Trailer hitch through the windshield at 55 MPH

So Iím driving along Interstate 5, minding my own business, when a car one lane over and ahead of me runs over some debris and it flies up.

Itís coming at me. I duck and the next thing I hear is an explosion at 55 mph and my first thought is, dang, I ran over it. My second thought is that suddenly thereís this evil-looking metal cudgel in the passenger wheel well and holy merde, my windshield has erupted, shattering glass everywhere, and thereís a huge effing hole about six inches from where I sit, gripping tight to the steering wheel and trying not to run off the highway.

At that point, my limbs pretty much turn to jelly and I start pulling over. Itís like they say about death-defying moments. It seems to happen in slow-mo, and you go on autopilot and a Higher Force takes over. The next thing I remember is groping my head and face, expecting to feel wet warm viscous fluids, but nope, the stereoís still playing Tori Amos, the engine is fine, the A/C is blasting and itís just me and a million pieces of glass and a 15-pound cast-iron trailer hitch, cruising along.

How I didnít veer and cause a 10-car pile-up, I donít know, and yíall who were traveling northbound on I-5 near the 134 interchange around 4:30 this afternoon should count your blessings, cuz you dodged a bullet.

As did I.

I had just participated in a Black Dahlia Bus Tour that took people to the last places that Elizabeth Short was seen alive in 1949 before her dismembered body was found in a field in Leimert Park. Weíd talked about the dangers that beset single women in postwar 1947 Los Angeles and how her killer was never caught and Iíd talked about my new novel set in 1949 Hollywood.

Now, the truth is that Iím a paranoid city girl. My radar is on high alert in subterranean parking lots like the one in Pershing Square, across from the Biltmore Hotel where I parked this morning before starting the tour. After 10 years as an L.A. Times reporter and seven as a crime novelist, Iím generally suspicious and skeptical of everything. But nothing could have prepared me for a hurtling metal projectile on the freeway.

I am lucky to be alive. Iíve read too many stories about drivers killed or suffering horrible brain damage when freeway debris went through their windshields.

Shaking and hyperventilating, I managed to drive home with my new souvenir. And now Iíve got this trailer hitch that clearly says U-Haul and has an identification number. Which means it fell off somebodyís vehicle. So did they not notice? Did they not care that it might hurt or kill someone? Was it fastened incorrectly? Did they try to notify anyone to get it off the freeway? Who do you call in these cases, anyway?

Iíve puzzled over what the moral to this story might be. Everything happened in split seconds and Iím not sure what I should have done differently. Had I swerved into another lane, I might have caused a horrible accident. Plus, it was hard to tell which way the projectile was headed as it flipped through the air.

On Monday, Iíll be contacting my insurance company, though the reality is that that my deductible may be greater than the price of a new windshield. Iím still trying to pick shards out of my face, hair, clothes, purse and briefcase. I feel like shattered glass myself.

For someone who makes a living out of writing about humanityís darker impulses, itís sobering to come face to face with my own mortality, and the reality that not all dangers grow out of premeditated evil intent.


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