Subscribe for 33¢ / day
Damaged Caltrans road sign following accident

A Caltrans road sign, which was facing west on Trancas Street before the accident, was knocked backwards and spun around from a collision with a motorist on Aug. 23.

Noel Brinkerhoff, Eagle

Earlier this year my boss said something to me that summed up the dark aura that seems to cling tenaciously to my old Honda Civic.

“What is it with you and your car?” Sean said in February from his corner office at the Napa Valley Register. “First, it gets hair extensions, and now this.”

By “this” he was referring to the spectacle of a pink feather boa that had tightly wrapped itself around the rear axle of my car that month. It stayed there for almost a week, and became the subject of jokes and comments from coworkers as well as ordinary strangers.

The other part of his remark — about hair extensions — referenced my odyssey last year of having my car stolen, and then recovered, which resulted in two lengthy columns chronicling my emotional ordeal.

My car did it again last week when it was part of still another misadventure — one that occurred only two days before the anniversary of its auto theft in San Francisco last August.

Last Wednesday, I was driving my brother to a doctor’s appointment, heading east on Trancas Street.

The first oddity in this otherwise routine trek surfaced while we were waiting at the intersection with Jefferson Street. I noticed a gentleman walking in the middle of the road, and in my direction.

He seemed concerned about something as he walked right past my car.

Once the light turned green and I slowly pulled forward, I noticed a large white pickup truck parked off to the side of Trancas where parking isn’t allowed.

I didn’t give the truck or the man much thought as I drove into the intersection, my car occupying the left lane on Trancas.

Just as we cleared the intersection with Jefferson, something in my rearview mirror seized my attention.

A small gray car was traveling close behind me — so close that its image completely filled the rearview mirror.

You know someone is driving too close when it seems like their vehicle is in the backseat of your car.

Even more concerning was the realization that the driver was accelerating.

Before I could finish the thought — What the hell are they… — the car smacked into me.

I looked again in the mirror, and saw the car had not stopped, or even backed off.

I started to accelerate to create some separation between me and this road warrior, but it didn’t do any good. Mad Max accelerated along with me.


My backend was again rocked by the road warrior.

At this point I figured an evasive maneuver was in order. I looked sharply to my right and saw the lane next to me was clear, so I swerved into it, hoping to avoid a third collision.

My decision got me out of harms way. But the road warrior wasn’t finished causing mayhem.

They zoomed past me in the left lane, and began to veer into the center lane, where just up ahead Caltrans had parked a mobile electronic sign warning motorists about construction in another part of town.

You could see what was going to happen next before it actually did.

As the car glided into the center lane without slowing down, it rammed into the Caltrans sign, jolting the large, steel carriage backwards and nearly into the oncoming, west-bound traffic.

Still, the road warrior wasn’t done.

Mad Max veered out of the center lane and back into the eastbound left lane, where a tree service vehicle was driving unsuspectingly.

They plowed into the back of the truck, which pulled over immediately, with the car hooked onto the trailer hitch like a fish.

I pulled over but kept a safe distance, not knowing what kind of state the driver was in. I half expected them to jump out and start running down the street, maybe even ping pong off some more cars.

I saw that the driver of the tree service truck had exited his vehicle to see what was up with the road warrior. I got out of my car and jogged towards them.

We found a middle-aged woman conscious in the drivers seat, her airbag deployed. Her eyes were a little glassy. She wasn’t all there.

I ran back to my car and grabbed my cell phone to call 911.

Just then the white pickup I had noticed parked illegally on Trancas drove past me and pulled up right behind the woman’s car.

I approached the pickup driver, whose name was Steve, after I got off the phone with the 911 operator. I had noticed him talking to the woman and offering her some food.

Steve told me he had spotted her further back on Trancas driving erratically, even hopping some sidewalks.

He had pulled over near the Big 5 Sporting Goods and gotten out of his truck to see he could help her while she waited for the red light at Jefferson.

But before he could do anything, the light changed and she took off, rampaging into me, the Caltrans sign, and the tree service truck.

She didn’t seem injured, according to Steve. He ventured to guess she was experiencing low blood sugar, which was why he gave her something to eat.

Napa Police arrived and took over the situation. They checked on the woman, and collected information from me and the tree service guy.

As things calmed down, I walked around to the back of my car to assess the damage.

I was surprised to find modest damage to my bumper. I had expected much worse after getting hit twice.

The surprisingly condition of my car reminded me of when it was stolen on Aug. 25 of last year in San Francisco. After it was in the hands of a meth junkie for three days, I expected my Honda to be trashed, if not wrecked.

But other than some wrappers and garbage on the seats and floor, my car back then was fine. The most memorable thing I found inside it was a reddish orange hair extension occupying my drivers seat.

“First, it gets hair extensions, and now this,” echoed my boss’ voice.

My car has a way of getting into trouble, but also escaping serious harm.

I’d prefer it stop getting into trouble altogether.