It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.
Daniel / Friday, July 20, 9:10 am
As soon as the rocking and rolling stops, I go into firefighter mode, knowing this is an emergency situation and I have the tools and training to begin mitigating risks to civilians. I’m not afraid or alarmed, just very calm, like an analytical robot just thinking what steps to take. I know what to do in situations like this, it’s my bread and butter, and I’ve has tunnel-specific training.
Situation: I am in my partially-crushed vehicle in a collapsed, or partially collapsed, tunnel.
First of all, I have to assess my injuries. Then I have to do a survey of my available tools and collect everything from my car that might be useful – too bad I don’t have that lunch, I imagine I’ll really want it pretty soon. Then I have to get out of the car, assuming I’m not significantly injured. Then I have to find any potential fire hazards and mitigate those to the best of my ability, although with an earthquake there may have been methane gas released that I can’t do anything about. Then I have to find a safe place to start staging survivors who are ambulatory, and see about helping other people as best I can with these limited resources.
So, first off: Physical condition. Arms seem to be moving fine, no apparent broken bones, although my left wrist is extremely tender to the touch – possibly broken, possibly just sprained. I can work around it. Legs move OK. Head and neck – ah, definitely some whiplash, and my back feels pretty battered, but if I had a spinal injury I’d probably know by now.
That’s definitely blood running down my face, and I can feel this scalp wound is probably fairly bad. Something, presumably a roofing tile, hit the top of the car and shattered the windshield. In there I must have whacked my head or something whacked it. Now I’m glad that stupid little vanity mirror has lights, cuz I can see my pupils look the same size. Ice would certainly be a plus, but I’m guessing it’s tolerable.
Let’s see, can I reach that sweatshirt…? Good, OK, so if I cut the sleeve, I can wrap it around my forehead to stop the blood from getting in my eyes, that’s a good first start. My First Aid kit is totally wrong for this type of situation, and anyway it’s way in the back of the car, so maybe I can get it but maybe I can’t. Even finding a means of egress is not going to be easy.
God, I keep coughing. This is terrible. I can hardly see, which isn’t surprising, I know the dust factor is going to be a real significant problem. Handy sweatshirt to the rescue again, this time for a face mask, since unfortunately SCBA isn’t standard-issue for us to carry around in our personal vehicles, and besides, it’d run out way before I get out of here.
Just gotta make do with what I got, so there, that strip tied across my nose and mouth is hard to breathe through but at least I’m not sucking in endless dust and then coughing it out again, total waste of energy. It’s better than nothing.
Now the interesting part: Do I have anything useful? And can I even get out of here?
Rachel / Friday, July 20, 6:01 am
When my alarm goes off, I’m in the middle of a dream and for a moment, I think I’m still married to The Jerk, living in our big Bellevue Successful Couple Home. I lay blinking at the blurry, dark room around me until I remember that no, that was in a previous life, thank goodness.
The hot shower revives me. Mornings aren’t my best, especially pre-caffeine. My brain feels like what I imagine the car feels when Michael’s trying to drive the Civic, and you can hear that gear-grinding noise that causes every experienced driver to cringe and shudder. Hot showers revive, but they also seduce, so I end up spending longer under that steamy stream than I intended. Fortunately, I always budget plenty of time for, well, everything, so I’m still on schedule.
Now I’m awake enough to process external inputs – and having put on my glasses– I look out the window and realize it’s a gorgeous day, the sort of day that deceives tourists and makes them think Seattle is a great place to live. “I thought it always rained in Seattle,” they always say, “But today is so perfect!”
I guess it’s true, when the weather is on here, it’s really on, although I’m sure today will be too hot. Earlier in the summer, there’s no scorching heat, no humidity, and definitely no mosquitoes so gigantic they leave you light-headed after sucking quarts of your blood. Back home, we may have been the Land of 1,000 Lakes, but they should’ve called it the Land of 1,000 Mosquito Breeding Grounds.
