“Oh crap!” I stomp hard on the brakes as traffic suddenly halts, feeling the ABS grind beneath my foot as 3 tons of towed RV pushes hard against the Suburban. The RV tires chirp but don’t lock up, and I manage to stop without any smoke or action-movie special effects. I also manage to not hit the car in front of me.
I crane my neck in an attempt to ascertain the cause of our sudden dramatics. I can see an old Chevy sideways in the intersection a quarter mile ahead. Traffic resumes its progress, but at a slow crawl.
People dart in and out of traffic, obviously talking on their cell phones.
The Chevy is missing most of its nose and steaming slightly.
A late model SUV rests in the ditch at the side of the road. It wasn’t parked there.
Four tourists mill around the SUV, talking on cell phones and taking pictures of it.
Two people crouch and stare into the Chevy from a distance.
And not a single red, blue, or amber flashing light to be seen.
I pull through the scene of the crash and park my 40 feet of Land Yacht in the first safe place. It’s summer, and I’m way, way out of my jurisdiction. I’m wearing shorts and sandals, but no one else seems to be doing anything useful. In fact, someone’s going to get hurt here.
Hopefully it won’t be me.
The driver of the Chevy is conscious and can move all of his extremities, but he’s complaining of neck and back pain. I assess him as best I can with no equipment and stabilize his neck until help arrives.
A helpful bystander tries to pull me away. That car could blow up, you know! I’ve seen it on TV!
I shrug him off. He backs away, but continues to shout about the ‘puddle of gasoline’ I’m standing in.
Funny, it’s the greenest gasoline I’ve ever seen. I suppose I’m lucky no one deployed a fire extinguisher on the steaming radiator. I’m sure Helpful Bystander would’ve tried if he’d had one.
Time stretches onward, minutes seeming like hours.
The wail of a siren reaches over the rural horizon. Blue strobes dawn over the crest of the roadway.
I identify myself to the police officer, and he asks how he can help. Good man! Would you double check that this puddle is in fact antifreeze? He quickly confirms that it’s relatively harmless.
Great. Could you check the folks in the other car? They’re all out walking around and look OK from here, but. . .
More strobes approach, red this time. The cavalry. An ambulance and a fire engine.
I identify myself again and give a quick patient report, expecting to hand over care. The crews treat me with deference, taking orders instead of taking over.
Must be my command presence.
Things have to be done, so I give the orders. I don’t stop to wonder why I’m in charge. My patient is properly immobilized and extricated from the car. We load him into the ambulance, and I give a Hollywood-style two slaps on the back door.
As the red lights set over the southern horizon, I realize what has just happened.
I chuckle with a vision of the Brothers at Boston E37/L26 receiving a gift basket and a thank you note. They laugh, wondering who was caught playing hero in a Huntington Ave Express T-shirt.
Happens all the time, right?