When we were learning to drive, my father told us that you always have to keep a good distance from a semi, because it will 'suck you under.' My sister, upon hearing this overly dramatic description of a semi's draft, pictured the scene in graphic detail with her artist's inner eye. And, of course, she was immediately terrified to drive within half a mile of a semi. Mom's gentle coaching and a good deal of practice finally overcame that fear and left her with the more normal healthy caution most of use around large trucks.
Fast forward to college, and most of her four hour drive home from college is on an empty, undeveloped stretch of I-95. On one trip home, she comes up on a semi who is doing 30 miles an hour on the interstate and, naturally, passes him. A few minutes later he passes her doing 100 or more. But then, she comes up on him again and he's again well under the speed limit. This continues for awhile, and with no exits nearby and no decent alternate route to use even if she took one she can't figure out how to get away from a driver who is obviously falling asleep at the wheel. Finally, she passes him and drives faster than she would normally drive. Thinking she's gotten away from him, she drops back to her normal speed and continues on her way home - probably muttering various imprecations about crazy truck drivers under her breath. Until, she looks in her rearview window just in time to see he's coming up on her again. And this time he hits her. And takes off, leaving her on the side of the empty interstate in the middle of swamp. This is one of the times that I am hugely grateful for the six year difference in our ages, because she has a cell phone with which to call for help. She's fine, the car is not. Needless to say, it took years for her not to have to quell a panic attack when driving near a semi. But, eventually she gets more comfortable, and if she's a little more anxious than the average driver when a semi approaches, well, who can blame her? After all, who gets hit by a semi?
And then last night, my family came over to kick of Christmas a bit early and see us before we head down to my in-laws for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My sister called an end to the party around 10:30, announcing that they were leaving so I could go to bed. (Unlike all the vacationing revelers, I had to work today.) They've been gone around 20 minutes and I'm brushing my teeth when Alex's phone starts to ring on our dresser, and I see my sister's name on the caller ID. She's calling us, because, and I quote, "We were hit by a semi, and I feel like we should tell somebody." (She didn't want to call Mom, who was still driving home her self, and distract from her driving or have her turning around and coming back.) After being reassured that they weren't hurt and the police had already responded, I couldn't help but think what is with her and semis?
And, before you think that there is no way lightning could hit twice and she must be taking risks somehow, both her fiancee and the eyewitness in a car behind them swear she did absolutely everything right. She was properly passing the semi, well within her lane, when the semi changed lanes on top of her. She swerved and avoided being hit by him, and she had even regained control of the fishtailing car when the semi clipped the back of the car, sending them spinning in to the guard rail. (The semi, in case you were wondering, did not stop even though there was no way he didn't know he hit them. The police believed they'd be able to find him by looking for damage on the front of semis stopped along the interstate.) Only because she had steady the car and slowed drastically did they avoid serious injury. The car on the other hand, did not.
So, I put back on my clothes and went to get them. They spent last night at our house, though none of us got much in the way of sleep. We gave them aspirin to head off the inflammation, beer to relax the muscles and The Grinch to soothe the spirit. My big sister instinct wanted to keep them there forever, safe in my house where I could keep an eye on them. But, it doesn't work that way, so this morning I handed them my car keys and hugged them goodbye. I will content myself with being grateful for the Christmas blessing that brought them home to me last night, and mindful of the potent reminder of the most important part of the Christmas season.
I still can't help wondering, though, who gets hit by a semi twice?