Today’s a good day for a nice business suit; have to make a good impression on the folks at my big meeting. Younger people in the office come in wearing “nice” jeans, but I don’t buy it. The dress code says “business casual,” and that means slacks, a blouse, and preferably a jacket or some nice top. In no way does it accommodate the desire to wear jeans, flip-flops – regardless of price or decoration – or any of those other things younger kids come in wearing. They’ve gotten casual, and I have to wonder if that reflects their work ethic. I swear, some of these recent grads don’t look any older than Michael, and I’m not convinced they’re old enough to do this work.
Besides, I stand taller when I’m wearing a nicely pressed business suit.
Women have made huge strides in the workplace, thanks to my parents’ feminist movement, but I don’t think we’re really respected as much as men are. How many Fortune 100 companies have a female CEO? Hillary Clinton and Michelle Bachman, far apart as they are politically, never had a chance at becoming President. I’m pretty sure my male counterparts are paid more than I am, even though I have seniority. Mike got promoted above me, even though I’d been at this for 3 ½ years longer than he was.
It’s just not fair. Hah – how many times have I told Michael, “Life’s not fair”? But honestly, I work my fingers to the bone, put in 80-hour weeks, and can barely make ends meet for the two of us. When The Jerk was in our life, we lived so much easier, just because he’s a man and therefore made a better salary than I did.
There’s no bread for toast when I get downstairs. I’m sure there was bread last night when I went to bed, so Michael must have had a snack last night.
How many times do I have to tell him not to snack before bedtime? His doctor has already said he should work on more exercise and smaller portion sizes, and eating before bed is supposed to be particularly bad. I don’t think the doctor really knows what he’s talking about – Michael is, after all, a growing teenage boy who needs nutrients for those growth spurts that keep making me replace his pants and shoes – but the school nurse has mentioned something a time or two, too, so I try to encourage Michael to cut down on snacks. I don’t know when he’d exercise, with everything else he’s committed to; besides, isn’t that why they have physical education classes in school?
No bread means no breakfast. I’m trying to watch my weight, of course, so I always just have the one piece of toast and a glass of lemon-water for breakfast. Coffee is an art I leave to Starbuck’s highly-trained baristas. The few times I tried to make coffee, The Jerk spat it out it was so bad, and I’ve never tried since then. I just can’t do it. Oh well, no breakfast is probably for the better. I could stand to miss a few more meals; it seems that middle-age spread that hit my mother at this age is my reality now, too.
Rachel / Friday, July 20, 6:43 am
As I’m gathering the rest of my workday things up, I start getting a little nervous. This is a really important meeting for me; I’m responsible for the major part of the presentation to the Bellevue City Council, and I’ve been preparing for months so I can be I’ve crossed every t and dotted every i.
That’s another reason Mike’s promotion over me rankles: His desk is a mass of papers piled and stacked everywhere so you can’t even see the surface, he’s late to every meeting, he forgets details, and the creases in his slacks are shameful. I think he may wear them multiple days in a row. In a word, he’s disorganized. Nobody that disorganized should be allowed to manage other people.
Oh, I know everybody likes him. He’s popular, sure. Affable, good-natured, easygoing, big thinker, that’s what everyone says when they talk about Mike. His performance reviews are probably all 5s, because he’s always exhibiting “leadership” and those things that upper management goes crazy about. But that doesn’t mean he’s any good at his job.
I’ll just double-check my presentation to make sure it’s here on my laptop… Where’s my power cord? The battery’s almost dead, because I did some work in bed before going to sleep last night, but that should be fine. I’ll just recharge it now and I can always plug it in for the presentation… Dang it, where’s the power cord? I’m sure I put it in the pocket that I always put it in.
Every time I bring my computer home, I always put it away and zip that pocket. Then I tuck the mouse in the little left-hand pocket and the power cord into the right-hand pocket, and then zip the outer pocket. Here’s my mouse. Maybe the cord somehow ended up in the bottom… No, definitely not there.
