A few weeks back there was the speeding ticket. That sucked, but it was also 100% my fault - I can deal with that, accept it, and make sure it doesn't happen again. (By the way, all I had to do was call them, say I was guilty, and they cut $47 off the fine so it was only $143. Still sucked, but not as bad.)
Then there are things that happen you have absolutely no control over and couldn't avoid at all. Mother Nature loves to assert her dominance over people with weather, but the more overlooked piece of her power is her use of wild animals. Even among those, events like bears attacking campsites or sharks attacking surfers get all the press, but I'm here today to tell you about a much bigger scourge being sent against the human race.
Picture found on Google Images from Tru-Wildlife
No, I'm not kidding, so stop laughing.
These things are evil, and Mother Nature is sending them to attack me like a Stinger missile.
Perhaps I should explain...
Wifey and I are driving west to Newport on Highway 20 from Corvallis. We are just a few miles away from hitting Highway 101, which runs north-south along the Pacific Ocean. Highway 20 is four lanes across, with a fifth lane in the center for making left turns. I'm headed uphill at about 10am. It's a weekday and traffic is light, so I am not following anyone or being followed by anyone closely in the right-most lane. My car is moving at about 60 miles an hour, because I learned my lesson from the last trip to the beach and am not speeding.
As a driver I keep my focus to everything forward of my vehicle, especially when moving that fast, because experience tells me threats to the safety of my car will be in front of me, not behind or to the side. At 60 miles an hour anything to the side is already too far away to be a worry.
As I am driving west my vehicle is in the sun and the eastbound lanes are somewhat in the shade. Suddenly there is movement on the south side of the highway and a figure bursts from the woods and races across the street. This happens closer to my vehicle than my normal range of focus, so I didn't immediately see it.
This shape flashed across four lanes of highway (three driving lanes and the middle turn lane) at an impossibly high rate of speed, heading straight for my vehicle. I see it at the last second, a flash of brown with white spots, too late for me to react. I see the spots in my rear view mirror as the shape slams into the side of my car near the back bumper, rattling the vehicle and scaring the shit out of Wifey and me (but not Misaki, who only raises her head from Wifey's lap to wonder why we are freaking out...).
The impact is light and didn't alter the course of the car. I slowed down only slightly and looked in the rear view mirror both in the street and then off to the side, seeing nothing. Briefly I debated stopping, but for what? If the deer is injured it's not like I'm going to put him out of his misery or something. Sucks for the deer, but I don't carry a handgun in my car, nor do I have a wrench to clock him over the head with (and it's highly doubtful I could bring myself to do that anyway). Plus, the deer wasn't in the street, so it wasn't a hazard to other drivers (again, not really sure what I would do, since they are pretty heavy).
I coasted a little, testing to see if the car is moving differently, but everything seemed fine. From the side mirror I could tell the gas tank lid was open and I think the bumper is loose, but the side of Highway 20 isn't the place to worry about that, especially if the car is running fine.
So I kept driving, all the way to the Nye Beach parking lot. There I took out the camera to see what kind of damage this evil deer had left on my car. Here you go.
As you can see the gas tank lid is open. Upon further inspection that's all it was - just open, not damaged. Can you see the dent just below the window? Not really? Well how about here:
Instead of a smooth piece of metal from the gas tank to the tail light, you can see the distortion in the reflection of me taking the picture (and Misaki behind my legs). This is likely from the deer's shoulder and didn't scratch or crack the paint at all. Maybe it will pop out easily, maybe not, but it'll still cost a couple hundred dollars I'm sure.
The other, more important (to me) damage is with the bumper.
Maybe it can be fixed, I don't know yet, but if not I'll have to buy an entirely new bumper because it's only piece that wraps all the way around the rear of the car. That, I'm sure, is a few hundred more dollars.
And here I thought the speeding ticket hurt the pocket book; that's chump change compared to what this deer did.
I've spent some time thinking about this, wondering if I could have avoided it. (Ironically, I would have driven by this exact point earlier had I been driving faster...) I don't think I could have. Mother Nature knows this...and she'll do it again.
