Luck, not skill.

At six-thirty a.m. on December twenty-sixth, 2001 it was cold in Chicago, right around twenty-five degrees on the thermometer outside my kitchen window. I drove my Porsche 928 to work that day because my Audi was still in the body shop. The Porsche wasn’t stock, none of my cars were. It had headers and some tiny little mufflers and not much else in the exhaust. It was a 1987, 928 S-4 with an Automatic transmission, I had modified the transmission “kick down switch” to do what it did to the transmission without much pressure on the gas pedal. It also had a free flowing intake, it had balanced and blueprinted fuel infectors and a piggyback chip advancing the timing. Oh, and some really good high performance tires.

I was in sort of that “day-after-christmas when you have to get up early and drive fifty miles in the dark to open up a factory” kind of mood. My coffee was still far too hot to drink, I was sipping and swearing at it. I was planning on spending the day on the Internet once I made the drive, I wasn’t expecting traffic… I lived three miles from I-90 along two-lane country roads, those went by like a cold-car-with-seat-heaters kinda dream. I got some gas at the truck stop and got on 90 headed toward Elgin then Chicago. Back then I-90 West of Randall Road was only two lanes in each direction, it had already switched to the rural 65mph speed limit. And sometimes, people liked to sit in the left lane “blocking traffic” for miles – and that’s what happened that morning.

I don’t have a memory of what sort of car it was, don’t know the color or anything about it except that it’s driver was driving more slowly than I thought I was entitled to drive. I was able to swallow the injustice for several miles (a major feat for an ego of such magnitude to even to be able to comprehend) but before too long, I had had enough. There was a hill coming up and I was certain that my mighty Porsche could out-accelerate that whateveritwas up-the-hill.

This next little bit is probably fairly predictable but I’m going to make myself type it anyway (I’m not writing this for you dear reader, it is very selfishly mine.)

So I waited for the hill, and pulled into the right lane – to pass this jerk – on the right – to teach them a lesson, and I floored-the-gas. My car rocketed up the hill with all the weight on it’s rear tires that traction was directly applied to the ground. 330ft/lbs of torque in a relatively lightweight car and a motor that wants to rev, it did that. Then right at the last moment, as the car crested the hill, I turned back into the left lane while still accelerating hard. And from that point on I became a passenger in my own car. As soon as the rear wheels lost their traction advantage, they broke free and since I was turning the steering wheel at the same time I initiated a series of three-hundred-and-sixty-degree spins, oh, I had hit 85mph too. My car spun across both lanes on my side of I-90, across the grass median, across the two lanes on the other side of the highway, bounced off the guard rail multiple times hard enough for two wheels to explode, spun back across the opposite two lanes and finally came to rest in the center median strip again – all without striking another vehicle (luckily, most definitely not skillfully).

The entire time the car was spinning the only thing I could think was “Holy fuck, I might have finally killed myself this time, I think I’m going to die today”. It felt like every bicycle crash after that point where you loose control and when you become aware that a hurting is about to ensue and there’s not a fucking thing you can do about it – I knew that feeling well. And I was pretty sure that this would be the last time. The only thing that flashed before my eyes were the spinning headlights of other cars, so maybe that was a sign that it wasn’t the day.

At that point in my life I still wanted to die but didn’t really think that it was on for that day. Because I wasn’t trying anything that hard that morning, like I said.

I put the transmission in Park to stop the wheels from spinning, turned off the ignition, unlatched my seatbelt and got out of my car. During the first impact with the guard rail my torso had been thrown forwards, my seat belt and my head stopped me, my head was bent backwards by the impact with the roof of the car. I was pretty happy that only happened the first time though, it wasn’t good; it still hurts me some days and others my left hand is numb. Seat belts are good though. I know this. I had a “racing” steering wheel in my car too, forgot to mention that, so no airbag (BTW, that’s a bad idea).

There was a person driving behind me who watched the entire thing happen, he stopped his truck a little bit ahead of my car. I didn’t actually look at my car when I got out of it, it was midnight blue, it didn’t look too bad in the headlight glare. I walked over to the man’s truck, I don’t think he believed that I was alive but he had a cigarette. I smoked in his truck, my coffee didn’t make it. I wasn’t going to sit down, my clothes were wet and I didn’t understand why, but then he was helping me get back up out of the grass and I sat down.

I don’t know who’s phone I used to call my wife, it isn’t what she was expecting. Her Dad and step-mom were visiting for Christmas and the call woke them all up too. I called the factory Supervisor and had him go open the plant, called my business partner, waited for the police. They wanted me to get in the ambulance but I didn’t do that, my coffee soaked clothes were cold now. I had no idea then why I had crashed the car. It was a mystery to me and that’s what I told the cop, I told him almost exactly what I described above. I only discovered the real reason I had wrecked the car about four years later when I felt the same thing on a blind turn at Mid-Ohio racetrack in my M3. I didn’t crash that day though and I had a racing instructor in the car with me and I was able to say “OK, what the fuck just happened?” and he was there to tell me what it is that feels like that.  All the way up the hill the weight of the car was greater on the rear tires because of gravity, as soon as the car crested the hill that situation changed and the rear tires lost available traction.  Which wouldn’t have been a problem so much if I hadn’t been both accelerating hard and turning the steering wheel, all of those things together resulted in an immediate, pretty unrecoverable spin.

I had the car towed back to my house on a flatbed, I rode with the driver. It was leaking engine oil, transmission fluid and there was nothing much left of the radiator, let alone anything in it. The trunk and back seat were full glass and body parts, it made a real mess of that dove gray leather.

When we got there my wife wouldn’t come outside to look at the car, someone must have told her how bad it was. I had it dumped in my garage, the one she didn’t go into much and I took a shower and drove her truck to work. Traffic was much heavier then and I was angry at myself for having to sit in it; the guard rail was being repaired already when I went by and an F-250 is really hard to park in the city. But then again, I was angry about so many things sixteen years ago; things that I lived with the feel of every day and had no idea why they hurt me.

❤ ❤ ❤

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