Hello, and welcome back to the blog.
It’s been eleven days since I last blogged, but I actually have two good reasons: this last Sunday was Easter and I spent the holiday in Virginia with my family, my extended family, and a Considerable Lack of Internet. This is a good thing, believe it or not; sometimes it’s just best to get away from it all.
And last week, Thursday April 13th, I was in a car accident and once I got home I simply did not feel like blogging. I would say I’m sorry about it, but I’m really not.
The accident happened, ironically, on my way home from therapy. At this particular therapy appointment, I admitted to my lovely therapist, “You know, driving isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was.” She smiled and agreed and we talked about fears, risk-taking, and the psychological payoffs for risk-taking that often outweigh the fears that prevent us from taking those risks in the first place.
The universe saw fit to punish me for such a blasphemy, of course, and as I tried to get on the highway I chickened out and failed, looped back around underneath to try again, and made a left turn into an intersection. A series of events then happened, and I’m not sure I can accurately describe them because I don’t know if I’m remembering accurately. I’ll do my best, though.
What I think happened is that the light turned green and I went into the intersection, turning left (on a green arrow, it was totes legal) and somehow failed to see the police officer’s truck that had come to a stop in the middle of the intersection. By the time I saw the truck and comprehended the need for action, I was probably somewhere between six inches and a foot away from the back of the officer’s truck. I believe I turned my wheel a little bit, but only after a lot of crunching sounds and some slight movement on the part of the truck did I remember that I had brakes, and promptly used them.
I was more surprised than anything. The first thing I thought was, and I hope he forgives me for thinking this, “Oh my God, Dad is going to be so angry.” (Forgiveness being hoped for because 1) I was thinking the Lord’s name in vain and 2) I assumed that my dad was going to be angry.)
Then I realized that the front of Gerald, my beloved little old-man car, was the thing that had been making crunching sounds.
At this point, the police officer I had hit got out of her truck and walked back to look at me. She was a bit older, and she looked a little bit annoyed but I remember looking at her and fumbling to open my door, and the first thing I said was, “I am so sorry, I’m so sorry, sorry, sorry—”
And then her face changed. She’d been squinting against the sunlight and it made her look a little bit angry— maybe she was angry. But her face seemed to soften and she just said, “Are you all right?”
I said, “Yes, I’m just fine.”
Because I was. I’d been doing something between thirty and thirty-five probably, and I hit the back of a truck with the front of my car and the front of my car crumpled like tissue paper, but the airbags didn’t go off. The only thing that happened inside of my car was that the check engine light went on.
The officer nodded and said, “Okay, that’s good,” and she went back to her car. I’m pretty sure she radioed for the aid of another officer, because about twenty seconds later there was another police car right behind us. This officer was a tall man with a mustache. He also asked me, “Are you all right?” I said, again, “Yes, I’m fine.” At this point the shock and anxiety set in and I started crying. (Until I say otherwise, you can assume that I am crying during the rest of this story.)
The female officer pulled her truck away a little bit. Gerald shuddered, but nothing happened. The mustachioed police officer directed me to try and drive Gerald over to the right-most lane, under the highway bridge. I was able to drive Gerald over and park him along the curb. The truck parked behind me. I put my hazard lights on and stared out the window and took off my sunglasses and proceeded to call my mother.
My mother answered the phone. I said, as clearly as I could manage, “Mom, I’ve been in an accident. A car accident. I’m fine, I’m not hurt at all. I need you to come and get me.”
Those were the important things to say, I think; I was able to get those things out clearly and loudly despite the fact that I was underneath a highway, surrounded by busy traffic. I told her vaguely where I was.
The mustachioed police officer told me that he was getting another officer to fill out the incident report, and that he was going to call a tow truck because my car didn’t look driveable. He asked me if I wanted to stay here under the bridge, or if I wanted to go with the tow truck driver. I elected to go with the tow truck driver, and I called my mother again to update her with this information. The tow truck driver hadn’t arrived and I didn’t know where he would be towing Gerald and I, but I told my mother I would let her know when I had an address.
Another police officer arrived to do the incident report. This guy was younger and I remember he had a really kind face. He came over to the passenger-side of my car and I opened the door to talk to him.
