I was primarily distracted by the cataclysmic pandemic bearing down on the Hudson Valley, and how to continue mainlining information on its progress while driving. WAMC’s broadcast was forked with static, so I started fiddling with the dial, glancing down to see the readout.
When I glanced back up, there was a tree 20 feet in front of my face.
I remember stomping my foot down at the brake, but there was no deacceleration; the car had bounced, sending me airborne so my foot missed its mark and I smashed into the tree at full speed.
A moment of shock. Two moments. Then I looked around and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well, that wasn’t too bad,” I thought. “The airbags didn’t even go off!”
I was so convinced of this inside-the-vehicle evaluation I immediately texted my friend that I had been in a “Minor car accident.” Better let her know that I’ll be late, my thinking went.
But minor it was not. My Nissan, replete with TOHV magnetic signage, had hit the tree with the very edge of its bumper on the passenger’s side. The stout hardwood had pushed through until the tire rested against the trunk, mangling the car’s innards the entire way.
The Good Samaritan whose tree I had just plowed into asked me if he should call 911. I felt fine, and I certainly wasn’t going to a hospital or any other potentially infected health facility right now. Medical personnel had bigger problems to deal with anyway. I told the guy I would just call the non-emergency police line, but he insisted, and I relented.
Longtime readers of A Day in TOHV will remember I keep two Narcans in my car. The opioid-reversal drugs are housed in little white nasal applicators that at first were only carried by paramedics, but now are carried by other first responders, including police, and, increasingly, members of the public. Two different police chiefs gave me the overdose-stopping applicators as I interviewed them for an article on fentanyl in the Hudson Valley. Addiction recovery advocates are ALL about Narcan being as widely available as possible. Even if you don’t know anyone addicted, the argument goes, we’re in the middle of the worst drug epidemic in modern history. You might just come across someone.
But I was more focused on double-checking that all my bones were unbroken, and this the Narcans’ presence didn’t enter my mind.
After whistling at the severity of the crash, the police asked if I had been drinking. This was not a good start. It was before 9 a.m., which seemed to be a good thing to point out in my defense.
“It’s 9 a.m.,” I said.
“Yeeeah, but…” the officer cajoled, tilting his head to the side and smiling.
I stated I had not. There was a further back-and-forth, and the officer asked if I was high on anything. I answered in the negative.
“Because your pupils look like pin-pricks,” he asserted.
So then I had to take the field sobriety test.
By this point, another squad car had arrived, so now there were four officers from two police agencies responding to the accident. One of the officers squinted at my magnets.
“What’s The Other Hudson Valley?” he asked.
Drat. Hoped maybe he was a fan.
I told him it was a digital news outlet. I figured this couldn’t do anything but help me, since the police probably wouldn’t want to appear in the outlet’s latest edition. Which they are anyway.
Now, I really shouldn’t have to clarify this, but there’s a certain presumption of guilt when one drives by an accident scene and sees a gaggle of police ringing a guy as he walks the line. So, just to put it out there, I had NOT spent the early morning hours shooting heroin. There we go.
I was made to do a field sobriety test once before, and I swear they added like 6 new exercises since then. The most irritating one was having to follow the officer’s finger with my eyes, since he placed his finger so that I was essentially staring at the sun for 30 seconds.
“Sorry,” I apologized as tears started dripping down my face. “You’re just standing right in front of the sun.”
“Just goootta see your eyes,” he explained, continuing.
After six or seven tests, which I guess I passed, one of the officers approached me.
“Well, we’re going to search your car now,” he languidly announced. He glanced back at my vehicle. “It might take a while. You got a lotta…stuff in there.”
My car was pretty packed. It had been months since I’d removed anything from it, so there were things like ski boots in there. I also eat a lot while driving, so condiment-smeared garbage was liberally strewn about the car.
Now, I could have gotten pissed about all this. I had just been in a car accident bad enough the Nissan ended up being totaled, and the offiercer’s response was to claim my pupils were dilated, imply I’m a liar, make me stare at the sun, and then toss my vehicle (on what “reasonable suspicion,” I do not know).
The officers were probably becoming disappointed that their suspicions, reasonable or not, didn’t look like they were going to result in an arrest. But then it happened: The officer searching my car found the Narcans.
“What are these?” Not exactly a question, since he knew full well what they were.
I decided to address his suspicions directly.
“I don’t do heroin.”
“Yeah,” he responded. “But we know there’s only one reason for having these things.”
After the two police chiefs gave me the Narcans, I wrote A Day in TOHV column called Narcan in My Car. In it, I humorously speculate as to what would happen if police searched my trash-packed vehicle and found the two Narcans. The dialogue in the column reads:
COP: Why’ve ya got two Narcans in your car?
ROGER: I dunno – why don’t you ask your BOSS?
I didn’t say precisely that, but, smiling with the sublime knowledge that what came from my pen had been manifested, whole, onto this world, I said:
“Well, the first one was given to me by Chief Ed Moore of the Hudson Police Department, and the other one was given to me by Chief Peter Volkmann of the Chatham Police Department.”
Ooooo BOY, was it sweet.
A tow truck was called, and two of the officers left. The remaining officers didn’t give me any traffic tickets, which I appreciate.
The Other Hudson Valley’s Squad Car might have passed on to another world (the junkyard, I believe they call it), but at least I was able to get high afterwards.