Crap. I bet I left it at work. Now I remember that right when I was packing up last night, one of those new college grads – I can never distinguish them – came and asked some dumb question that he should’ve known the answer to already. He was probably trying to get me to do his work, and now because he distracted me, I forgot to pack my power cord, and I have to have the cord for this meeting.
Crap, crap, crap. What time is it? 6:55. I should be able to stop by Starbuck’s, and then get down to work, grab the cord, and take I-90 across. I’m sure traffic will be awful, and it’ll take forever compared to taking 520, and I might even be late –
I can’t think about that. No. I’ve got to get going now.
Rachel / Friday, July 20, 7:36 am
This is really not my day.
First I forget my power cord at work.
Then, as I’m leaving, I catch my pantyhose on the rose bush as soon as I step out the front door, so I have to go back and change into a fresh pair.
Then my usual Starbuck’s barista is out, and the substitute does my drink entirely wrong, even though I gave precisely the same instructions I always do. She should have known to heat my mug up before pouring the coffee in, so the cold mug didn’t cool the coffee; she put in whole milk, when I distinctly said nonfat; and I said only a little whipped cream, and she piled it on far too high. I had to wait for her to prepare an entirely new drink while I watched to make sure she actually did it right. I had to correct her technique when she was adding the whipped cream; it should have that trademark whip look, and hers looked altogether blobby and unappealing. But I was in a hurry, and didn’t have time to wait for her to fix it.
Then, on top of everything else, what happens? My car runs out of gas on the freeway onramp as I’m heading to retrieve my laptop power cord. So now I’m sitting here, watching traffic get worse and worse, while I sit and wait for AAA to get here. The guy is probably having a smoke break, not even earning his keep. Sheesh.
So now I only have one hour and 24 minutes to get to my meeting. It could take that long, if my day keeps going the way it has been.
Rachel / Friday, July 20, 7:53 am
Come on, come on, come on. I have to get going! I should have easily been to work by now. What’s taking him so long? I’ve already called AAA twice more, and they said he’s been dispatched and should be here shortly. What’s “shortly”? I have to get to my meeting! I can’t be late.
What would they think if I showed up late because my car ran out of gas? What kind of pre-planning does that show? It’d compromise my entire presentation, make me look like an airheaded woman whose work is badly planned out and unreliable.
Where are they?!
Rachel /Friday, July 20, 8:25 am
“What took you so long? I’ve been here for almost an hour. I could have walked to get gas faster than it took for you to get here.” The AAA guy is old, too old for this kind of job. He should be retired by now, or in some high-up position in a corporation. Probably made bad financial choices and now he has to drive an AAA emergency roadside assistance truck. I bet he got fired because he’s a slovenly worker. I can recognize the type anywhere. Looks just like Mike, and those new grads at work. Something around the eyes gives it away.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. Traffic was stop-and-go all the way from the garage. I came as quickly as I could.”
I don’t say anything, but I’m sure that’s not true. Surely AAA has a garage that wouldn’t take an hour to come from, even in traffic. He probably stopped and had coffee and donuts along the way, most likely on company time, too. “Let’s just put some gas in so I can get going, OK? I’m running really late.”
“Really late” doesn’t even cover it, but I’m not taking it out on him, even though it’s really his fault for taking so long to get me a measly few gallons of gas. My meeting is in only 35 minutes, and I still have to get to work, get my power cord, and fight traffic across bridge into Bellevue.
“Yes, ma’am. You need some gas?”
“I already told the dispatcher that. You do have extra gas, don’t you?” I’m restraining my impatience, but this guy must be doing this job because he’s too dumb for anything else. I talked to the dispatcher six times, and every time told her I needed gas. Unless she failed to pass the correct message on – which wouldn’t surprise me in the least – this guy is just plain stupid.
