Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crash

For the past few months I've had a nagging feeling that I was going to get into a car accident. When the Boy and I were rear ended a few weeks ago, I assumed that was the accident. But it never quite felt like everything was settled. Mostly because when I had imagined this car accident, it was much more violent and disturbing than being rear ended by another car that was going about 10 miles per hour.

Well, this week I had another accident. It was late Monday evening and I had spent the last two days in Atlanta for a business trip. I was driving back from the airport and all I wanted to do was get home in time for my favorite TV show. My car was in the right lane. I was going the speed limit and I wasn't distracted by talking on my phone or checking texts or e-mails. I was just peacefully driving and listening to my favorite CD.

All of a sudden I heard a loud noise and felt a jolt from behind as the other car crashed into mine. Then I lost control. For the next 10-15 seconds everything in front of me was a blur as my car swerved back and forth across the two lanes. All I could think of was that I needed to find a way to stop the car or I would crash into something else. I grasped the steering wheel and held on for dear life as my car jumped the curb and landed on a grassy embankment, stopping just short of a tree and a light post.

My first instinct was to try and get my car off the grass, so I kept driving down the other side of the embankment and ended up in a parking lot. Then I parked my car and started looking around for the other driver, but he was nowhere to be found. I sat there for a moment wondering what had just happened. Then a van pulled up beside me. I got out of my car and a woman jumped out of the passenger side of the van and came running up to me.

"You poor thing, let me give you a hug!" she exclaimed and she embraced me tightly. "You must have been so scared," she continued. "But you did such a good job. You are such a good driver." She went on to explain that she and her husband were right behind me when it happened. The other driver veered over into my lane, as if I wasn't even there. And after our cars collided he just kept on going.

Initially, she thought the car next to her was going to try to chase down the Phantom Driver who hit me, but no one else ever came back to the scene. I turned around and looked at my car to assess the damage. The entire driver side was dented and there were thick black scratch marks from the rear bumper all the way up to the front bumper. And my front tire was completely flat.

I took down the name and phone number of the couple and thanked them for stopping. They wanted to stay with me but I assured them that I would call my family to come and help me fix the flat tire and then I would call the police to file a report. Reluctantly, the woman got back into the van and she and her husband drove away.

I called my sister and told her what had happened. She volunteered my brother in law to come and fix the flat tire. Then I called 911 to try and get the police to come and file a report. I wasn't really sure what city I was in, so the 911 operator asked me to find the address on the closest building so she could look it up. As was walking through the parking lot to try and find the address, a van pulled up next to me. It was the same couple who had stopped right after the accident. I finished my call with the 911 operator and the woman rolled down her window.

"We just had to come back," she began. "I kept thinking about all the times that young girls are left alone in their cars and all of the things that can happen. We wanted to wait with you until someone came to help." And they did. She and her husband stayed and made small talk in the parking lot until my brother in law arrived.

When they left she squeezed my hand and I thanked them again for helping me. Then my brother in law changed my flat tire. By the time he finished, the police had not arrived yet. I felt guilty asking him to wait so I tried to tell him that he could go home. But he would have no part of that. "I am going to stay with you until the police come and then I am going to follow you home," he said with authority. I didn't even attempt to argue with him. I actually appreciated the company.

A few minutes later the police officer finally showed up and took my report. When he asked about the other driver, I explained that I didn't see much because he came up from behind me and he never stopped after he hit me. The officer just shook his head disparagingly. "Probably a drunk driver," he said. "I am really sorry that you had to go through this." And I could tell that he really meant it.

After the police officer pulled away, I drove home with my brother in law close behind me. I knew that I would probably be up all night re-living the accident and I really wanted to have someone stay with me, so I called the Boy. "I just got in a car accident," I said when he picked up the phone. "I can tell you all of the details later, but I was wondering if you could come and stay with me tonight."

"I am on my way," he replied without hesitation. "See you in 30 minutes."

By the time the Boy arrived at my house I was exhausted, but still wired from the accident. As soon as he walked in the door and hugged me I just burst into tears. It was the first time I could really let go of everything. And then the Boy listened patiently as I relived every detail of the accident and went into an hour long rant about all of the bad people in our society. I was so resentful of being forced out into the world for these stupid business trips. If I could have just stayed at home like I wanted to, maybe none of this would have happened.

"And the worst part is that I am starving. I had a frozen yogurt before I got on the plane and I just assumed I would eat something when I got home," I complained to the Boy. Now it was after midnight and I still had not gotten around to eating anything.

"Well, I can fix that." The Boy got up off the couch and headed towards my kitchen. "I cooked dinner for myself tonight and I packed some really good leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I can heat them up for you if you want." So there we sat at my dining room table eating brussels sprouts and roast pork loin in the middle of the night.

Eventually I settled down from the anxiety of the day's events. The Boy and I headed upstairs to try and get some rest. "So, do you think they will total out my car?" I asked the Boy as we laid in bed. "You know how much I love that car. I am not ready to give it up yet."

"I wouldn't think so," he said optimistically.

"There is damage in so many places," I continued. "The front bumper, the rear bumper, both of the driver side doors and the undercarriage. And who knows what other mechanical issues they will find. In fact, by the time they replace all of those parts it won't even be my car anymore." I was starting to feel deflated.

"They may replace all of those things, but it will still have the same soul," the Boy reassured me.

"Well, I guess it serves me right for getting too attached." I said. Whether it is another person or an inanimate object like a car, you can't assume that anything will be around forever. How many times will I have to learn that lesson the hard way.

Over the past two days, I have told the story of my accident multiple times. And the response from each person is always the same. No one can believe that this Phantom Driver could just hit me and drive away into the night without any consequences. They all want to brainstorm ways that the police could track him down. But this is not an episode of CSI. Even if they could put out an APB for a dark blue car of an unknown make and model with damage to the front passenger side, I doubt they have the time or resources to do it.

Everyone wants to go after the bad guy, except for me. A few weeks ago I was jumping out of my car to yell at the Idiot Driver who rear ended us. I couldn't seem to hold back my rage. This time I could have been killed and my car was completely destroyed. But there is no one to yell at and no chance of ever recovering my $500 deductible. I just have to accept it and move on.

Sure, I could choose to spend my time being angry at the Phantom Driver who hit me. But honestly I don't have the energy to worry about him. I am just grateful to be alive. And I would rather focus on the people who went out of their way to help me: the couple who pulled over, my brother in law who fixed my tire, the police officer who came to take my report and the Boy who dropped everything to be at my side when I really needed him.

This experience has shown me that for every bad person in this world, there are at least four good people. And that makes me want to be a better person. As for the Phantom Driver, karma will catch up with him someday. Let's just hope it happens before anyone else gets hurt.

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