A middle aged Latino couple got out of the truck and the cop wasted no time walking up to the woman and said, “Where you driving this truck ma’am?” to which she nodded. The cop quickly placed handcuffs on the driver and directed her to stand in front of his squad car. Undoubtedly, one of the girls had called the driver and convinced her to come back. She wept while the man, presumably her husband, assured her that he would come and bail her out. The Metro Officer continued with his duties of questioning the driver while the husbands thoughts turned to the pool of antifreeze on the ground and his significantly damaged truck. His anger about his “loss” was verbally apparent which in turn, made me angry.

“Yeah, maybe you should be thinking about the guy who’s at the hospital right now,” I said.

“Who the fuck are you?” the man shot back.

“Oh I’m just the guy your wife almost killed, no big deal. Man that‘s too bad about your truck bro. What a shame.”

“That’s enough,” The TA officer said to me realizing that this was a conversation that wasn’t going to lead anywhere good. No reason for the two of us guys to be around each other anyway. “Go sit in the tow truck, you don‘t need to be out here anymore,” he scolded me.

“Yes Officer.”

I retrieved my drivers license and T.A. permit from the insurance adjuster who had completed notating my information, but my carry on bag and the rest of my belongings where still in the cab, now atop the flatbed. While the tow-truck driver was working to secure my taxi, I climbed up into the smelly cab of the truck and sat in the well of silence. I thought about what had just happened, and that it just as easily could have been me at the E.R. right now. It just as easily could have been a slightly different kind of impact that resulted in something much worse. Standing there looking at the wreck for that time I was amazed the truck didn’t run up over top of us. It was no Big Foot V, but it was certainly modified with oversized tires. What if that happened? I don’t know and I suppose it’s best not to think about it. But in thinking about these things, and about how my passenger handled the situation, I realized that I had the same feeling about things that he did. Should I call my loved ones? Should I call the ones who care about me and tell them that their worst fears about my job almost came true? Of course you’d like to share it with somebody, but what does it really serve? Certainly at that moment, over the phone, it only serves to make people worry. You tell them only after they can see that you’re ok. My passenger knew that. I guess I did too.

“You ready to go?” The tow-truck driver said climbing in the drivers seat.

“Yeah let’s get out of here.”

“So are they going to put you in another cab and make you go back out?” he said making a U-turn to head west on Flamingo to head back to my company’s yard.

“Fuck no, I’m going home.”

We drove past the accident scene on our way back westbound on Flamingo. As we passed by, the young woman stared at me from the backseat of the police cruiser. I hoped that it was a look of empathy, but I have little doubt it was the look of self pity. Ten minutes later we were back at the yard. I opened the door to climb down from the tow-truck and the instant I made it on my feet again was when it hit me. My body felt like I had just played in two consecutive football games, like my entire body was in a knot that could never work itself out. My back was stiff, my neck was stiff, my knees hurt too for some reason. Perhaps my 6’3 frame forced my legs into the dash during the impact. I don’t remember. Regardless, it seemed obvious that in becoming aware of the impending impact my body tensed as a result of the fear, which was now playing a major roll in my stiffness. I felt like an 80 year old man. It took an unusual amount of concentration for me to be able to finish my required shift paperwork, count out my money and drop it in the company safe. My struggles were made worse by the 3 different cab drivers who made a point to come up to me, knowing that I had just been in an accident, to offer me the business cards of their favorite attorneys. Naturally those drivers would have received a nice kick back from the lawyer if I chose to procure their services. The strongest argument I heard regarding why I should “sue the bitch” was the simple fact that, had the situation been reversed and it had been me who had rear ended the 3 girls, there is no doubt that all three of them would be suing me, and my company as well. There is no question that this is true. This theory has been expressed, and proven in these pages previously.

You may recall a story I told some time ago about my worst at fault accident that I was involved in. I had dropped off a passenger at a UPS store who was a total bitch and as it turned out, she had no money to pay me. I was so steamed pulling out of the driveway, sans payment, that I collided with a car that was traveling in the middle turn lane or suicide lane as some call it. Due to the gridlock of cars in the two thru lanes to my left, coupled with my emotional state, I simply did not see the oncoming vehicle who, had he been obeying the rules of the road, would have never been there in the first place. But he was there and I did not yield and my front end ultimately scraped his entire passenger side of his car as he flew by me. Had I been 6ft further ahead at that exact moment, I would have gotten it right in my drivers door. Had I been 6 inches further back, I would have missed him entirely. I didn’t get T-boned thankfully but I did make substantial contact with his car as he crossed in front of me. After the impact both of us quickly exited our vehicles, for entirely different reasons mind you. I began walking towards him and asked, “Are you ok?”. The man’s actual response to the question, as well as the very nature of it, is something that I will always remember. The man looked at me, looked over at my taxi, then looked back at me and while shrugging his shoulders said simply, “I don’t know.” I knew how it was going to go down as soon as he said that and sure enough a month later I was served papers informing me of the pending lawsuit against both myself and my employer. I was also not surprised when I noticed who was representing the guy was none other than the “Heavy Hitter” himself. Due to the incessant moronic commercials, Las Vegas locals know the heavy hitter to not only be the biggest ambulance chaser in town, but probably the biggest douche as well.

As it turned out, that lawsuit was dropped and as such I have no judgments against me. I would venture that my accident mate was not totally forthright during his consultations with his heavy hitting attorney and when certain facts came to light later on-particularly that the Metro officer at the scene determined that both parties were at fault and cited both of us, as well as the fact that we had video documentation of the accident itself, it became clear to the Heavy Hitter that he had a shit case on his hands and it was quickly disposed of.


