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Short Chicago Trip - cellophane — LiveJournal
the story of an invisible girl
Short Chicago Trip
Today I drove the five hours to Chicago to visit with my brother and his family. I will be here until friday, spending Quality Time with my niece and nephew (and other family members too). I'm looking forward to having some solo auntie time, especially with the nephew. He is almost six now, and an interesting little fellow. We've never hung out just him and me before, so it will be good to get to know him better.

The drive went quickly and smoothly, although there was one scary part. I was only a little over an hour or so from my house, driving at my usual speed in the left lane (around 77mph). The road was crowded, but cars were moving steadily. Then I saw the car which was two vehicles ahead of me in my lane randomly start to pull onto the left shoulder. What? The car in front of me braked, and also swerved left. I had already started to brake, not knowing what was happening. As the car in front of me got out of my line of vision, I saw there on the road directly in front of me: furniture.

I only glimpsed it for a moment, and I was just starting to swerve when I hit it/ran over it. Whatever it was. I think it might have been a stuffed chair, or maybe an ottoman? I got it with the right front part of my car. There was a thud and I felt a big thump-thump, but my car kept on going unhindered. I looked in my rear-view mirror, and there was a dramatic spray of stuffing or feathers or something behind me.

I didn't have any time to react until it was all over. People joke about "you nearly gave me a heart attack", and I never really thought about what that meant until I felt my heart literally trying to explode out of my chest as my body reacted to the shock of that little experience. I could feel adrenaline coursing through my veins, making my fingertips tingle, and I was out of breath. Holy Cats! That was all kinds of scary.

I kept going, and the car seemed to be driving fine, so I think it's okay. I just kept driving, as there was really nothing I could do, and the car was functioning properly. There was no reason to pull over. Slowly I caught my breath and my body realized that I was fine, everything was fine. The rest of the drive was completely uneventful.

The weird thing is that I still had four hours left of the drive. Even though it was briefly terrifying, by the time I actually stopped for gas a couple hours later I had forgotten about it. I'd wanted to look at the front of my car, see if there are any marks on it, but didn't think about it until I was moving again. Then when I arrived at my brother's house I was so busy pulling my bag out and putting my electronics away that I forgot again. Now it's dark out. Tomorrow I'll remember to look at the poor car and see if it has anything more than stuffing-marks on it... hopefully not!

When I stopped for gas half-way there, I did what I always do. I got the pump started, flipped on the little clip to keep the gas flowing, then went inside the store. It was cold outside, and I had to go to the bathroom anyway.

As I did so, I mulled over the mild guilt I was feeling. They always say you are supposed to remain with your vehicle while you are putting gas in it. I hardly ever do, because it's boring. Also, what would be the purpose? If there were some kind of gas-pumping crisis, I wouldn't have any means to fix it and I wouldn't know what to do anyway. If there was a fire or explosion, the best thing to do would be to run away... and if I'm already away then I'm just that much better off.

That said, I always feel a bit guilty when I leave my gas pump unattended. I still do it anyway, but I feel slightly furtive about it.

Clearly this time I should have been using that time to expect the front bumper of my car for stuffing. But like I said: it was cold and my bladder was full. Those two issues were enough to make me forget the furniture-destroying incident of a few hours ago. I'll inspect the car tomorrow.

...if I remember, that is! I'll be busy taking my nephew to the museum of science and industry, so it might slip my mind again. That's okay, science museums are more fun than car inspections anyway.

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From: (Anonymous) Date: November 12th, 2008 04:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Not wanting to contribute to your guilt, but...

It's possible (though not likely) for the auto-shutoff on the gas pump to not work properly, and for the gas to keep flowing even after your tank is full. If you're right there, you notice immediately and stop the gas flow. But if you're in the store, the gas station could wind up with a large spreading pool of gas in the parking lot, which has obvious dangers. Just my two cents worth (which today is about 0.01 gallons of unleaded regular).
delosd From: delosd Date: November 12th, 2008 04:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Whoops! Don't know what happened to my login - that previous message was me.
javenallese From: javenallese Date: November 12th, 2008 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Not to add to your guilt, but think about this...

