Karen and I were coming home from the Oregon Genealogy Council’s (OGC) State Conference. We had driven down that morning, 350 miles, to the OGC’s conference in Eugene Oregon so that I could speak on using spreadsheets in your genealogy. We were now returning home and about 35 miles from our humble abode at about 10:10 pm traveling northbound Interstate 5 (I-5), near the Everett Mall, in the far left lane called the carpool lane. We had a crisis.
I noticed a car closing on us from behind at a very high rate of speed. I was a little perplexed as the car was not directly behind us; this probably had NOTHING to do with being up since 4:30 am and driving 700 miles to speak on one topic. Allow me to digress and describe the roadway. In this area of the I-5, there are four lanes, three normal traffic lanes and a carpool lane (for 2 passengers or more). Lane one, the far right-hand lane, has a nice wide gravel shoulder with a soft sloping grassy ditch brimming with wildflower (sounds so nice I want to live there). The far left-hand lane, the carpool lane, the lane Karen and I were riding in, has a small paved shoulder with a concrete barrier wall (the shoulder will now and forever be referred to as the “Yeahoo Lane”). The small paved shoulder is barely wide enough to fit a small car like ours, a Volvo S60 (Volvo is important because when we bought the car the salesman said, “No one ever died in a Volvo”). If I were to park on this shoulder my car would fit but I would not be able to open my driver’s side door. Karen could open her door but a car passing at 70 mph would rip the door right off of the hinges and kill Karen (we really don’t want to kill Karen). That is how narrow the “Yeahoo Lane” is.
The stage is set so on with the story. We are bee bopping down the road laughing and having a good time as usual (Yes Cari Taplin it is true, we do laugh a lot, even when you are not around) when I notice this vehicle coming up behind us. The funny thing is that Karen and I were talking about blogging or vlogging our genealogy adventures. Even when Karen wants to fight (she is Irish you know) with me, she cannot keep a straight face because I make her laugh, but I digress. If I don’t stop digressing nobody will finish this blog post to find out about our grand adventure. So the car is hurtling towards us and I am certain now that he is not directly behind us, he is driving in the “Yeahoo Lane”. You know that tiny little paved shoulder I described earlier.
My first thought was that he was a Washington State Patrol (WSP) officer coming up behind me to stop me because I was doing 70mph in a 60 mph zone. Alright here I go digressing again. The reason I had this instantaneous thought was because one day I was breaking the law, per usual, and my son and I were in my pickup truck pulling a 20 foot long triple axel gooseneck flatbed trailer a few miles back from this place (see in this lane, NO TRAILERS ALLOWED) in heavy traffic. A WSP trooper pulled up beside me on the shoulder doing 60mph and yelled at me for being in the lane. He told me to get over all while continuing to travel at 60 mph.
So where was I; Oh yes this guy was rocketing toward us, thinking momentarily he was a State Trooper, I said, “what is this Yeahoo doing?” (For my grammar Nazi friends, I capitalize Yeahoo because that is now his name.) Karen said, “What Yeahoo?” I said, ”The Yeahoo driving on the shoulder.” Karen looks in front of us and says, “What Yeahoo?” See, after 25 years of driving an emergency vehicle I know there are six sides to a vehicle and only one side is the front, this is why I drive. But the other day I did have to ask Karen how to turn on the vacuum cleaner, not my area.
It was in this moment I realized two things he was not a WSP Trooper and he was going to hit us. I said to Karen, “This fricking Yeahoo is going to hit us.” I quickly took evasive action. In my brain it was like Jean Luke Picard saying, “Evasive maneuvers Number One, Picard Theta Seven” (A little reference for my Trekkie friends). So I expertly avoided being rear-ended by this Yeahoo.
