Feren (feren) wrote,

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Thoughts after an incidental brush with a traffic fatality.

I had planned originally post something lighthearted this morning -- shortly after I woke up I caught Ra doing something cute that I thought deserved to be shared. After I got online and checked the news, however, that plan has been slightly altered.

I worked ridiculously late last night on an issue that had myself and the entire UNIX engineering team in the data center until almost 2300 hours. Given the time of night I decided I might as well take the Tollway home -- it's not like there would be any significant traffic at that hour. It was remarkably quiet on the roads and I made good time. However, on my route back home I drove past this accident. As I figure things I probably came by the scene about two minutes or so after it happened. As I was approaching the turn of the ramp from I-88W to I-355S I saw there was what looked like a mini-van on the left side of the ramp with its lights off and hazard blinkers on. I was a little perplexed by this: why somebody would choose such a poor -- nay, dangerous location to pull over at? Even when it's five past 11 at night the risk of somebody hugging the curve too closely and clipping you or your vehicle on that ramp is incredibly high. As I got closer it became evident why somebody would do that... I saw the guardrail on the South side of the ramp had been mangled and there was a car laying on its roof behind that. Then my headlights played over something far worse -- a body on the side of the road, with somebody crouched by it. It took me a second or three to process that as I drove by.

Once I realized what I'd seen I understood why somebody had pulled over in such a bad location and I followed suit, throwing the Expedition onto the shoulder and punching on the hazard lights. Grabbing my cell phone I called 911 and started to get out of the truck to walk back and find out what was going on. A dispatcher came on and, once I described my location she interrupted me by asking, "Is this about the overturned vehicle on the ramp from 88 to 355, with the ejected passenger?" I said yes, it was. "Paramedics are already en-route. Are you a witness?" I told her no, I had not seen the accident happen. I asked for confirmation that crews had been dispatched and, once she said yes, I thanked her and disconnected. It took me a second or two of sitting in the truck to hear the sirens of the approaching emergency vehicles, but once I did I realized there was nothing more I could do. I have no training to render aid, so I wouldn't have been any help there. Somebody had already called for emergency services and they were with the victim already, following any instructions the dispatcher might have to give so I wouldn't be any help there. I had not seen the accident as it occurred so I couldn't provide any reports about what happened. The dispatcher I'd spoken with had assured me help was enroute and had not asked me to stay. The conclusion I was left with was disheartening, but logical: the only thing I could do in that situation would be to get in the way, so I might as well take myself and my truck and move on so the emergency crews would have a place to park. I figured this was a big enough incident that it would be reported in the papers and sure enough, it was.

I find that I keep coming back to the above analysis of the situation: The guy already had a good samaritan there with him, 911 had already been called, I didn't see the accident happen, I have no training and would only have gotten in the way -- the last thing an accident needs is gawkers. So I ask myself, why does it bother me that I did not stay there until the paramedics had evaluated him and he was transported to the hospital? Is it a case of survivor's guilt arising from my previous medical problems, or maybe because I was up until almost 2 AM this morning doing more work-related things (meaning I put in a twenty-three hour long shift)? Exhaustion does funny things to our emotions and sensibilities, after all.

No good answer is presenting itself. I guess I'll focus on the tasks at hand around the house and make sure I'm available in case our site in Utah has any problems moving into the new, permanent offices. Once that's done I'll be heading off with my friends H&G to go see a property that might be up for sale shortly. I'm being told I have to see it to believe it, so I might as well go take a look if I'm done with my other obligations. Tomorrow: one of the final weeks of bowling league!

Sooner or later your feet are gonna touch the ground
Tags: thoughtful, work

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