Two major events took place in 2001, exactly a month apart.
On 11 August 2001, my boyfriend at the time and I decided that I should play hooky from work. He was a student and wanted to go ten-pin bowling. We were due to meet with my best friend for lunch at his house afterwards.
We went bowling and all I remember from that, as we were driving, is that my left elbow felt a little strained from the activity.
My boyfriend was driving his own car for a change (I usually drove, which is a sore topic for another day), an Audi A3 hatchback. We turned off Jan Smuts Avenue into Buckingham Avenue where my friend lived, in Craighall Park, Johannesburg. There were speed bumps on that road, but I knew they could be taken safely at 50 km per hour, and I recall saying “You can go 50 here”. The boyfriend decided to drive slower than that because he was worried about the Audi’s suspension, and as we approached the first intersection, I saw a red VW Golf driving really quickly, coming from the left on the other road.
As soon as I realized that we were going to collide, I said “Shit”. When the car hit us on my side (left passenger side), I then said “Jesus Fucking Christ” during the time it took for the car to spin one and a half times, before coming to rest on the other side of the road, precariously stopped on the top of an embankment by virtue of a well-placed street sign.
Everything that was on my lap before the collision was now outside of the car, as much as 20 metres away in various directions. This included the glasses on my face, cellphones and other detritus.
The car window had not been open at the time. Instead, the collision had ripped the door off its hinges, and the lock mechanism was keeping the door attached. I was able to quite easily climb out of the gap from the top of the door, and saw our attacker now running down the road. He had hit his head against the windshield of the Golf he was driving, but that didn’t stop him. I yelled to the hordes of onlookers to catch him, but he vanished.
At this point I noticed that my neck was quite painful, and after retrieving a cellphone and calling my friend to “get your ass down here to where the massive accident is”, I decided to lie down.
It was curious to hear the familiar sound of a police helicopter, and the fire department sent crew very quickly to the scene. Later we discovered that the driver that hit us was involved in an armed robbery and was using the Golf as a getaway car.
An ambulance arrived and the crew put me once again on a board with C-spine collar and straps, and for the second time in my life I was taken to hospital after being hit by a car. At least I wasn’t bleeding.
X-rays were done, and I was put in a neck brace for six weeks to help with the severe whiplash I sustained. The body repair shop wanted to write off the Audi, but the insurance company made them fix it. They had to put it on a machine to pull the chassis square again. Some estimates put the speed of the Golf at 90 km per hour when it hit us.
I wore that neck brace for six weeks religiously. At work they fixed up my workstation to raise the computer monitor and set my chair up correctly. I did six months of physiotherapy and electric needles in my muscles.
I sued the Road Accident Fund and was paid a small sum of money after the slimiest lawyer I’ve ever had the displeasure of representing me, got the payout.
After a few days the police got hold of us and asked us to identify the driver of the Golf. He had been apprehended and we needed to do the identity parade. Since I’d only seen him briefly from the front, and mostly running away, I looked for the dude in the lineup who had recent damage to his face. Only one person looked like he’d hit his head against a windshield recently so I told the police it was probably that guy.
A month after the accident, the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked by hijacked commercial airlines, and the rest of the world moved on, but the two of us had to appear in the magistrates court in the case of the armed robbery, because we were considered witnesses after the fact.
On the day of my appearance in court, the lawyer for the prosecution went over my statement from August and reminded me that I had identified the same man as my boyfriend, which at least was reassuring. Unfortunately, the accused in the dock for this case was not the driver of the Golf, but the alleged mastermind of the armed robbery. I told the prosecutor that there was no one else in the car and he agreed that the case had taken an interesting turn.
In any event, the swearing in and testimony was interesting. I told the magistrate that I don’t believe in God, so he didn’t ask me to swear on the Bible, but I swore that the evidence I was about to give was true, just like in movies, but with a South African accent.
The magistrate asked me questions because he wasn’t sure why we were called. I told him I wasn’t sure either because we were just in the wrong place during a massive police search operation.
The judge asked if the man who drove into us was in the courtroom. Since the prosecutor had already told me it wasn’t the man I identified at the police station, I said no to the judge. He asked me if I was sure. I then said the dude I saw was tall and had a fold of skin on the back of his neck that you often see with shaved heads.
Then I made the entire courtroom laugh by suggesting that we could ask the accused to run away and then I’d know for sure.
I was dismissed by a jovial magistrate shortly thereafter, and I still don’t know what happened to the driver of the car that hit us.
I often wonder what would have happened had we been driving faster down that road. Was a few km per hour enough to miss our car completely? If I’d been driving my car, would we have even survived the crash?
X-rays taken after this accident showed that my neck had sustained an injury a long time before. Was that from my accident at ten years old when I was knocked over? Maybe it was when I fell out of a tree?
Some years later, I was talking to a friend and he told me the strangest story (to him anyway). One Friday afternoon around lunch time, “about a month before the world went to shit” in 2001, he was home from work and a man “with a mask of blood” came over the wall of his property, ran through the yard, and hopped over another wall never to be seen again. I asked if there had been a nasty car accident just up the road from his house on the corner of Jan Smuts and Buckingham Avenues.
My boyfriend and I broke up three years later. The best thing I took from this experience was that I’d drive an Audi myself one day. It was the safest major car accident I’d ever been in.
As of a month ago, this came true, and I now drive an Audi. I’m not unhappy with this turn of events.
There might be a post in a few days about another major accident or two that I was a passenger in. Stay tuned.