Over the course of my driving life I've been at two gas pumps that did not shut off automatically when my tank was full. This led to a slight gas spill. If you aren't at the car and happen to be at one of these faulty pumps imagine the amount of gas that would be on the ground.
sandygood From: sandygood Date: November 12th, 2008 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
So glad you're safe!!! How scary!

kyril From: kyril Date: November 12th, 2008 05:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Coming home after Halloween, late at night on a highway under construction (but still with a 55 MPH limit) I ran into a deer carcass. I didn't have time to dodge, I just tried to straddle it so my tires didn't hit and I didn't lose control.

Fortunately nothing was messed up, except the shield under the front which I'd just had re-fastened...is now mostly loose again. Still, I'd much rather than than damage to the "real" components of the car.
ellison From: ellison Date: November 12th, 2008 06:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Holy crap, that's scary! Glad you were fine!

Also, no one actually ever told me to stay with my car while pumping gas, and I have walked away many times, worry-free and without incident. Hmmm. Maybe I'll just be worried next time I'm in the bathroom while my gas is pumping.
johnridley From: johnridley Date: November 12th, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
No one ever told you to stay with the car while pumping gas...except for the stickers on EVERY gas pump since forever that says you MUST remain in attendance. There are other sensible suggestions posted on the pumps - I suggest you read them.

It's not just a suggestion, it's against the law to leave, and I've seen the results (no fire, just a huge pool of gas under the car - see story posted above)
ellison From: ellison Date: November 12th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Are you under the impression that being condescending is going to make me want to listen to you and heed your advice? Because if so, you are most definitely mistaken.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 12th, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm just sayin, there are instructions printed on every gas pump. They're important. They're there because pumping gas can be extremely dangerous.

I'm personally not comfortable with doing something that's potentially lethal to yourself and others around me dozens of times a year without reading the 100 words of instructions at least once in my life. I mean, I'm just standing there anyway; why wouldn't I read them?
ellison From: ellison Date: November 12th, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have never seen those signs. I have seen the ones about not using your cell phone, and the stupid t.v. ads that run telling me all about Shell on the little screens. I see signs that say "Do not top off." I do read signs, so thanks for implying that I'm some kind of illiterate dumbass. I was just saying that no one has said out loud my whole life, "Stay at the pump," and when I do pump gas, I have not seen signs that say it's the law to stay right there. Perhaps it's different in California. Perhaps it's not and I'm missing them, because I'm not just standing there - I'm washing my windshield or going inside for some water, like 4 out of every 5 of the other people pumping gas.

I didn't say your point wasn't valuable, I just thought you were being unnecessarily dickish and condescending about it. That was my only objection. Because trying to make me feel like an idiot is a wonderful way to not only ruin my morning (because I've had to deal with other hostile, condescending people lately, as well), but also make me want to stop listening to you as well. Because I prefer when people are polite to me, which, I know, is asking way too much, especially on the internet.
From: writerwench Date: November 12th, 2008 10:18 am (UTC) (Link)
It sounds like you're in mild shock about that driving incident. Avoiding looking at your car, avoiding inspection for possible damage just by forgetting it, is a typical 'I'd rather not think about what just happened' reaction. Not in any way bad of you, just an indication of shock.

British petrol pumps don't have a clip - one HAS to stay with the car, keeping the lever depressed. But then we don't have the 'just-swipe-card-at-pump' type payment either - far too easy for card thieves to take advantage of that!

It would never occur to me to leave my car unattended while it was fuelling. I'm far too scared of the pump going wrong, or someone breaking into my car and nicking stuff... not that there's anything worth nicking!

