Timing is everything.
Five minutes sooner or later, and we would have missed the whole thing; five miles an hour faster, and it would have been my windshield the body bounced off as it fell from the bridge over the freeway.
Keep your eyes moving check speedometer 70, 72 maybe check rearview no one on my tail
Chris and I driving through Santa Barbara after a night of car camping at Jalama Beach. A sunset beach walk, conversation, moms homemade enchiladas cooked in foil over the campfire, more talk, we each sleep in the back of our truck, waves crashing all night long, early morning beach walk, opposite direction, breakfast toast and tea cooked on the campfire grill, more discussion, head back to LA... we can still get in almost a full days work
Aim high in steering traffic moving smoothly no brake lights ahead activity on the bridge coming up
Two or three people I approach doing seventy. No commotion. Just people, walking on the bridge. Or standing. Cant tell. Doesnt matter. In a few seconds theyll be in my rearview
Maintain your bubbleemergency lane empty to my left quick glance over the shoulder lane clear to the right check rear view theres Chris, following at a safe distance cruise at a steady 3 seconds behind the vehicle in front of me
Just the right distance to see very clearly that its a body falling from the bridge. Bounce into the windshield of the pickup in front of me. Bounce onto the highway, the body lands in the middle of the number two lane.
I steer wide around the body, park on the shoulder. The impacted vehicle stopped about a hundred yards beyond. Chris pulls up immediately in front of me. Run to the Call Box Ive never used one of these things before shit read directions, push the big yellow button frantically nothing damn things never work in a real emergency
"Ohmygod, what do we do, Lena, what do we do? Tell me what to do!" Chris wails.
Shit. Shes freaking out. Give her something to do.
Traffics stopped. "Go stand behind the accident, in the middle of the first lane, and wave the cars to move around, through the shoulder." CHPs priority Keep Traffic Moving
Nothing for me to do. Walk over to the body, a couple of other people standing around. Look at each other, look at himkinda mangled, thick red halo forming on the asphalt. Cant tell if hes alive Im not touching him... no gloves, no equipment, no real need
Guy comes up with a trauma bag and c-collar one of those goddamn yahoos who carries that shit in his personal vehicle sirens getting louder in the distance, red lights and wig-wags approaching fast I dont need to be here anymore
Walk back to my truckChris comes, too. Might as well get back on the road. I need a drink. Stopped by a good-looking, blonde CHP officer. Yeah, we saw it happenwe wait, have to give a statement and watch.
"Do you think hell live?" Chris asks as we look on. Medics are bagging him, hes not breathing on his own all that blood on the pavement, massive head trauma. "Doubt it"
Good-looking comes back, asks questions, gets our personal information. To me he says, "You look familiar" Take off my shades, look him in the eye. "I used to be an engineer at Nipomo Fire Station in San Luis County a few years back. If you ever worked North Santa Barbara county, we mightve run into each other."
No response. He hands back my ID. We head out.
"Lena, you were so cool, you knew exactly what to do," Chris marvels.
Amazing how it all comes back sometimes
"Did it look really bad?" she wants to know.
"Ive seen worse"
Lena Salazar lives and works in Southern California; she is a very good driver.