Monday, November 19, 2007

It's been foggy here in Oceanside of late. The mists roll in after dark and linger through the following morning. I enjoy the change and welcome the mystery of it, but the Little Ditchman awoke a few mornings ago and upon seeing the view from her crib of the backyard draped thick with clouds, she let out a good shriek. It was all explained to her, of course, but again she just looks at you like you're telling stories. When she got sick the other day, we cranked up the humidifier in her room and the fog filled the house, so what goes around, comes around, though it's difficult to tell direction in the haze.

The fog seems to rob the ordinariness out of the neighborhood, and I've been known to go outside and take a look around late at night before bed. When the mists descend things look different, like when you put a ladder in a room and your head in a corner of the ceiling -you turn and barely recognize the place, but it's been so foggy so often lately, the novelty has worn off on me. It gets late and I just want to sleep, so imagine my dismay when we awoke to a thunderous crash at 3:30 this morning.

I had just used the toilet (not the broken one) and fumbled and bumped my way back to bed, happily noting the time on the clock and doing the math in my head -ah, I get about 4 whole hours more of sleep! As I drifted off, I heard a noise that I figured was just a hypnic jerk, as I am prone to, but when the wife was startled enough to get out of bed and do a perimeter survey of the property, I figured something was up. Of course, I just laid there in bed and waited for things to either get worse or go away. Soon enough, I saw colored lights flashing through the mists behind the house and knew at once that a flying saucer had crashed into the hill out back behind the fence.

It happened "Out back behind my underneath!" to use an inspired phrase coined yesterday after church and at the brewery (the only place where such phrases could be coined). I noticed porch lights blinking on, and figured I better don all masculine qualities (and slippers) and have a look around, greet the aliens with guarded friendliness.

Something had happened down the hill on the main road behind my house. Through the trees and fog I could make out a few police cars and appropriate emergency vehicles, silently doing their business in the middle of the night. There were some cars pointed different directions, and it wasn't until I heard the morbid clatter of a gurney being rolled across the boulevard that I really woke up. I hopped the fence in my pajamas and slippers, and moved along the crest of the hill to get a better view. Two pickup trucks were aimed in one direction on the wrong side of the divider. Another car, aimed in the proper direction, had slammed into them, head on. I heard what sounded distinctly like a person kicking an aluminum can and then saw a fireman with a bucket, throwing sand or sawdust on a pool of fluid in the street.

A few people were standing in the middle of it, and no one was saying anything. There is a quality to fog that mutes the white noise of everyday life, but allows certain sounds to be lifted above it, and out of that I very clearly heard a police officer say, "You were really lucky," and then to someone else, "You were really lucky, as well."

So it was a traffic accident, in the middle of the night. Some folks going the wrong way in the fog. I couldn't say if it was a drunk driver or a street race or what, but it was a night terror for someone.

The paramedics and police were considerate enough to leave their sirens off in the middle of the night in our sleepy neighborhood. Not so, the tow-truck drivers, who arrived within the hour to take their time in reverse, beeping wildly, to haul off the wreckage. This morning there's nothing left to see, just cars passing in the morning fog, people wiping the sleep out of their eyes on a Monday before a busy holiday, Thanksgiving. The traveler's holiday.