Saturday, July 02, 2005

A Not So Subtle Ending to the Beginning of My Day*

The scariest thing I've ever witnessed had nothing to do with paranormal activity and was something one can see almost anytime commercials are shown on TV. It was almost eight years ago and I was just eighteen, barely graduated from high school. My summer job as a bank teller was turning into a career with N.A.B.A.B.N.A. and it was the first time I would help open the branch location.

Without divulging too many of the opening procedures, let me just say my co-worker was inside and I was heading from my safe car to the safe, locked doors of the bank. The riskiest part of the procedure is actually walking across the parking lot, although being inside the branch alone is rather spooky. I had seen all the training videos and had training in watching for robbery signals. All the policies were fresh in my mind and my senses were heightened.

My co-workers ensured me that our branch was low-risk for robbery and that opening was no big deal. The shops surrounding our location were all dark while I walked from my car to the door. The signs of other people were still a half hour away, for that would be the time the freshly painted blue auto parts store would open and workers would start to arrive. The pool hall I frequented so often was just a skip and a stone's throw away, empty due to repair work needing to be completed after a mishap with a violent thunderstorm and the roof crashing in on the tables. The hall was about to reopen.

Thinking about robberies, safety, getting through my day, and wanting to go play pool again, I just about jumped out of my skin when I hear the noise.


My obvious first thought was that the sound was a gunshot. My logical mind had just enough time to recognize the noise as a truck going over a big bump on the nearby highway when I saw a brand-new, bright green Chevrolet truck driving about 60 miles per hour on a frontage road/grassy lawn and then seeing that same truck crash into the freshly painted brick auto parts building next door. It was a perfect head-on impact, not dislike those safety feature commercials the car companies run so often. The difference was it was real, I witnessed it, and there was a person inside the vehicle.

I ran the rest of the way into the branch and called 9-1-1 immediately. My manager was called at home and due to security procedures, I was told to remain inside the locked bank.

Within five minutes, two squad cars, a firetruck, and an ambulance were on the scene. The employees of the auto parts store started to arrive, baffled by the site of a truck half inside the building (luckily, the truck got a boost while hitting the brick and went through a large window, only hitting the brick and then deflecting up through the glass).

The truck's front-end crumpled during the impact, the safety feature working and the driver was unscathed. The truck managed to miss the paint buckets by less than a foot during the crash.

One of the officers on the scene was a man I knew from his frequent deposits for the city at our branch. He needed a statement of what I'd seen but our branch's lobby was still closed. Unable to leave and unable to let him in, I gave my statement by talking loudly through bullet-proof glass. In retrospect, the intercom in the drive-thru may have been a much more effective means of communication.

As it turned out, the driver had been heading north on the highway when he had an epileptic seizure. His foot pressed down on the accelerator and he drifted off the road, through the ditch, between the pool hall and the bank, and directly into the auto parts store. The loud bang I heard was his running over a stop sign.

To this day, I am thankful no one was hurt and that the damage was minimal. It could have been much worse and even though it was scary, the ending is not sad (unless you really love new, green Chevy trucks or bright blue brick buildings).

*Title By Char, The Empress of Cool. It was either this or, "As Seen on TV". Or, "No Crash Test Dummies Were Injured in the Writing of This Post."