In an unusual twist of unhappy coincidence, one of my partners, Scott Staples, and I were slogging our way in stop and go traffic on the freeway in Portland a few weeks ago, immersed in thought as we headed into closing arguments in a trial we'd been embroiled in for the past three days. I was driving, and Scott was busy thinking about the final argument he was about to make to the jury on behalf of our client. We were about to conclude the trial of a rear-end automobile crash case that, ironically, involved a wreck that had occurred at basically the same location on the I-5 freeway that we were stuck in traffic in at that very moment.
Anyway, as we were stopped waiting to proceed, suddenly, BOOM!!! We were smacked into from behind. As my head flew back my eyes instinctively cast to the center rearview mirror to see what had hit us. What I recall most vividly about that instant is seeing, framed in my mirror, the shocked face of the young man in the car behind us. He was jerking “ear buds” out of his ears, throwing something (I presume some small electronic device) off of his lap, and mouthing a word that I suspect shouldn't be printed in a public forum.
He and I both got out and quickly exchanged information. He was apologetic, but I kept it as short as possible as I wanted both of us off of the dangerous narrow left shoulder of that freeway right away – traffic was starting to move, and there wasn't enough shoulder there so we weren't fully off the left lane of the freeway.
Thankfully, nobody was hurt, and the damage to the bumper of my car has already been repaired at the cost of his insurance company for under a thousand dollars. But, it was scary as heck, especially being out there after in moving traffic on the side of the freeway, and the whole experience left Scott and I unsettled for a few days after. Things can happen so fast out on the road. Since then, I nervously watch every vehicle behind and in any lane near me when I drive; I'm a bit paranoid now of drivers who seem more interested in their cell phones and the clever conversations they must be having than in their driving.
We were lucky. The young man who hit us, actually, was really fortunate – that nothing more serious than a ding to his insurability rating occurred. They say all's well that ends well, but I hope he learned something from this. I did. When we are driving, we just need to concentrate on our driving. Keep our ears and eyes exclusively devoted to the task at hand, and store the cell phones in the glove box or trunk, where there won't be any temptation to answer or use them. Telephone and text conversations can wait. In our automobiles, human safety and lives are at stake, and we need to really take that seriously.