Opinion: Hanging out on my local highway from hell

A traffic camera shows congestion on I-95 in Bridgeport.

A traffic camera shows congestion on I-95 in Bridgeport.

Contributed photo

I've got a name/And I carry it with me like my daddy did

But I'm livin’ the dream that he kept hid.

- Jim Croce, I Got a Name

“I’m so sorry, sir,” the toothpick skinny kid in a leather jacket tells me contrite as can be. “I don’t know what happened.”

“You crashed into me is what happened,” I reply, standing on the shoulder of I-95 south on a cold, windswept, blindingly bright sunny day.

“I think I fell asleep after working all night.”

“What’s your name?”

“Louis.”

I write L-O-U-I-S on a piece of paper.

“No,” he says.

I cross out “Louis,” write L-E-W-I-S.

“No.”

I give him the paper and pencil. “Write your name and address.”

The left rear of my Honda is smashed, the rear tire flat, torn as if slashed by a knife wielding maniac, the wheel guard bent and protruding,

He hands me the paper. It says L-U-I-S.

“That’s Loo-ese,” I say, pronouncing his name as it’s meant. “You’ve given up your heritage already. You ought to be proud of your name.”

“It’s easier for people that way.”

“I’ve been correcting people mispronouncing my name all my life. I open my mouth and they know where I’m from. How old are you?”

“Nineteen.”

I was heading home after dropping my wife at work, crawling in bumper-to-bumper traffic between exits 26 and 25, when I heard metal crunching, my car bucked forward. Shaken, I pulled away onto the shoulder and stopped. I grabbed my phone but the sun prevented me from seeing the screen. I held it under the console and texted my wife: “Someone hit me!” Reeling, I squeezed out, careful of the crawling traffic arm’s distance away. The wind blowing up highway soot.

The kid was on me. “You all right, sir?”

“I’ve been worse.”

I reach my wife. “It’s me, in one piece.”

“You sure you’re all right?” I heard the worry in her voice.

“Luckily not hurt. Feeling frantic and discombobulated.”

“I called the police. They know where you are.”

“I’ll call you when I know what’s what.”

On hold with Geico, the kid appears again, thrusting his phone at me.

“My grandmother wants to talk to you.”

“I can’t. I have to get a tow truck.”

Geico won’t send a tow truck to the interstate.

“I have to get home,” the kid, forlorn, says.

“I have to rent a car. Get my wife to a 3:30 doctor’s appointment.”

“How long do I have to stay?” he asks.

“You can’t move your car until the cops come.”

“If the cops don’t get here soon, I’m leaving.”

“You leave and the cops will show up at your home, arrest you for leaving the scene of an accident. Your license may be suspended. That’s the law.”

“How do you know that?’

“I’m a hundred years old, that’s why!”

Two officers from Troop G of the State Police roll in after 9. It’s too busy to get me a tow. I call AAA at 9:29. By 9:38 a text informs a tow truck has been dispatched.

The trooper hands us each an accident report. Luis’ car is banged up, headlight gone, but he can drive. I feel for the kid.

“Take care of yourself, Luis. That’s a good name you have.”

“Stay in the car,” the officer tells me. “Don’t get out.”

I’m behind the wheel for almost a half-hour in a state of high anxiety watching swiftly moving oncoming traffic in my rear-view mirror. It’s terrifying thinking a semi, dump truck or lackadaisical driver could crash into me.

I’m in the tow truck cab at 10:11. When the driver gets in, I say, “Thanks for coming. I been out here since 7:56.”

“That’s a long time.”

“You’re the best thing that’s happened to me today.”

“You’re from the Bronx, aren’t you?”

“How’d you know?”

“I’d know that accent anywhere.”

Howard Sann is a writer in Bridgeport.