How the world can change in the blink of an eye. I was driving on the 5 North in San Diego on Sunday afternoon after doing a little shopping when I noticed some smoke and sparks coming from a car about six lengths in front of me. After about fifteen seconds the cars engine caught on fire and the person struggled to pull the car over from the middle lanes to the right hand shoulder. I noticed that she pulled over but was still in the car, so I pulled over and started walking towards the car…She was still in the car, her car is on fire but she is just sitting there in shock.
There was another car that pulled over, a guy in a blue Subaru is walking towards her and he and I are about 150 feet away. We both see that she has opened the car door but has not gotten out yet, there is no doubt in our minds that this car is going to go up in flames. We start yelling at her to get the F-away from the car. We are yelling again to get out and get away from her car.
After what seems to be an eternity she moves away from the car but is just standing in front of it watching it burn. We yell at her to move away and to come towards us, we have narrowed the gap to about 50 feet. She comes towards us and says that her “fuck’n iPod is in the car??? and that she wants to get it. There is no way that we are going to let her get anywhere near her car again. I noticed that the other guy is calling 911, I know this because he turns to me and yells over the freeway noise “can you believe this shit, it is busy.??? He calls again and I also call, we both get through and tell the CHP where we are and what is going on.
This whole process takes less than ninety seconds but in this time the car has changed from a kitten into a tiger, with the flames lapping the sides of the car and the freeway below it. She is still just rambling about her iPod. I ask her if she is ok? Are you hurt? And she describes her version of what happened.
“I was driving at about 65 when I heard this loud whirring sound like when you have your foot on the gas and the car is in neutral. It was just getting louder and the car was not going any faster, I noticed some smoke coming from the engine and knew I had to get over. I think I remember sparks. I got over as fast as I could and then I heard you guys yelling at me to get out of the car.???
For a while we just stood there, waiting for the fire department to arrive, thinking about how lucky she was to have made it out of the car in one piece. She called her dad who lives out of town, he did not answer. She then called her friend that she was supposed to be picking up a couple freeway exits away so that they could go for a walk near the beach. She was very calm, as if this was happening to someone else. I overheard her phone call when she said, “I am going to be a little late…my car is on fire on the side of the freeway. Yes really! The whole car is on fire. We have called the fire department. Hold on a sec, my battery is dying. I’ll call you back.??? She then tried to call her dad again, voicemail; she left a message.
I am fortunate to have not been involved in too many situations that would be considered emergencies but I know that I have never seen anyone as calm as her. I don’t think she would have cared about the car at all had it not been for her iPod. Talk about being in the moment and not worrying about what could have happened but living the here and the now.
The fire engines are here now, the car is fully engulfed in flames as if a fire-breathing dragon swooped down and had a little fun on the freeway. The guys hooked up their fire hoses and started to douse the car with water, there but have been a fuel leak because as they poured the water on the car the flames spread, and spread fast. The water that was running down the side of the road to the storm drain was on fire and heading towards us. They motioned for us to get out of the way and drive our cars further down the shoulder.
We moved about a hundred feet away and watched as they sprayed foam and water on the charred carcass. Still she was calm. Amazing.
They finally motioned for us to come over to the car, it was hissing and smoking but the flames were out. They told her that everything had been destroyed and they had called for a tow truck to come and haul the car away. She asked one of the fire fighters if her iPod was OK? He just looked at her and politely asked where it was? She responded that it was in the center console; he then leaned into the car and holy crap he pulled out her iPod.
This purple iPod mini was the only thing of color in the car, the headphone had blackened and the plastic of the charger had melted but the fricken iPod turned on. I would have not believed it had I not seen it for myself. Holding that iPod and seeing how happy she was I really got it. I mean I really understood what it is like to be thankful for the little things. Her car was destroyed; she was safe and her iPod made her smile for the first time. Apple should send her some new headsets. This girl really loves her iPod!
The tow truck came and dragged her car onto the flat bed, I dropped her off at her friends office about two miles up the road. She was laughing, her dad had still not called her back and she was clutching her mini as she turned to me and said “Thanks for helping me.??? And then closed the car door.
How your life can change in the blink of an eye