How do I know THAT? Because it's happened before...
Mother Nature sent one of her spotted minions at my moving vehicle 12 years ago. It was the summer of 1999 and I had just graduated from the college. I can't recall if I had started my job as a gofer at a law firm yet, or if it was in the two months I was just unemployed. I drove a 1986 Honda Accord at the time, a four-door sedan (smaller than the current SUV in the pictures above, with less surface space to absorb a hit), and was living at home with my parents. They live in a rural area outside of the city, which meant a 15-20-minute drive to get anywhere resembling civilization.
Here it is - a 1986 Honda Accord sedan. Even the same color and with the same wheel covers. From TypeRHonda.com.
It was a Friday night and I took my sister the closest Blockbuster to pick up a couple movies. It wasn't too late but the sun had gone down, so we drove back in the dark along country roads where the posted speed limit was 45 but the curves rarely let you go that fast. Of course, my Accord handled pretty damn well and you probably figured by now I'd push it on a road like that when I could. And I did.
The road came down a hill from a 120-degree, 20mph-turn, into some smoother turns I could take at 35-40, with no shoulder - just drainage ditches. The last turn before a stretch of straight road bent 90 degrees to the left. Friends lived on this road, ones I had been visiting for years, and I took this road every day up to Clackamas Community College, where I spent my freshman year, so it's safe to say I knew this road very well and could drive it in my sleep.
As I started to exit that last curve I slowly accelerated - you know, because that's how race car drivers do it, exploding out of the turn - and that's when I saw it.
A spotted deer, perhaps a still adolescent female, stood in the middle of my lane, frozen in my headlights and looking straight at us. There wasn't enough time to swerve into the opposite lane - and remember, no shoulder - so I slammed on the brakes, my wheels locking, and my sister started screaming.
As the car slid towards the deer time slowed down the way it sometimes does when something bad happens. I knew I wasn't going to stop in time, but there really was nothing I could do to prevent what happened next. The deer's face grew larger in my view and at some point the pointed front of my car's bumper must have taken out her legs, because she fell towards the windshield. I swear her mouth was open, her eyes wide, and she probably screamed just as loud as my sister did.
Thankfully she didn't hit the windshield. Instead she bounced off the hood and off the side of the road. I have this recollection of her bouncing to her feet, but given the car first hit her legs I don't see how that could have been possible.
The car finally came to a stop and I believe the engine died, because it was a manual transmission and I was worried about the brakes, not making sure I had the clutch engaged. The deer was now laying in the pasture next to the road, and my sister was still screaming. I had to grab her just above the knee and squeeze, asking her quietly to stop, before she finally took a breath. I was okay, she was okay, and here we were at a dead stop on a country road in the dark with any traffic that would come behind us coming out of a blind curve.
Just like with the deer the other day, there wasn't anything I could do. I turned the car back on and everything sounded okay. It also seemed to move okay, so we drove home, freaked out.
When we finally did get home it took our parents a little while to calm us down, then Dad and I went and checked out the damage. The entire hood was caved in, but nothing was leaking and the bumper looked okay. In the end nothing functional was broken, but fixing the cosmetic damage cost me $1200 (or, the same amount I paid for the car...). The first two paychecks I received working as a full-time adult went towards fixing my car (so, yay for living at home at the time, I suppose).
In the interim my sister has also hit a deer in her small Honda Civic hatchback, causing hundreds of dollars in damage she had to address. I've also swerved to miss deer a couple other times.
I have no idea what we did to piss them off, but apparently Deer Nation is after me and my family. Is Mother Nature just screwing with us?
No clue. Every time I see those yellow deer crossing signs on the highway panic starts to set in, nausea rising in my stomach as I get a little more vigilant.
And don't even get me started on the elk crossing signs. Those are so not funny.
But apparently this is how it must be. From now on, Ms. Nature, this is war. This is the face of the enemy:
Found on Google Images
Not that I'm going to do much about it. I don't hunt, nor do I have much of a taste for venison.
I could buy a Hummer though. Then deer in the road would just make me laugh, rather than cringe.