Sunday, April 10, 2005

It's Story Time (Reunion Edition I)

This next weekend is my five year college reunion. In honor of that momentous (ok, ok, it's not momentous. However, it is amazing I survived this long) occasion, I will be presenting a few interesting stories from when I was in college.
The following story is sadly true. A few of the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and because of senility).
In the fall of 1998, I was a junior at Washington University in St. Louis. On one fateful October night, I was driving to a rehearsal of a show I was working on at the time. I admit, I was distracted that night, but as I looked up at the stop light at the corner of Big Bend and Forsyth, I noticed I had a green arrow. Unfortunately for me, as I turned, a car coming in the opposite direction was doing about 50 and slammed into me. The details for that night are hazy, but between my memory, the other driver's memory, and the Police Report, this is what happened:
I had a green arrow, but the other driver also had a green light. After we hit each other, my head went into the windshield (I have the scar to prove it). Beyond the cut on my forehead, I also dislocated my left shoulder. As the blood came down my face, I did what anyone would have done: I got out of my car and went to check on the other driver. Now, imagine you were in your car after an accident and someone looking like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein with blood running down his face comes toward your car. You first reaction would be to:
A. Panic and grab a weapon
B. Roll up the window and duck
C. Get out of the car and make a pre-emptive strike
D. Wait until he gets close and then hit him with the door.
E. Get out of the car and make sure he's ok.
I would answer E. You probably would too, but the answer here is, unfortunately, A. This guy, we'll call him Dave, got out of the car wielding an ice scraper like a knife.
I asked him, "Are you ok?"
He responded, "Yes, just bruised. You?"
"I can't see well, kind of a red blurriness. Also my arm hurts. I think I'm going to sit here for awhile, maybe pass out. Just let me know when the ambulance arrives."
"Umm. Ok. Wait, did you say pass out? I don't think that would be a good idea."
At this point the cops arrived and found me sitting against Dave's car with a towel he'd given me. The police woman, we'll call her Bonnie, wondered what had happened. As she asked Dave about the accident, I began to slid more and more to the left. When Bonnie grabbed my left arm (remember it is out of place), I slid right back into a concious and pain-filled state. As I stood up, I noticed that an ambulance had arrived. This is where the story gets even more fun.
Now remember, I am bleeding from the forehead, and my shoulder is dislocated. The two EMTs assess my situation and do the following: One puts a band-aid on my forehead. The other asks me my name, the date, and then asks me to count to ten:
"Ok," I respond, "One, two, three....."
At this point the EMT puts my shoulder back into place. After a loud pop and what felt like a crunch:
"You can stop now."
After exchanging insurance cards, I prepare to go to the hospital, but the EMTs leave without me. As Allison, an EMT-in-training would later tell me, "That's not good." I ended up having to go to the hospital two days later, because the pain in my shoulder wouldn't go away. They had to re-pop my shoulder out then in again. Not fun. Still, I have to give thanks to Robert again for taking me and then buying me ice cream while I was on pain killers. That was awesome. Thanks again.
Anyway, Bonnie offered to take me home, which was good, because I had no ride otherwise. I later found out that she had asked me for, and I had given, my parents' phone number. She called them and told them not to be hard on me, because I had been so polite. I don't remember that part, but she did.
Here is where the story takes a Kafkaesque turn. About two months after the accident, I opened my mailbox and found a letter from the University City Police Department. Inside was a warrant for my arrest. However, beyond that shocking revelation was the fact that there was no charge. That's right. The paper was blank. It only had my name, address, and date. Everything else was blank. I thought it was a prank. (wouldn't you?) So, I just put it on top of the "to do" pile. Life went on, and I continued to walk everywhere. (Yes, I even stole a grocery cart for shopping at Schnuck's. I returned it after I graduated....Really.)
At the end of January, I received another warrant for my arrest. Again, however, the charge was blank. With no classes that day, I decided to find out what the heck was going on with these warrants. I walked over to the University City Town Hall (where the police station was) and walked down the two flights of stairs to the basement. With warrants in hand, I asked the lady behind the glass, "What's going on? Why do I keep getting these warrants?"
She looked at her computer screen, looked back at me, and then said, "Jim, 63-40!" Suddenly I was grabbed by a large officer, put against the wall, and handcuffed. Then I was led into a small cell where I sat and conversed with a man named Bubba (and his is the only name I haven't changed, because I was really shocked by the fact that his name was Bubba). Bubba was a nice guy, very large, and was shocked that a "college kid" would end up there with him. After five hours (yup five HOURS), I was brought back to the lady behind the glass.
"What did I do wrong?" I asked.
"According to our records, you were issued a subpeona to appear in court last December. When you did not show, a warrant was issued for your arrest."
"I never received a subpeona, and no one came to my home. How can I be arrested for that?"
"According to the law, once the subpeona is issued, it is binding. Just because you didn't receive it doesn't mean that you shouldn't know about it."
Let that sink in for a minute. Just because I didn't have it or hear or about doesn't mean I shouldn't know about it. What great logic! No wonder our legal system is so messed up. It turns out that Dave was suing the city of University City and St. Louis for the accident. He was convinced that the stop light had malfunctioned and his pain as well as car damage was the fault of the two cities, not his or mine. He had requested me as a witness in order to corraborate the malfunctioning stop light. A subpeona was issued, but never sent. It was finally sent to me in April of 2000. That's a long time after its issuing. She continued:
"You will be free to go if you pay us $100."
"What about the court appearance? Do I still need to testify or whatever?"
"No, you'll need to fill out this form with what you remember about that night. That's it."
I ended up writing a mini-essay about what happened that night. I was allowed to go back to my house with a cop in order to write a check for my fine/bail/whatever it was. Then, a few days later, a cop came by my house to tell me that Dave had lost his court case. I was fortunate that he never sued me after that. The sad part is that while on pain killers I took my mid-terms and did quite well. I just don't remember taking the tests. I don't remember the three days after the accident except what people tell me. It's like being a blackout drunk but without the fun.

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