All things come to those who wait. In this case we were waiting in traffic when an explosion pitched us forward. No warning. No screeching of brakes. Only a sudden impact from a truck coming up behind us, plowing into Eric’s taxi and knocking us silly.
Wednesday is the day we replenish our drinking water supply. Eric picked us up at 10:20 am with our four empty 5-gallon bottles and drove us to Ababio. An hour later we found ourselves wondering what has hit us.
We had several stops to make after leaving Ababio. We stopped by the printer to have business cards and a FS2BD logo printed up. Next we met with an artist named Andy who Bob commissioned to paint the logo on the side of the biodiesel plant at Dompoase.
We were sitting in heavy traffic pointed in the direction of the Palace Hypermart when the brakes failed on the truck behind us. One minute we were chatting idly and the next we were rubbing our necks.
A little dazed, it took a moment to understand what had happened. Ironically, my first thought was of the water bottles behind me in the trunk. Bob’s first thought was for his wife in the back seat, and then the water bottles. It’s silly that we’d both think of the water but trauma works on the mind in strange ways.
We twisted in our seats to see the looming windshield of a large truck looming over the rear window of Eric’s Nissan Twister. Then began feeling ourselves for injuries. Afraid to move yet feeling the need to get out of the car. My collar bone was slightly sore as was my neck. I realized I had a headache. Bob and Eric were both touching their heads and necks. We had hit the taxi in front of us and were sandwiched between the two vehicles.
I tried the door and it seemed stuck but pushed a little harder and gingerly got out. I made my way unsteadily towards the curb through a gathering crowd of concerned pedestrians. Bob stood in the street, leaning on the roof of the car with his head in his hands. I felt faint, a little dizzy and definitely dazed, not quite sure what to do next. My right knee was skinned where it pushed into the back of Eric’s seat.
Eric surveyed the scene and took off to fetch the law, a hand on his jaw. None of us were bleeding and we all had headaches. I regained my sense of balance and returned to the car for some water and the camera.
The concern of the bystanders was comforting. The driver sat in the cab and talked with the crowd. He did not come over and speak to us. The conversation was animated. We later found out he was driving the truck for someone else. “God’s Way” was painted on the windshield in bright yellow letters. I guess we got in God’s way, I thought.
I walked around, taking pictures. We were at the corner of Osei Tutu I Avenue and Wawase. Above loomed a four-story building named “Trinity House”. There was a stationery store and a shop selling chairs, including the kind I’ve seen at the airport.
Thirty minutes later, Eric returned with a policeman in a black and white uniform and carrying a newspaper. Without acknowledging the obrunis, he took some notes, writing them down on his paper. He asked the drivers to move the taxis out of the line of traffic but because the truck was without brakes, it stayed where it was. Then he sat down in the shade of the Trinity House in one of the airport chairs, back to the street scene and waited for a tow truck to come and move the orange truck.
Eric arranged transport to the police station and the hospital in that order and asked us to sit in the back of the parked taxi. We hesitated. Bob said his appetite for sitting in stationary taxis was very small. But he agreed and the men moved the five-gallon jugs of water and Maui Recycling Service reusable grocery bags full of food into the car. I watched in apprehension as Bob picked up the water bottles, recalling stories of cracked vertebrata breaking under the stress of unusual movement, rendering the victim a paraplegic.
It felt good to sit down. We sipped at what was left of our water. We had brought enough for a one hour outing and now it was pushing 1pm. Our heads hurt. Bob felt sick to his stomach. Our brains had been rattled. Bob’s entire left side was muscle sore because he was turned to the left, talking with Eric when we were hit. I must have been looking straight ahead because I felt only soreness in my neck.
We tried to relax in the taxi while we waited for the police officer to release us. I passed the time by looking at Bob’s pupils, asking him to close his eyes and then open them, trying to remember how to spot the signs of concussion. The ditch beside us reeked. Traffic rubbernecked slowly around the bright orange truck, folding into one lane to get passed and each car stopping for a few seconds to get a good look at the wreck. Our skin glistened with sweat in the 90 degree heat, leaving a bit of a slick on the vinyl upholstery. We finished our water and I caught myself eyeing the sachet vendors but listened to Bob’s advice not to trust street water.
Finally Eric tired of waiting for the tow truck, put on his flashers and drove his car to the police station, leaving us alone in the taxi on the curb, a bit apprehensive of the traffic behind us. At 1:15 the tow truck arrived. It seemed to take thirty minutes for the team to get the truck hooked up.
Eric and the driver returned and off we went to the police station. We filed into a darkened room. I tripped over a pair of sandals and turned to my left where a uniformed police woman lay napping barefoot on a wooden bench. We were shepherded outside to another small building where the officer who had surveyed the scene sat behind a desk. We positioned ourselves on the bench in front of him while he finished a conversation with a man wearing a sweatshirt which said “Get Rich or Die.” A TV set played at the other end of the room.
The officer asked Eric for his driver’s license and used the information to fill out a medical form and put the license in his pocket. His cell phone began playing “Happy Birthday to You” and he took the call while we waited. By now I was very thirsty and pretty sure my headache would subside if I could take a long drink of water.
Eric got his form and asked for his license back but got a shake of the head in answer. Bob handed over his I.D. and I wrote down my name on a slip of paper for my turn. The man filled out Bob’s form and slid it underneath another paper, reaching for a blank form to fill out mine. He handed me my form and Bob asked for his. “I gave it to you.” said the man and I couldn’t help but shake my head and point to the form underneath the other paper. So the officer looked and sure enough, there it was. Eric tried again to regain his driver’s license without success.
And off to the hospital we went. Eric’s wife Linda is a nurse and had arranged to help us see a doctor without having to wait another couple of hours as it was already pushing 2:30. I was thrilled to meet Linda. She was beautiful and very helpful. Bob went to buy us three bottles of water. I drank heavily and my headache began to retreat.
We followed Linda around like lost puppies until we found ourselves in a slightly air conditioned office. One at a time we presented our forms to the doctor. A woman took our blood pressure. Bob’s was 160 over 90 and mine was 90 over 60. The doctor asked us what effects we were feeling from the accident and we told him. He wrote all this down and asked us to pay 100 cedis each.
After some bargaining, the men struck a deal while Linda and I sat on the bench outside the curtain. 200 cedis for the three of us even though the form says the fee shall be two cedis ten pesawas. He handed over our completed medical forms and prescriptions for a mild pain killer and some muscle rub.
“Never mind that” is what Eric would say. At this time we were past caring and only longed to get home, drink cool water, shower off the shock of the day and get some down time. The four of us squeezed into the waiting taxi and headed for Ahodwo, stopping for peppers and the pharmacy.
Eric held his jaw and told his wife he needed two boxes of pizza to chew. Linda said he would have to chew gum. We tried to laugh but it came out in feeble bleats at this point.
Finally we arrived at the green gate and dragged out our groceries and water bottles. It was 3:30 and may have been the longest five hours of my life.
PS – Six days later, neither of us has gotten into another car. The morning after the accident, I walked to Ahodwo roundabout for produce. As I returned home down busy Melcom Road, I realized I was being exceptionally vigilant towards the orange vehicles in the line of traffic. I caught myself eyeing any orange car warily and stepping away from the road upon the approach of any large orange trucks.
Also on Thursday, Bob walked to a meeting about a mile from the house and chose to walk home rather than take a cab back. Eric’s car is still in the shop but I will need to arrange transport of our water bottles tomorrow. I believe I will be emotionally ready to sit in a car by then.