Waiting For Death On The Gardiner Expressway

On Friday I went to see Deb to hang out, chat and have a few drinks. This doesn’t cause any problems with Rachel and I because Rachel has to work in Toronto at 11:30 PM until 7:30 AM. I got to Debs around 9:30 and cracked my first beer of the weekend.

I left my phone off because it is pay as you go and I wasn’t expecting to hear from Rachel until around midnight when she would text me to say good night and to let me know that she had gotten to work safely. I turned my phone on around 11:58 PM and my night changed.

Text messages began to stream in:

11:14 PM – Rachel – On my way love

11:45 PM – Rachel – help

11:51 PM – Rachel – help please

11:56 PM – Rachel – Please Patrick help

I call her at 12 AM and she answers her cell home in a frantic state. “I’m at the side of the Gardner and someone has hit my car. The cops have just shown up. I’m okay but I’m going to the hospital.” I’ve never heard her this freaked out.

She is directly above Cherry Street on the East bound Gardiner Expressway with a flat tire. She had been struck there for about 25 minutes waiting for the police to arrive. Take a look at the google map, she was stopped right were that red car is. Now follow the road back about 50 metres and realize that the red car is not visible to anyone in the right hand lane before this point. For almost 20 minutes she sat there stuck in her car waiting for the police hoping that someone would not rear end her. She said cars were skidding and swerving to avoid her because they had less than 50 metres to react. She figured she was going to die and called her folks to say goodbye and tried desperately to get in touch with me so we could have one last conversation.

She got hit around 11:58 by someone who wasn’t able to get out of the lane. Fortunately for both of them, they were able to slow down enough so as to just lightly crash into the back of her. The police showed up a few minutes later and started directing traffic around them so a tow truck could pull them out of harms way – for $200 she was pulled about 1.5 Km off the highway to the ESSO gas station on Lakeshore.

The whole thing left her very shaken in a way I cannot relate to. I’ve had accidents before, I destroyed my second car on the south bound 427 on Monday morning but the accident was over in about 3 seconds and all lanes of traffic stopped. I was pulled off the road without fearing a secondary impact. I KNEW it was over as soon as I looked up to see all the other cars waiting for me get out of their way. Her termoil lasted for about 25 minutes while she sat there completely helpless waiting to get rear ended. The Gardiner Expressway does not have any shoulder because it is a raised highway, a product of a younger Toronto when the population was low enough to support that type of thing. Long since becoming dated, there is no way off of it other than driving to an off ramp or jumping 40 feet to the ground. She faced certain death by jumping or the possibility of death by staying with the car. I would have made the same choice, but it removes any illusion of control that you may have.

She is uninjured and the car is a little damaged. She’s grateful to be alive because someone died at the same sport last year under exactly the same circumstances. I’m not sure what the lesson is in all of this other than try to get to a place where you will be seen if you need to stop on the Gardiner. But when you are driving on the rim and the car is grinding to a stop, you are left with very little choice other than to stay put and make those “thank you and goodbye” calls people make when they have time to think about the fact that they are going to be dead very soon.