As Yeahoo passed by us and got two car lengths ahead, he was still driving in the narrow “Yeahoo Lane”. He was in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Momentarily impressed by his driving talent to keep that vehicle in the tiny “Yeahoo Lane”, suddenly I realized this Yeahoo was drunk. Just as I said “Karen, he is drunk and going to hit the wall,” he does. I instantly went into “Emergency Management Mode” as Karen simultaneously goes into “Panic Mode”, and starts freaking out. I calmly tell her dial 911 while our car is being showered with pieces of his Jeep. The Yeahoo keeps driving. Karen refuses to dial 911 and pleads for me to stop the car, thus making us an impediment to traffic. Now I go into full on “Emergency Crisis Management Mode”. It is like trying to stop water from coming out of a sieve. I have a drunk Yeahoo (who hit the wall and is now swerving across three lanes of traffic in front of me, almost taking out four more cars) AND my wife melting down in the seat next to me looking like she was going to jump from the vehicle.
By now I am now in full “Emergency Crisis Management Mode” and I sternly command my wife to dial 911. Trust me, commanding your wife to do anything has its downside and yes all of these different scenarios of how my life is going to change because I have now commanded my wife to do something were going through my brain. Karen wanted me to stop the car so she could have her melt down in a nice controlled environment while this drunk Yeahoo continues to barrel down the freeway leaving death and destruction in his wake. I was in a conundrum, damned if I do and a life time of guilt if I don’t do something to stop this Yeahoo. So I choose option 253, ignore my wife’s melt down so could I blog about it later and maybe “Save a family or two from a lifetime of heartache and pain.”
I have now convinced/commanded my wife to dial 911 and I am now feeding her the information she needs to impart upon the State Patrol dispatchers. See, in Washington, when you dial 911 with a cell phone flying down I-5, chances are the dispatcher that picks up the phone is not from State Patrol. The first thing you have to tell them is you want State Patrol or you will spend precious moments explaining your story of despair to a dispatcher who can only transfer your call. So Karen has the State Patrol Dispatcher on the phone and I command her to report our location, “North Bound I-5, north of Everett Mall,” then the situation, “Drunk driver hit the “Jersey Barrier,” and “He swerved into traffic almost hit four vehicles, he is continuing to drive northbound.” Karen was on the phone for about 30 seconds and explained that we did not get the vehicle license number. You might think that our adventure had ended there, but you would be wrong.
I, being in full “Emergency Crisis Management Mode”, continue to follow the drunken Yeahoo. He continued to drive in the “Yeahoo Lane” only to swerve out into the legal lanes almost crashing into dozens of cars. Karen is more amped up and continues pleading with me to stop the car. I am following the vehicle from about 250 yards behind, a very safe distance I might add. I once again told my wife to dial 911, she refused. I had to explain to her that we needed to update the State Patrol on his position. She reluctantly calls 911, asks for State Patrol, I tell her the words to say, “This is an update on a position of a drunk driver,” Karen says, “I am calling to update you on a “possible drunk” driver northbound I-5 just passing the Everett Broadway exit.” I am stunned she said “POSSIBLE” what other explanation is there to this Yeahoo that almost hit us and several other vehicles.
While on the phone Karen gets a little weepy and apologizes to the dispatcher stating she is a “little afraid,” Oh sure like yelling at my wife to dial 911 wasn’t bad enough she is now telling a dispatcher for State Patrol on a recorded line that she is, “a little afraid.” I am thinking, “Great, this is going to be a “conversation” later and it will not be comfortable for me,” but I am still in full “Emergency Crisis Management Mode” and I pressed on.
We start racking up the miles following this drunken Yeahoo, who is clearly out of control. We make it through Everett and he is still on I-5. Karen states to me she is having a full blown panic attack, her chest is hurting and by the way, have I mentioned she is yelling at me? Yes all this mayhem is swirling about me in my vehicle while I am trying to stop someone from killing a family. I calmly ask Karen, “Baby I realize you are having a panic attack, you can continue having your panic attack, but could you please do it quietly?” I figured I was going to pay for that. Karen did calm down after I said I was trying to prevent this Yeahoo from killing a family or leaving young children motherless. I know that was a little melodramatic but Karen seemed get the gravity of the situation.
