Watching your car hurtling down the road, straight into the back of a stopped car, is a nightmare. For a few seconds, it is like being on a giant Ferris wheel, as the your cage plunges downward. You're plummeting towards the capsule in front of you and there's the adrenalin rush but in some brave corner of your mind, you know you won't hit it. Only, in the case of a real car on a real highway, when you're speeding at 90kph, you actually hit the car in front of you, causing serious damage. You watch yourself rushing into the target and the crash itself takes only a split second. You can barely remember the instant of contact. Then you watch the back of the car in front dent and crack, in the moments following the impact.
Seconds later you realise that your car has stopped too. It suddenly registers that, with the hit, you haven't really displaced the other car. It probably wasn't that bad, eh?
What is the first thing that comes to your mind? Impossible to remember. Thoughts have flitted past and fluttered about like shards off a grenade, in those couple of minutes. Some come back, a lot do not. Your first reaction is to get out of the car. Then, you look over to see those getting out of the other car. Was the only damage you did, to the car, when you rear-ended them? It had not occured to you until then that it might have been otherwise. Why? You did not see anything. Nor hear anything. The car had not moved. The mind rests knowing it was not worse. Until you see the driver of the hit car open the rear door and get his baby out. A baby! In the back seat! This cannot be happening!
You rush forward to check if he is okay. The little one is crying. There are no visible injuries, he might be shaken. There's no saying that nothing is wrong yet. What about whiplash? Or something else? He did cry, didn't he? He did feel the impact, didn't he? It is of no consequence that, after crying for about 15 minutes, little Michael seems alright. He is excited by the big red fire-truck of Emergency Services, with lights flashing. He is thrilled to bits when the guys in their fireman uniforms give him a stack of stickers and goodies. When the first ambulance arrives minutes later, with more lights flashing, he jumps in his father's arms in glee. While the paramedics try to talk to him and find out how he felt, he keeps pointing towards the second ambulance that is pulling in. As far as he is concerned see it, it is a grand party. He is enjoying every second of it... the flashing lights, the big trucks, the men all dressed up in uniforms, the attention he is getting. You cannot help but smile at his sweet innocence. He is going to be alright. He is one hell of a kid, isn't he?
The minutes spent waiting for the towing trucks, the emergency services, the ambulance and the numerous questions, calling the car hire agency... it seems endless. It is a real slow hour after all is over that the cops finally arrive. A good couple of hours and half since the accident. Then, another hour of gruelling questions targeted at the driver who rear-ended the car. It does not matter that the car stopped bang in the middle lane of a speeding highway. The car behind should maintain enough distance to stop without hitting, is the argument. Fair enough, you think.
Fifty kilometres away from the destination, over an hour's drive away from the starting point, standing in the rain, on a highway. Quite a scene. All you have is a few smokes, the towing guys for conversation, stressed parents, grand-mom and little Michael for company. Once the trucks started leaving, it is the rain and slush which excites the kiddo. He jumps on the wet grass, splashing the muddy water and grime over himself, laughing and clapping with joy. In the harrowing minutes that pass, playing with Michael is a little joy, of those hours, to be cherished later.
You give him little stones to throw in the dirty water and you are his best friend now. It keeps him from jumping into the water for a while. He manages to mess up his clothes, anyway. When his mum tries to distract him with a book and pen, he runs to his new playmate who gave him a choccie some time ago. It is enough for him to trust the stranger, who draws a cat in his book, which he watches with wide eyes. He is overjoyed and asks for it again and again. He takes the pen from his new friend and tries to draw circles in the book. Then he gives up, not disappointed but happy for you to draw some more cats for him. Such a little thing seems to give him so much happiness. He settles down on the road and refuses to go home when his parents call him. He wants to watch his buddy draw pathetic little figures in his tiny notebook. The blessing that innocence is cannot be described!
His dad carries him back to the car, crying and screaming, because he wants to play, not go home. He doesn't want to leave his friends. He likes the rain, the mud, the stones and everything that is here, not back home.
A longer wait follows as the policeman, with the strong accent, goes about his interrogation of the errant driver. The friendly towing guys readily agree to drop everyone off at the Caboolture train station. It is not too far from here (Morayfield, the site of the events), they say. Soon, the first truck takes off with 2 people, while the other one would take the remaining two. It's a good hour before the latter arrive in the towing truck, with the rental car that was also battered in the front.
Hours from when it all first started, numerous questions, notes, recording, signatures and a ticket later it is finally over!
It is too late to continue the onward journey, heading home is the only option. The long train journey, filled with conversations of cricket, footy, tennis, badminton and other accidents, ends in a curry lunch at the only Indian restaurant that is open at 5PM on a weekend.
There is no place like home, no person like a spouse and no activity like a warm shower to get over the events of the day. And a good 12 hours of sleep.