“OK, I can only provide you with one gallon of gas at this time, ma’am,” he tells me as he takes a gas can out of that huge truck. Then he adds: “And I’ll have to charge you $3.98 for that gallon.”
“What?” My voice may have risen a bit; this is getting out of control. I need more than a gallon to be sure to make it to Bellevue, with all the idling I’m sure I’ll do on the way. “That can is more than one gallon. Can’t I just have all of it?”
“Sorry, ma’am, policy states one gallon or enough to get you to the nearest service station. I’m already pushing it, giving you a gallon. Nearest service station is just up the street.”
“As you may have noticed, I’m on an onramp.” The sarcasm in my voice is unmistakable, but I doubt a cretin as blockheaded as this fellow will catch it. Better be explicit. “That means I can’t just turn around and go to the nearest gas station. I’d have to get off at the next exit. Which I don’t have time to do.”
“I understand that, ma’am,” he says, with this placating “calm down” motion of his hands that really infuriates me. Always has, ever since The Jerk started using it. Now I know he picked it up from that bimbo girlfriend of his… Shoot, I missed some of what he was saying. “…why I’m giving you a gallon, rather than just a little bit.”
“I suppose you expect me to thank you for that amazing generosity? Because you’re about to be disappointed. I have a very important meeting to get to in—” I look at my watch and almost throw up. “—seventeen minutes. I can’t stop for gas on the way. Just give me everything in that tank, and I’ll pay whatever it costs, even though it’s highway robbery. I already pay AAA; why should I have to pay for gas on top of it?!” I can feel my face reddening as I reach the end of what’s turning into a tirade.
The AAA guy just stands there, his cow eyes looking at me stupidly. “Sorry, ma’am, but that’s the policy.”
“Fine.” I jump in my car and slam the door, locking it behind me. He steps up and knocks on the window, and I notice he’s holding clipboard with papers on it. No way am I taking any more of my valuable time filling out paperwork or, heaven forbid, paying for this measly one gallon of gasoline when I’ve already paid the exorbitant annual AAA membership rates.
His bland, stupid face looks very surprised as I accelerate up the shoulder and cut into traffic, goaded into recklessness by sheer frustration.
Rachel / Friday, July 20, 8:56 am
I’m going to have to call and tell them I’m going to be late. I’m practically in tears. I made it to work in record time, thanks to surprisingly light traffic on the way there, so now I have that all-important power cord.
But while I was in the office, traffic seems to have coalesced into a nightmare. We’re at a veritable crawl. I could probably walk faster than this.
I reach for my phone and have to paw around in my purse. Everything has shifted from its usual spot when I tossed it into the car in my rush to get going when I left the house. I’m always extremely deliberate about where things end up in my purse, to avoid just this situation. Today is not my best day ever.
Whenever I look at the clock and see time ticking by, my stomach clenches and I feel like throwing up.
It’s really better not to think about the fact that my meeting is supposed to start in four minutes. I should have been there twenty minutes ago, schmoozing and leaving a positive impression of my competence and professionalism. Instead, I’m going to have to call and tell them I’m going to be late, possibly very late.
Every time I think about the meeting, I start to panic. Months of planning and preparation, months. Everything seems to be going against me.
“Hello, Shane? It’s Rachel.”
“Rachel, where the hell are you? The meeting’s about to start.” He sounds stressed out. Well, if he thinks he’s stressed out, he should try sitting in my seat.
I decide to keep it simple for now. “I’m stuck in traffic. You just give your part of the presentation first, and I’ll do my part when I get there.”
“It won’t flow—”
“I KNOW THAT!” I shriek into the phone. God in heaven, am I surrounded by complete numbskulls? Shane was there for those months, mooching off of my work and always letting me do his part as we prepared. He should know that I’m aware of how completely screwed we are because of my stupid car running out of gas and then traffic becoming obscenely bad out of the blue. I take a deep breath and try to look at the cars in front of me through the red haze. “Just do whatever you can to stall, then. I don’t care what you do. I’m coming as fast as I can, OK? Check the traffic map for the I-90 bridge if you don’t believe me about the traffic.”