I very nearly ran over a large mattress on the A3 last week. Very unnerving - if it'd been after dark, there's no way I'd have been able to avoid it. And my car is so small it'd have BOUNCED!
larcb From: larcb Date: November 12th, 2008 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, glad you're okay.

Silly people, leaving furniture in the middle of the freeway. Although I am wondering when they noticed they were missing something....
From: narbat Date: November 12th, 2008 11:45 am (UTC) (Link)


Windycon is this weekend. How 'bout making your short trip to Chicago a little longer?
rmeidaking From: rmeidaking Date: November 12th, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow! I'm glad you're safe. I'm glad it was just the footstool and not the whole couch!

I've been trying to teach Greg that if you're driving and the car in front of you brakes, you at least get your foot on the brake, because that driver knows something you don't. You've given me a nice anecdote to maybe drive that into his head.

Regarding leaving your car unattended at the pump, what they said. Also anyone who wants to fill up their gas can or their car has a free opportunity, since no one is guarding your pump while you're in the store. This may be less of a problem in the days of universal surveillance.

Edited at 2008-11-12 12:05 pm (UTC)
devnul From: devnul Date: November 12th, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Massachusetts mandates that those clips be removed. Many people slip their gas cap into the handle to hold it in place.

Short sentences; I am pre-coffee.
johnridley From: johnridley Date: November 12th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're supposed to remain there because the auto-shutoff doesn't always work.

About 8 years ago, I was driving by a gas station and I saw a woman in an SUV messing with her makeup, while gasoline POURED out of her gas filler cap. I cut across and drove in, threw my car in park, ran about 30 feet (I wasn't going to park my car close to that) towards her (she looked at me like "Oh my god, what's that crazy person running at me for?), past her driver's door, and flipped the lever. She came out and was amazed to see about 5 gallons of gasoline in a HUGE spreading pool under her car. She said something like "what happened?? How could that happen??" I told her "THAT is why it's illegal to leave the filler unattended."

I smelled like gasoline the rest of the day. Should have changed my shoes.

That woman was very lucky it was a summer day - there were so many gasoline fumes in the air that if she'd gotten out of the car and caused a spark, she and her car probably would have been instantly engulfed in flames.

I have every confidence that you're smart enough that if the auto-shutoff didn't work and gas started pouring out of the filler cap, you could reach over and flip the valve off. That's about all that's likely to happen. Fire and explosion almost always happen BECAUSE someone left and came back - especially if they get back into their car, ESPECIALLY if they're wearing synthetics on a dry day, and their clothes build up static, and when they touch the filler they get a spark. If you stay at the valve, fire/explosion is almost totally impossible.

I was pleased a couple of years ago at a gas station in the winter where the person was filling their car with the engine running; the attendant shut off his pump, and got on the PA and said "Pump 5, please come inside so we can reset your pump." He went inside, I saw him talk with the attendant, he came back out, turned off his car, then was able to continue pumping. Apparently they're supposed to cut your pump off if you leave the valve too.

Another story:
Once my friends and I left at 4AM to drive to Cedar Point (we lived 5 hours away). About 45 minutes into the drive, just as most of us were nodding off, suddenly the car veered. I looked up in time to see why; the driver was avoiding a vacuum cleaner that was sitting in the middle of the road.
pi3832 From: pi3832 Date: November 12th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I only glimpsed it for a moment, and I was just starting to swerve when I hit it/ran over it.

It's recommended these days to try to keep a three-second gap between you and the car in front of you. Among other things it gives you more time to react to the occasional ottoman.
xtatic1 From: xtatic1 Date: November 12th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Scary! Glad you're ok.
onemorethanten From: onemorethanten Date: November 12th, 2008 02:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow... glad you're OK!


Wow... only a 1/3 ratio of well wishes to admonishments.

Tough crowd. Tough crowd.
pstscrpt From: pstscrpt Date: November 12th, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm guessing the Chicago trip explains the lack of response to my asking about Java v. .Net discussion. Want to meet for lunch somewhere on Monday?
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