“So, can you tell me what happened?” he asked.
My response: “Um, yeah. I was trying to get on the highway and it didn’t really work because I was in the wrong lane to begin with and I kind of err on the side of caution when I change lanes because I hate doing it because I’m new at driving and so I looped under the first bridge back there, and instead of taking the other loop to get back onto the highway ramp I, like an idiot, went to the intersection instead and I didn’t realize she’d stopped but I’m pretty sure it’s completely my fault anyway because the driver behind is always at fault and I’m really sorry.”
Yes, this was probably all one sentence; yes, it was probably exactly as incoherent as I wrote it; and yes, I said I was sorry again; and yes, I told the police officer it was my fault. Because whether or not the female police officer had made a stupid decision by stopping in the middle of the intersection, my opinion didn’t matter, and anyway I was the driver behind. Legally, I was at fault.
Also, I’m pretty sure the babbling was due to what was more or less a full-blown panic attack, but I knew I couldn’t take my medicine yet because it would make me sleepy and I couldn’t go to sleep yet, as much as I would have liked to close my eyes and not wake up Until The Nightmare Was Over.
The kind-faced police officer was quiet for a couple of seconds, and then he said, “Okay. Thank you. Can I see your license, registration, and insurance information?”
I handed them over. “Yes, here they are.”
“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll be back soon.” He left.
Meanwhile, I moved over to the passenger seat of my car, turned off the engine, and continued to cry.
I heard a noise and saw the female officer pull her truck out into traffic and drive away. I kind of stared at the back of her truck, but I couldn’t see any indication whatsoever that her vehicle had been damaged. Heck, I couldn’t even see a paint scratch.
The mustachioed officer left as well, and I was left with the kind-faced officer, who came back with my information and some papers. I opened the door to take my stuff.
He handed me a paper. “So, you were at fault.”
Me (quietly, taking the paper): “Yeah, I thought so.”
Cop: “We’re letting you off with a warning, and we’re not going to ticket you.”
Me (with renewed tears and sobbing): “Really? Thank you, thank you so much.”
Cop: “It’s failure to control your vehicle. You’re going to have to be sure you can do that in the future.”
Me (incoherently babbling): “Okay, I’ll do that, absolutely, thank you so much, thank you.”
Cop: (kind of half-laughing): “You’re welcome. The tow truck is on its way. I’ll stay here in my car until it arrives, and you said you were going with the tow truck, right?”
Me: “Yeah, I’m going with the tow truck.”
Cop: “All right. You just hang in there.”
Me: “Thank you so much.”
He left and I kept my door open because it was starting to get kind of warm outside. I sat there crying and praying and thinking, “Okay, maybe Dad isn’t going to be quite as angry.”
The tow truck driver arrived, and he was this short little dark-haired guy with a beard and glasses and he smiled at me and I felt instantly safe. I didn’t know why, because he was a complete stranger and I tend to err on the side of not trusting people. I gave him Gerald’s key, he gave me a business card, and I called my mom while watching him drive my tissue-paper car up his little ramp and fasten belts around the tires. I read the address of the garage off the business card and my mom plugged it into her GPS. Then I climbed up into the extremely tall cab of the tow truck and put my seatbelt on.
Tow Truck Driver: “Did you call your ride?”
Me: “Yeah, I just got off the phone with my mom. She’s coming to pick me up at the garage.”
TTD: “That’s good, you’ve got somebody to come and get you.”
Me (tearing up again, dang it): “Yeah.”
TTD (probably seeing me start to cry again and feeling kind of bad): “You know, I have to come tow people from under this bridge about once a week. You’re not the first person I’ve towed in a situation exactly like this. In fact, my wife did the same thing just the other week.”
I think it was then I really realized that this tow truck driver was an extraordinarily kind man, because he went out of his way to say something kind to me. And also I learned that he was married and that made me feel instantly more comfortable about getting in a truck with a male stranger.
I can’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but the driver continued to chat with me for about half of the trip to the garage and then stayed quiet for the latter half. I was grateful, because he had his air-conditioning up on full. It was quiet and cool and sunny and I could finally feel my body start to calm down a little bit, could at last feel my lungs getting the right amount of air.
