Two weeks ago, I was dealing with some serious digestive issues. This was a definite cause for concern because dehydration this far along in pregnancy could cause pre-term labor. So, I called my doctor, who recommended I head to the Labor & Delivery department at the hospital to get checked out. As soon as I got off the phone with the doc, I did just that.
I would have made it to the hospital in 20 minutes, but Reader, fate intervened with only a couple of miles to go. I was driving along, singing some music and eating a graham cracker, when suddenly, just in front of me, a little red car made a hard left and tried to cut across three lanes of traffic. I have no idea why this person did that, but needless to say, it didn’t turn out well. A semi (which was a mere two cars in front of me) clipped the car, throwing it into an adjacent lane, where a van slammed into it, throwing the tiny sardine can up onto a large divider. The car hung in the balance, and my mom/teacher/superhero/complete bad-ass instincts took over. Immediately, I threw my hazard lights on and pulled over. I called 911, described the situation, and hopped out of my car. (This was much less of a “hop” and much more of a “slide,” considering there’s not much hopping to be done at 9 months preggo. I still looked awesome though.) The truck driver who’d originally clipped the car was fine, and his truck had sustained minor damage, so I ran up to the car that had started it all. It teetered on the divider, sitting about 3 feet off the ground on the driver side; the passenger side leaned against the road. Two women unbuckled their seatbelts and literally slid out of the passenger door, and a flurry of papers and receipts filled the air as the door opened. All of the white paper swirling in the wind looked very Christmasy, in an “Inconvenient Truth” kind of way.
“Are you okay? I’ve already called 911, and the first responders are on their way!” I shouted to the women. But instead of giving a reply, the two just stood there staring at me. I motioned for them to go get in my car, explaining that there are clearly people out on the highway who can’t drive, and standing in the middle of the road isn’t exactly safe.
Then, I ran to the van that had last hit the car, where a couple was standing outside, talking. “Go turn your car off. There could be a gas leak. I’ve already called 911. Are you guys okay?” But, once again, instead of a response, all I got were stares from the two. “THE CAR! Go turn your car off! Gas could leak and catch on fire!” I yelled. Finally, the driver turned (still speechless), and went to shut off the car. I stood there for a moment, bewildered at the silence of those involved in the wreck, and then the couple from the van walked back up to me. “Are you okay?” I tried again. And that’s when they started talking. In Chinese. To me. Fantastic. They could have been telling me that the wife was going into cardiac arrest, and I wouldn’t have known any different. I smiled and nodded, then walked back to my car to check on the women sitting in it. “What happened out there? You guys could have been killed!” I said. The woman in my passenger seat explained the situation. I think. But it didn’t help, because her answer spoken entirely in Polish. Maybe, I thought, the other woman could tell me. Nope. Turns out she spoke zero English. That’s when a knock on my window startled me. It was the truck driver. I rolled down my window, asked if he was okay, and he nodded. Then, he started telling me something, but I have no clue what it was because he only spoke Ukranian. Or possibly Russian.
At this point, the seriousness, or ridiculousness of the situation (depending on how you look at it) hit me. The United Nations had just gotten into a three-car accident, and somehow I was caught in the midst of it all.
I realized at this point that JD (who drives this highway every day on his way to work) would be driving by at any moment. The last thing I wanted was for him to see a bad car accident, and then realize that my car was sitting in the middle of it. I quickly called him. “What’s up? Did you make it to the hospital?” he asked. “No, there’s been an accident,” I started. “WHAT?! ARE YOU OKAY? WHERE ARE YOU? STAY STILL. I’M ON MY WAY,” he said in a single breath. “Wait, wait. I’m fine! But there was a bad wreck right in front of me and I had to stop because, well, you know how I know CPR and First Aid? Remember, I took that course last summer for like 40 bucks and it was a combo class? The one at the Monroe County American Red Cross?” I explained. “JAIMIE. WHAT. ARE. YOU. TALKING. ABOUT?” he yelled in frustration. “Anyway,” I said. “I had to stop to help because I’m trained in CPR and First Aid. It’s my moral responsibility.” “Responsibility my ass. You’re nine months pregnant. You can’t be pulling bodies out of burning cars and shit.” Clearly, this was a lost cause. “Regardless, JD. I just wanted to tell you that there was a wreck but I’m not in it, but I am in it, because I’m saving lives.” With that, I hung up and went back to rescuing.
When the police and ambulance showed up, I explained to the officers what I’d seen. I then gave them a heads up that no one involved in the accident spoke the same language, or any English for that fact, and to prepare themselves for the shit show. One cop gave me a puzzled look, and said, “Ma’am, were you involved in the accident?” “No,” I replied. “But I’m the citizen of the damn day, so I stopped to save some lives. Then I found out that no one spoke English, tried to high-tail it out of here, but I don’t know how to say ‘Get the hell out of my car’ in Polish, so I’m stuck.” Alright, maybe I only said “No,” but believe me, Reader, he saw the rest of it in my eyes.
Two hours later, one of the Polish women was loaded into an ambulance because she’d cut her neck during the accident. I walked over to the officer I’d spoken with earlier and asked what the other woman should do. She had no car, so driving away wasn’t really an option. “Well, she’s probably going to have to walk to a gas station and wait for someone to pick her up,” he said nonchalantly. Unfortunately, I couldn’t just go tell her this, because I CAN’T SPEAK POLISH. Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get her to call someone on her cell that spoke both English and Polish, and told him what was going on. He very politely explained that he definitely couldn’t go pick her up, and that she would have to “figure it out.” The last thing I wanted was for some trainwreck of a non-English speaker wandering around the parking lot of a gas station, so I asked the cop if he could take her to the hospital where her friend had been taken by ambulance. “No can do. I’ve got three other guys in my car, and there’s no room for her.” I figured there was only one option left: Take her to the hospital myself. I mean, it’s where I was headed, anyway.
Back in my car, I tried to explain to the woman that I was going to take her to the hospital so she could reunite with her friend. I did what any person does when desperately trying to communicate to someone who speaks a different language: Yell whatever it is you are trying to say to them, like they’re deaf, in hopes that somehow screaming will break through the language barrier. Then, I pulled back onto the highway and drove to the hospital. This was the most quiet 5 minutes I’ve ever spent in a car. I don’t think it was necessarily because of the inability to communicate with one another, but rather the fact that the woman was terrified and had absolutely no idea where the crazy pregnant lady was taking her. We pulled into the Emergency Room parking lot, and I yelled, “WE’RE GOING TO FIND YOUR FRIEND.” She just looked at me and followed me out of the car, into the ER. This might be the moment in the story where you expect us to go our separate ways, but I couldn’t just leave her standing there. I found an ER attendant, explained the whole situation as best I could, and then told the worker that I didn’t know the woman’s friend’s name, but it “had to be something really Polish-sounding.” I’m sure that’s very politically correct.
I then hugged the woman and headed to Labor & Delivery. When I got to the L&D floor, the nurse said, “Where have you been? You called over three hours ago!” “I know, I know. I’m sorry I’m late,” I sighed. “I had to save the Poles.”