Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Car Chase

I stumbled across an online discussion on the list of things that people would like to do before they died. It made think of something that use to always on my list of things to do before I died, one that I got to do and found it to be not at all what I hoped it would be.

Growing up I had always loved the car chase scenes in movies. They always looked like so much fun. I though abstractly that it could be a lot fun to be in car chase some day, but since I was not planning being a cop or running from the cops, I never really though that I would get participate in one. This in not how things turned out

Back when I was a graduate assistant in New Orleans, two years ago, I was tasked with taking pictures of all the abandoned properties in the now infamous Lower 9th Ward (which before Katrina wiped it out was probably one of the most destitute neighborhoods in the nation). It should been a big red flag when my advisor told me that it would be a very bad idea to get out the van to take the pictures and that we should do it just after sunrise when the junkies were most likely to be asleep. But, I was bright eyed eager new grad student and took on the project with vigor.

For the first couple of months the project went fine, it was an eye opening experience on the depths of poverty in urban America. Then one morning we noticed that we were being tailed by a late model Lexus SUV, with completely tinted windows. We didn't think much of until noticed the driver making angry gestures and honking at us. This seemed like a good time to go back to campus, so we decided to end the day early.

As we began to leave the neighborhood the Lexus speed up began following us inches from our back bumper. All the while he contoured to honk and flip us off. Then we hit a red light, which allowed him to box us in. At which point the driver, a dishelved man with bloodshot eyes, who looked like he should be pushing a shopping cart under an overpass somewhere, and not be behind the wheel of Lexus, jumped out and ran up to driverside door. He than began to scream at us, his words so slurred that he was barley understandable.

At first, he just screaming over and over “why you taking a picture of my house, why you taking a picture of my house.” Before we could it word edgewise to offer an explanation he began to threatening to kill us, stating that he would hunt us down and that we could not get away from him. At this point I was as terrified as I have ever been, I hald expected him to pull a gun at any minute

Fortunately at this point the car in front of moved so, so my partner hit the gas to get us out of there. The crazy dude jumped back in his Lexus and began to chase us. We got onto the interstate and he continued to follow. Unfortunately a 1990 Astro Van is the best vehicle to have in car chase, especially when the other party is driving a late model Lexus. As we speed down the interstate he would pull along side us and then suddenly and violently swerve at us in an effort to force us off the interstate. This continued for several miles.

While this going on we are on the phone with 911 trying to get some police help, but none came. Finaly as we came to the edge of New Orleans and he gave up the chase. Needless to say this incident ended the project uncompleted. Which ultimately didn’t matter when a year latter Katrina wiped these neighborhoods literally off the map.

Still I got to cross something of my to do list, ultimately car chases are better off left to Hollywood.

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