As we were coming into Marysville I have Karen on the phone with State Patrol Dispatchers again and there is one of those emergency vehicle turn-a-rounds, you know, the ones that are clearly marked for emergency vehicles use only, the ones nobody is allowed to use, the ones that on occasion I have broken the law and used in the past and justified it by saying I drive an emergency vehicle on a regular basis. As we come up on this turn-a-round, a State Patrol Officer starts to go through it without his lights on and almost hits our car. Twice now we were almost in an accident that I was successful in avoiding.
By this time Karen has seemed to have snapped out of it. I figured she is either very angry with me, sees my point and understands we are not in danger plus we are doing the right thing, or some other cosmic event I do not understand. Either way she is now in “Catch This Drunk Driver” mode. Karen being in this mode allowed me to downgrade my “Emergency Crisis Management Mode” to just plain “Emergency Management Mode”.
Since I have done this drill before and have reported several drunk drivers, I turned on my flashers as we passed the State Patrol Officer, who almost took us out. Doing this allows the officer to identify who the reporting party is so they can triangulate where the offending party is. This is especially effective at night. So State Patrol zooms up behind us and I pull to the right and let him pass by. He gets into a positon to observe the vehicle when Yeahoo almost hits somebody and passes another car on the shoulder. This was right near an exit and the drunken Yeahoo looked like he is making a break for it and careened off of the freeway to the exit causing the State Patrol Officer to make a more radical maneuver to exit behind him. We followed, of course, at a safe distance. At the top of the exit the Jeep turned left and crossed over the freeway. He then ran a red light to enter the onramp for southbound I-5. State Patrol was in hot pursuit and lights him up. Surprisingly he stopped.
Karen is questioning me this whole time what are we doing, why are we following them, and I explain we are witnesses to the accident and parts of his vehicle struck ours. So we stop about 25 to 30 yards back from the State Patrol Officers. This is an important safety tip, if you pull in behind a State Patrol Officer, give them plenty of room and stay in your vehicle. They will get to you in due time. They are not blind and pay attention to their surroundings so it is unnecessary to honk the horn unless you yourself are having an emergency, like the baby is crowning, you have been shot and are bleeding to death, or you were driving down the road minding your own business and caught yourself on fire. That is another story.
So as it happened, there were two WSP officers in the car, a rookie who was driving (and almost hit us) and an FTO, Field Training Officer, giving the rookie the valuable field training he needed. Karen and I patiently waited for the officers to finish their investigation, double handcuff the Yeahoo, and stuff him in the back of the patrol car. This was gratifying for Karen and I, the stress level subsided and we were laughing and cracking each other up again. Karen was applauding and we started singing, “Bad boys, bad boys whacha gonna do, whacha gone do when Eric and Karen come for you.”
The FTO walked back to our car to have a word with us and we explained what we saw. He asked us to make a statement and email it to him. Karen stated, “I never want to do that again,” and the officer replied, “I would love to do it again, RIGHT NOW, tonight, let’s go.” And we joked (ha ha) we could just drive around all night long turning in drunk drivers. The officer and I inspected our car to see if any damage had occurred and did not see any. Karen and I proceeded southbound on I-5 to the next exit so we could turn back north and head home…adventure over…right?…Wrong.
As we reentered the freeway, northbound, we got right in behind a dark blue full sized pickup truck and you guessed, it another drunk driver, so it began again. “911 what is your emergency”, “State Patrol”, “State Patrol what is your emergency”, “I want to report a possible drunk driver.” This time, Karen was a battle hardened veteran and performed flawlessly. No tears, no fuss, no muss. I am very proud of her, what a night.
So be not afraid genealogy world Karen and I are on patrol and we will be there to protect you wherever evil strikes.
It was just another day in the life of Karen and Eric Stroschein your Generations Detective, does anybody need a ride to the Washington State Genealogy Conference?