Before the news of Leonard Nimoy's death took over the airwaves and occupied my blogging-attention, I was contemplating writing about a horrific tragedy that I missed by scant minutes. I had gotten out of work at 4AM and embarked on what I thought would be a routine drive home, when I ran into a really bad traffic problem, resulting in a complete closure of the Sprain Brook Parkway. The "Sprain" is odd for a local parkway (and the reason we drive on parkways and park in driveways is because a parkway is a highway with landscaped, parklike medians and verges while a driveway is a path on which we drive to our garages, until they become so full of crap we can't park in them)- it is a wide, six lane highway with very long intervals between exits. If there is a problem on the Sprain, there's no easy way to get off the roadway.
I did something I have never done before- I called the "traffic hotline" of the local CBS radio affiliate to report the complete closure of the roadway. The radio station doesn't typically broadcast this number outside of rush hour, so it took about fifteen minutes of googling on my phone to find it. I wasn't going anywhere, so I had no qualms about not having a "hands free" device. I used to investigate auto insurance claims, so I have a decent ability to convey the facts. I informed the staffer that had answered my call that the southbound Sprain was completely obstructed between the Greenburgh and Jackson Avenue exits. I was in the middle lane, so I couldn't spy a mileage marker.
As things turned out, I was at a standstill for about forty-five minutes, silently mouthing imprecations at the tiny handful of assholes who decided that driving on the shoulder would be acceptable. Really, assholes, do you think that blocking the approach of emergency vehicles is at all acceptable behavior in a civilized society?
When the left lane was finally cleared, and I was able to drive past the sea of blue and red flashing lights, I glimpsed a horror- a totaled compact and a small SUV that was facing the wrong direction on the shoulder of the road, opposite the guard rail. It was real "Red Asphalt scenery. I finally made it home after an hour on the road.
When I finally woke up, I put on the radio and heard that the driver of the SUV, a detective in the NYPD Internal Affairs Division, had been killed in a collision with the driver of the compact, who had been driving the wrong way in the northbound lanes. He was ten months shy of retirement, the sort of sad irony that seems to characterize bad cop shows.
I couldn't help but feel a bit queasy when I contemplated that I had missed being involved in this accident by a matter of about ten or fifteen minutes. As much as I cursed being stuck in traffic for forty-five minutes, I got home that morning. I don't take the ride home for granted, as routine as such things are usually considered. There aren't a lot of cars on the road at that hour, but it's right around last call at the bars, and alcohol and marijuana are believed to have played a role in the erratic, one-way driving of the killer. It's sad, I really don't enjoy driving anymore, I just want to get from "Point A" to "Point B" in one piece. I'm sure Detective Duncan wanted the same.