“Okay…” He sounds extremely doubtful.
“I’ll get there ASAP, that’s all I can say. Shouldn’t be more than half an hour.” Before he can say anything else idiotic, I punch the button to hang up and toss my phone back into my already irreparably disheveled purse. I’m going to have to completely reorganize it, the mess in there has gotten so out of hand today.
Rachel / Friday, July 20, 9:09 am
Traffic has done its usual miracle and started speeding up for no reason that I can understand. Why were we slowed down so much, only to arrive at some arbitrary point and miraculously start going again? Traffic engineers aren’t what they should be. Probably cutting corners and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they aren’t even required to have engineering degrees anymore. Poor design, that’ll be the issue.
Hey, what’s going on up there? Is that an airplane right overhead? But we’re in a tunnel. Everybody’s slamming on their brakes, but I can’t stop because that Hummer behind me is right there. Why are we – AUUUGGGGHHH!
Rachel / Friday, July 20, 9:11 am
Everything’s dark when I open my eyes. What time is it? It’s dusty, which is really strange, because even if the road was exceptionally dusty, I shouldn’t be getting it in my car.
I think that Hummer hit me. He hit me! That jerk, I’m going to make him pay to fix or replace this car. It wasn’t that old.
Oh, my neck. That’s whiplash. I’ll get him for that, too; I’ll probably be out of work because of that. Turning my head – oh, ouch. I’ve got the world’s worst headache.
What’s this on my head? I can’t see anything, but it’s slick and wet, and there’s glass all over. Blood? Is that blood? I’m BLEEDING?!
OK, Rachel, deep breaths. I can’t even breathe in deeply. The steering wheel is squishing my chest so uncomfortably, but I… it’s hard to move anything. My head hurts. Everything hurts. That Hummer must have really clobbered me. Stupid inattentive drivers. He was probably talking on his cell phone while driving – that’s illegal; I read it in the paper a while ago. But I bet he was anyway.
It’s so dark. Why aren’t the tunnel lights on? More shoddy workmanship… Although, come to think of it, I can’t imagine why they’d all go out at once. And I should be able to see the light from the other end, but it’s just dark, except for some kind of hazy red lights that must be taillights up there.
I’m already late for my meeting. What time is it? Why won’t my car clock work? My car won’t even turn on.
I really don’t understand what’s going on. Why can’t I move? Why’s it so dark? Why aren’t we moving? No, wait, my car won’t start. I can’t go anywhere.
I’m not going to make it to my meeting anywhere near on time. Time to call AAA again, and they’d better do a better job than earlier, or they’ll hear from me. Then I have to call Shane back and tell him he’ll have to do it without me. I hope he has my part of the presentation. Probably he doesn’t, knowing him.
I keep coughing; there’s all this dust in the air. Why is my car so dusty inside? Hold on, just a minute. Glass. Something broke my car windows. Oh boy, that’s going to be expensive to fix. Somebody’s going to have to pay for this, and it sure as heck won’t be me. I didn’t do anything wrong.
It’s so hard to breathe. I can’t expand my chest, so I have to keep taking shallow breaths that don’t fell so satisfying. Every time I cough I feel like I’m coughing out more air than I can breathe in. I’m squished between my seat and the steering wheel.
I can’t move very easily, and definitely can’t open the door or get out of my seat. And now something that is probably blood is trickling down my face, and because I hurt everywhere even moving my hand to wipe that trickle away hurts.
I think I’m just going to close my eyes and try to breathe quietly for a while before I try to call anybody. I’m sure the police and fire department are on their way here right now. When they arrive, they’ll get me out in no time, and I’ll get back to the meeting in time for the coffee break.