Shared Stories: Spared Lives

Charlene Farnsworth shares a moment that many of us have experienced – watching a car come up quickly in our rearview mirror, and wondering if it will stop in time. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns

By Charlene Farnsworth

On January 18, 1982, while driving home from Orange County after working late into the evening, I exited the freeway at Firestone Blvd. in Norwalk, California.  I traveled slowly through town among very light traffic due to the late hour–around 10:00 p.m.  I soon stopped at a marked crosswalk to wait for a pedestrian who was crossing Firestone to the north side of the street.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, came a speeding vehicle behind me.  Helplessly I saw the car coming closer and closer through my rearview mirror.  To warn the oncoming driver of my presence, I made quick taps to my brake to activate the brake lights while maintaining caution for the pedestrian's safety.

The driver never reduced his speed and, upon impact, my car and I careened through the intersection.  I do not know how I escaped hitting the pedestrian and was sure he was under my car. The pedestrian was nowhere in sight and had simply vanished!  I surmised that he had entered a nearby hamburger stand immediately after the crash.

Because there was so much damage to my Toyota Corolla, I could not exit my car through the driver’s side and had to do so through the passenger’s side. The young man who had caused the accident immediately came to my assistance.  Surprisingly, I had no injuries, but my car was severely damaged.

The driver and I needed to locate a telephone to report the accident, and I also wanted to call my family in Downey.  (I did not own a cell phone at the time.)  We entered the lobby of a nearby motel and asked the man on duty if we could use his telephone. 

Before answering, the man asked, “What room are you in?” We told him we were not staying there but had a car accident right outside the motel.  We were still denied access to his telephone.

Upon exiting the motel lobby, the driver and I sighted a telephone booth across Firestone.  During our block-long walk, I asked the young man how he could have suddenly appeared because there was no one behind me when I stopped for the pedestrian. He admitted to me—and later to the police officer—why he was distracted and the accident occurred. 

He said he entered Firestone off a nearby cross street while looking downward.  He added that he was attempting to wiggle into his tennis shoes that had not been unlaced since the last time he wore them.

My dad actually arrived at the scene before the police officer did.  I had my car towed to a nearby repair shop that a boss of mine had utilized. I found, just as my boss had said, that their work was superb. My car was as good as new! 

I did have to return for a trunk leak which was satisfactorily repaired. I remember one of the workers saying they check for leaks by having someone get in the trunk. I asked him who would volunteer to do that, and he replied their boss always gets that job!

I had the good fortune that the driver carried adequate insurance, even though he was driving a borrowed car.  My insurance deductible was also waived with no increase in my policy premium.

This frightening experience will remain in my memory forever. However, I am very aware how blessed I am that the driver who caused the accident was honest and forthcoming and three lives were spared that day, that of an innocent pedestrian, the driver's and, of course, mine.