Monday, October 4, 2010


As many of our friends and relatives know, my husband and I are in the beginning stages of a divorce. It was only one week ago that we had The Talk. I’m at peace with the direction things are heading, but this has been the longest week of my life.

On Wednesday, I headed over the hill for a rare morning work appointment. Spacey with mental processing, I distractedly powered through my work then headed home. I had just passed the last freeway exit before getting on the mountain when I heard a loud clicking sound. I realized the sound was coming from my car when I lost power a couple seconds later, and suddenly there was black smoke everywhere. I saw a gap in traffic to my right and crossed the slow lane to the right shoulder.

When I stopped the car, I sat there for a moment in shock. I realized the engine was on fire. I grabbed my bags and got out and away from the car quickly. When I looked back, there were flames on top of the hood. Someone in a passing car yelled for me to keep moving, and I did, but I kept turning back to decipher what was happening. I will never forget the image of the family station wagon going up in flames three days after I asked my husband for a divorce.

The front of the car exploded. I called 911 with shaking hands. I called different people to get the kids covered. I tried to reach my husband. I cried as I watched the car burn.

Several people pulled over. A man pulled over a little ways up the freeway and walked back with his fire extinguisher. He emptied it on the car fire and nearby grassy area and left. There was no effect on the car fire, but he may have prevented it from spreading to the dry vegetation. A man in a minivan pulled over to exchange wows and get the story. A woman in a Porsche pulled over to ask me if she could take me somewhere. I imagined jumping in the car with her. Where would I go? I told her I’d better stay there. She told me it was just a car. I nodded and told her to be careful as she left.

Two fire trucks and three CHP motorcycles showed. One of the CHP officers quizzed me on what could have caused it. One of the fire fighters chimed in. They told me it must have been the repair work from about six months ago. They seemed confident in their assessment, but all I could think about was . . . hey, I think my car just burned down. They reminded me I was lucky it didn't happen on the mountain and that my kids weren't in the car and that I wasn't hurt.

The tow truck showed up as the fire was being put out. It felt like 110 degrees on the pavement, and the police told the tow truck driver to scrape the melted tires off the road with a shovel. The driver was bummed. As I waited, I realized I had my camera.

I waited in the air-conditioned tow truck cab while the driver finished up. I had belongings from the car, including kid car seats piled around me. I don’t remember exactly what I said to the driver when he got in, but I think I got personal there for a second. He lectured me on the importance of a good insurance policy.

The car is totaled. It’s over.


  1. um...shit! wow! is all I can think to say and of course glad you're physically alright. Also selfishly thinking that I have an older subaru and am now paranoid that something like this is going to happen to me.....crazy stuff to happen in the same week. take care.

  2. This is insane. And I know it sounds a bit silly, but I didn't think this sort of thing really happened to people. I already hate cars and this isn't helping. lol

    Glad you're okay.