Rants & Essays

I Wish It Were BUT A Dream

By R. Patrick Murtha

I should have known and taken steps to change the scenario and avoid a potentially fatal car crash, but hindsight is 20/20 after all. I post it here with a red face (because I should have been able to do something to change the future) and in hope that some of you younger drivers will learn from my experience.

I dreamed I was driving my '78 Sport Impala (you can see my pre-crash Impala, along with me and Isis the Wondercat in my digital photo gallery at http://www.zenweb.com/pan/rayn/rpm) during pre-dawn on what is known locally as Death Alley; Hiway 12 between Fairfield and Rio Vista in north central California. I knew in the dream that I needed to drive with all senses open and remember to pay particular attention to my rear-view mirror and the vehicle directly behind me. He kept getting too close and I politely slowed on straight stretches, seeing as how we seemed to have the road pretty much to ourselves, but he did not take advantage of my overtures. So, I speeded up until there was quite a distance between us and he was kind enough not to push things further. I became aware that I was dreaming as I bent to my right to change cassettes in my stereo because my stereo was now in the dashboard instead of in the glove compartment where it was in reality. I had left the dashboard devoid of a radio after having had one stolen a couple months prior and had gone to considerable trouble to mount my new stereo in the normally hidden glove compartment. I nearly woke up when I realized I was dreaming but “steadied” myself through practiced methods perfected for myself for just such cases and decided to insert a cassette mentally without the physical motions normally involved and seconds later Guns and Roses' "Use Your Illusions II" blared out on my mental "quad" system's speakers and I let the music dominate the scene for awhile.

Unsure as to why, I found that I needed to turn left onto a little used road, requiring me to become aware again of my surroundings. In anticipation of the turn coming up which would necessitate my hugging the center line and trusting the vehicle behind me to come around my right side partially on the "shoulder" of the road, I turned on my left blinker for 3 flashes then turned it off, looking into the mirror at the vehicle behind. He evidently got the message because, to my relief, he backed off even further. At this same time, as I began to decelerate, a line of big rig trucks came over a small rise a quarter mile ahead traveling in the opposite direction at high speed. I needed to make a decision at this point; should I come to a full stop on this dangerous roadway and allow the trucks to pass, relying on the driver behind to come around properly or should I brake hard then turn in front of the approaching trucks that were barreling downhill towards me at 75kph but in doing so relieve my worry about being rear-ended by the driver behind?

Checking once more my rearview mirror and making sure my left hand blinker was operating full time now, I saw that the driver behind had already anticipated my move and what was required of him and had started to move to his right to pass and go on his way. So, I came to a complete stop, allowing the trucks unobstructed through-way and even remember giving the driver behind me a little "thank you" wave as he now came around my right hand side. I relaxed, waiting for the WHOOSH WHOOSH of the trucks to cease so I could make my turn. I recall making sure that my wheels were still pointed straight ahead as I had learned years before as a protection against being pushed into the path of oncoming traffic as a result of being rear-ended and in retrospect, this probably saved my and others' lives (take note new drivers). I leaned over to turn up the volume of the stereo to 11 on a 10 scale – Axl was wailing really good on my dream-stereo – and just as I straightened back up to see if all the trucks had passed, WHAAAAMMMM!!!! My world went topsy turvy and all I could think of was, "Why am I looking at the ceiling?" and what was all those pretty sparkling things flying around the inside of my car?

I woke up with a start and immediately started speaking into my ever-handy voice activated micro cassette recorder I always keep on the table next to my bed.

Well, I got a job to shoot the promo pictures for a new client's advert brochure and he requested I take some early morning pictures of his company's building to take advantage of the golden early light. I agreed, wrote the directions to his manufacturing plant way out "in the sticks" between Fairfield (my hometown) and Rio Vista, about 45Km to the east off Hiway 12. At the time, I didn't make the mental connection between my new client's office and the dream from 15 days prior and made the necessary plans to get up at 4 am the next day with all my camera gear.

So, there I was driving on Hiway 12 in the pre-dawn, just me and this one vehicle behind me and I suddenly remembered the dream about 5 miles before the left hand turn I would need to make. Smiling yet more than a little chagrined, I put in "Use Your Illusions" and turned it up, feeling rather smug that I was now prepared, if need be, to change reality due to my precognitive dream and indeed events proceeded just as in the dream. Double checking my mirrors I saw absolutely no other vehicle behind me but the one I saw in my dream. This worried me a little because if events were to play out as foretold, there MUST be another car behind him; but there wasn't…not that I could tell as I tried to look “beyond” the glare of his headlights in the mirror. So, I put on the blinker, turned it off, slowed, turned on my blinker again as I checked the mirror and indeed, the driver behind backed off and started drifting to the right in anticipation of going around my side. The trucks crested the hill in front of me – 6 of them in a tight "convoy" formation, going quite fast. I came to a stop, looking a final time in my mirror as the guy came around the right side and I gave him a little wave. There were NO HEADLIGHTS to be seen for a couple of miles behind me; I SWEAR! Then, feeling as if I'd avoided any problems and making sure my wheels were still straight ahead, I leaned over to turn up the rockin tunes and, yep, WHAAAAMMM!!!!

A drunk driver, driving with his headlights off, didn't see me stopped in the middle of the road and drove into my back seat at full speed without ever applying his brakes. This happened 2 seconds before the first truck in line passed me by and if I'd turned my wheels in anticipation of the turn they'd STILL be picking my teeth out from that truck's front grill! Luckily since I did not anticipate the crash, thereby being totally relaxed, I came out of it unhurt. The seat-back broke upon impact throwing me into a reclining position looking up at the ceiling and those pretty little sparkly things I saw in my dream was my shattered rear window flying around the interior of my car lit by the lights of the passing trucks.

So, there you have it. Lesson to be learned? I'm not sure. I recognized the premonition, I could have gone past my turn to a safer turn-around location, thereby changing the parameters of the reality as seen in my dream, but then remember I paid particular attention to my mirrors more so than I normally would have and was convinced that there was no threat behind me. Who would ever think that a drunk driver would be way out here in the middle of nowhere driving with no lights on a moonless night? Obviously, not me.