“It’s not worth it”
Hearing those 4 words just after passing a police cruiser on the shoulder at the start of my commute home sent a chill down my spine, especially as I had also just passed someone outside his car, also on the shoulder, standing outside his car, who had something, I couldn’t see what with just a quick glance in heavy traffic, hanging from his hand. As it turns out, I was just feet from and moments away from what turned out to be a shooting on the freeway.
Leaving work early
Understand that I almost never leave work before 7pm. It’s the life of a startup, combined with not wanting to deal with traffic, which can turn a 20-mile commute into a 45-minute (or more) journey of creeping slow-and-go. But tonight, a couple of things influenced a changew in routine.
First, the TV in the kitchen was staying on the Wizards-Hawks game, so I wasn’t going to be able to settle there with my notebook and work while watching the Celtics-Bulls game. Second, the project manager responsible for reviewing my content had just started looking at the folders that had been sitting on her desk for several days, and I just had the thought that i was not going to stay late on a warm, sunny Friday evening (which I was planning to spend indoors anyway) to work on stuff she waiting until 5:30 on Friday to get started on.
So I left.
And it was the usual wall of traffic on 101. Interestingly, the wait at the metering lights wasn’t all that long. Except…
As I was making the final merge after the metering lights, I caught a big vehicle out of the corner of my eye on my right. It was an SUV speeding by on the shoulder, and at second glance, it was a police vehicle, lights flashing. So, I wondered where the accident was up ahead.
I had already checked and had seen that the 101 traffic was pretty backed up, so I had planned to take 92 over to 280. I was able to execute my usual plan well. Because the Hillsdale interchange is always grossly backed up onto 101, even with an auxiliary lane, I got into the second lane from the right.
Often, once past Hillsdale, there’s a mess of a weave of cars jockeying to get in and out of the short auxiliary lane between Hillsdale and 92, so I usually wait until after I am past the Hillsdale entrance to swing over to the right lane and exit onto 92 westboumd, as it is the eastbound lane that backs up. Today, though, I saw no cars coming off of Hillsdale, so I got over into the right lane earlier than usual.
Just at the exit, I saw out of the corner of my eye the police SUV stopped on the shoulder there, but traffic was slowing down and weaving about a bit, so i had to pay attention to the that. In front of the police vehicle, I spotted 2 other cars on the shoulder. A quick glance saw 2 things.
First, the front vehicle had its back fender crunched in. Second, the back vehicle had someone standing by the driver’s door. I assumed that car had hit the car in front of it. But the person standing had something in his right hand, maybe about a foot long.
And just after I passed, I heard something from the loudspeaker from the police car, followed by 4 words that send a chill down my spine:
“It’s not worth it.”
I was tempted to flip the radio over to KCBS, but I had already set myself up to listen to the Red Sox-Cubs game via MLB’s At Bat app. I already had experience with the crappy coding of the app: I knew that it simply doesn’t recover well when it hits a coverage gap, and so I was afraid that if I switched away from listening to it from my iPhone on Bluetooth, when I switched back to the phone, the app would have paused, and it would not restart. And as I was driving, I wouldn’t be able to pull out my phone and re-start the stream.
So I left it on the game, wondering, as I sped away, those 4 words echoing in my head, wondering what it was that I just missed. I wondered heading west on 92. I wondered as I meandered up 280. And I found out just before I hit the 380 interchange.
280 just south of 380 has long been an AT&T dead zone. Passing through it, the At Bat stream cut out, and after a couple of minutes of it not recovering, I finally switched my radio to KCBS. And the report I heard was horrifying.
There had indeed been a shooting right at that spot. The report included details of what possibly precipitated it as well. The anchor referred to reports of an SUV speeding up the shoulder, at times on 2 wheels, before the accident.
And the report included the fact that there had been an actual shooting. A few minutes later, before I flipped over to the Celtics game, I left it on KTVU, which was in the middle of the 6 O’Clock News. And when they returned from commercial, they went right to an update.
There had been an officer-involved shooting at that spot. 101 northbound had been completely closed, which means that I was literally one of the last cars to get through that area, and everything was being taken off at Hillsdale. The backup was miles long, and if I had left even 15 minutes later, or if the Celtics had been on the kitchen TV at work, my commute home would have been a complete nightmare.
And my first wild guess at what that guy was holding? Well, that the police were saying those words, combined with what transpired afterward, suggests that my wildest fears may very well have been true: That what I saw in his hand, just feet away, was some sort of gun. And not a good-guy-with-a-gun type of gun either, but one intent on doing, bad, bad things.