All lawsuit for profit business aside, and even though I was initially convinced that I was fine, it was clear that I was going to need some medical attention after all. Realizing that it would be unwise as well as unnecessary to pay for my own medical treatment in this situation, I sought representation the following day. However I did not choose one of the lawyers my fellow cabbies were pushing me towards but rather I chose a friend of my girlfriend’s whom she used to work for. Somebody I could trust. At the time I couldn’t say I was too thrilled at the idea of being “that guy”, however in hindsight it was the right move because I was off to the M.D. and a Chiropractor later that afternoon. My attorney could handle all of the business so I could simply focus on getting better.

My M.D. was concerned about my headaches, which I never get, but I passed all of the concussion tests with flying colors and after a brief once-over, the only thing keeping me from a clean bill of health was my severe stiffness so off to the Chiropractor I went. Over the course of the next two weeks I visited the Chiropractor 7 times. During each visit I was adjusted, then spent equal time on some electro shock therapy, a roller bed, and some light rehab equipment. Boy did I love that roller bed. Throughout that time I saw steady improvement everyday and even though my Dr. insisted that I needed at least another week of treatment, I never went back after 7 visits. I was right as rain.

Even though I had two weeks of treatment I was back to work after only one. In the months that followed my attorney saw to my lawsuit which he informed me was getting increasingly complicated as a result of the fact that the defendant was being pursued by 3 different parties all of which with legitimate complaints. My passenger, my employer and I all sought compensation and naturally the defendant didn’t have a large enough policy to appease us all. To this day, I have no idea what came of my passenger. I sure hope that he ended up alright. Regardless of his outcome I’m sure he racked up some hefty medical bills along the way. For my employer’s part, they had a totaled sedan on their hands and there is little doubt they pursued lack of use compensation in addition to the actual value of their vehicle. As for me, I had a relatively small claim the end result of which netted me just enough to cover my medical bills and my attorney’s end, with barely enough left over to compensate me for my lost time working. But that was ok, I wasn’t seeking a big payday. I was seeking my health and reasonable compensation for my time and I think I received those things. Besides, I’m sure my passengers attorney, and the team of them that my company employs had no problems sticking it to the bitch without my help.

In the end, these sort of things are part of being a cab driver I suppose. No different than the pukers and the posers, the bad tippers and the prostitutes, dealing with the drunk drivers comes with the territory. This is after all Las Vegas, home of the bars that never close. I certainly would not choose that it be this way, that even today the number of drunk drivers on the road is still appalling. If nothing else I should feel fortunate that I made it six years without an accident that harmed me. That’s a pretty good run I think and a testament to my quality driving. And I should be thankful that even though this situation was far from ideal, I did make it out alive and without a scratch. I guess now I can call Mom and tell her.

12 comments:

LJ said...

Wow! Glad you're OK bro. Thanks for sharing that story.

caseyjp4 said...

Good article, and glad to hear you made it through that okay. I've been "thissss close" several times since I started out here in Denver, plus one love tap from...drumroll....a freakin' yellow cab (no damage), but every time I get in the Prius, there's a moment where I think about what could happen. Then I roll.
Guessin' you do as well.

Anonymous said...

Craziness - glad to hear that you're ok. I like reading your blog and am actually going to be in Vegas in March. Do you have a number/email we can contact you at when we're there? Mine is bigwrm04@yahoo.com. Thanks! Eric.

The IT Guy said...

hey mate, what a story, glad to hear you're ok. I recently had an experience which left me wondering about how lucky i was and handed me a week off work so i could really relate here. was this related to your tweet about how your life took a turn in a complete other direction? or are we still to hear about that??

Cheers, Steve

ManInBlack said...

Oh man. I am glad to hear that you are ok now. And i agree with you that people are too sue happy now a days

Danger Boy said...

Glad you made it out OK. That had to be a whole lot of suck. I've been scraped and lane-changed into, but never rear ended or anything major like that.

CrankyChef said...

Thanks for the updated story since our ride from MB. I'm glad you found the appropriate ending. Thanks for your help while we were in town too.

MrFunkMD said...

To The IT Guy:

No, that tweet was a in reference to something in my personal life. This will probably never be shared here to any meaningful extent, but for now let's just say that Mr. Funk is growing up.

To CrankyChef: Hey Matt, yeah it's weird how those things come together sometimes. The ending is nowhere close to what I thought it might be when I talked to you guys about it. And then I got to the end and it seemed like what it became made perfect sense. I actually like the ending of this story considerably more than I ever thought I would. Sometimes it's like a lightbulb I guess.

Real sorry I wasn't working that other night, I take nights off sometimes, it's one of the perks of the job. One of the few perks actually, that and free show tickets. Hope the Black Crows melted faces.

aburtch said...

What a post. Glad to hear you are OK, that sounds like quite a scare.

Mitchell said...

Glad to hear you made it OK. There have been too many of these accidents rear ending cars and bikes. Next time run the red light!

caseyjp4 said...

And...it happened to me as well. Here's the link to my blog for the details:

http://caseyjp4.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/if-this-is-karma-i-want-off-the-ride/

Still achin' as I type this.

Josh said...

Hey, can you shoot me an e-mail? Gonna be back there soon and would like to have you on speed dial again like last time, that was great. address is busychild424_spammo@gmail d0t c0m. Except, without the "_spammo" part.