We got to the garage, and I went inside and called my mom to tell her we’d gotten to the garage. I had to wait for a little while for her to arrive, but I was also able to go out to the impound yard to get some of the important things out of the car. I have no experience knowing how damaged a car is by looking at it, and it looked kind of bad, but the people in the garage were saying that they didn’t know if it was a total loss because the airbags hadn’t gone off.
I slipped out of the impound yard and saw my mom walking away from her van. I called out to her and walked over and you know, I really thought I was done crying. But I wasn’t.
There’s something about finding a person you love after you’ve been through something awful or lonely or both. No matter how long it’s been, no matter where in the world you are, it feels like coming home.
I’ll spare you the boring details about insurance and adjustors and evaluations and phone calls, but on Tuesday we got word back from our insurance that Gerald was definitely a total loss and we needed to empty him out of everything so that he could be taken to salvage. My dad took off work yesterday to go and empty Gerald out, and he came back with the most amazing news.
Here’s the thing: Gerald was a piece of crap. I called him a “little old man car” because he was a 2000 Honda Civic that needed full gas to go twenty-five up a hill. My sister actually named him Gerald because he smelled funny (like an old man, so she gave him an old man name). My parents bought Gerald because my brother needed a car when he was living at home, and they assumed that I could also learn to drive on Gerald and we could both use him for work. My brother moved out to Utah nearly a year ago now, and I became Gerald’s primary driver because I learned to drive on him. I got my license exactly three months ago today, and in the last three months I have done a lot of errand-running and a lot of chauffeuring my youngest brother around because he has Extra-Curricular Activities Of Vital Importance To Eighth Grade.
My parents paid about four thousand dollars for Gerald. The insurance took five hundred bucks for a deductible, but they gave us thirty-eight hundred as his worth before the accident— which means we got thirty-three hundred bucks.
I’m religious, if you haven’t noticed. I’m a Christian— a Latter-Day Saint, to be exact. (A Mormon, colloquially.) I was baptized around the age of eight, like most Mormon children— we consider that the age of accountability. I mostly did that because I was expected to, and also because I had a childlike faith in my parents. I don’t know if I really believed as a teenager, or if I was just going through the motions because it was expected of me. I do know that I tended to value my high school experiences much more than my church experiences, as a teenager.
I don’t think I really believed until I had nowhere else to turn. In late 2012 and early 2013 I was going through some of the most awful experiences of my life and struggling to realize that I needed help— specifically, medication and therapy.
Once I began to get the help I need, I was able to look at my experiences with the perspective of a survivor. I hadn’t actually made an attempt to kill myself, but I’d thought about it quite seriously (as a person does, when they have suicidal thoughts) and come to the conclusion that it would be more inconvenient for people to clean up after and mourn the mess of a life I would be leaving behind. So I kept struggling to live.
It hurt. I’m not going to lie. It hurt and it was like Swimming Through Molasses. It was slow and dark and uncomfortable and I couldn’t see ahead of me or behind me and I couldn’t breathe. But somehow, I found the strength to keep going. I know now that it was not my own strength. If I’d just tried to rely on myself, I would never have made it this far. It was only through God that I could keep going.
I have to come to see late 2012 through the end of 2014 as a miracle. I was at college, on the other side of the country as my family, and I wanted to die and my medications sometimes didn’t stop me from wanting to die and I was doing sixteen credits per semester and holding down a part-time job, twenty hours a week and I was walking up to the health center once a month to renew my medication prescription and I was trying to schedule therapy at BYU’s very, very overbooked Therapy and Counseling Center (or whatever it’s called, I can’t remember anymore) and somehow, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it, and I came home to begin the long, arduous, and oddly boring process of mental and emotional healing.
Late 2012 through 2014 was a big miracle, and 2015 through now was another big miracle, and in this incident, in this car crash, I count several small miracles that add up to a very large miracle:
1. I wasn’t injured in the car accident.
2. The female police officer wasn’t injured in the car accident.
3. My airbags didn’t go off.
4. The other car was probably barely even scratched.
5. The female police officer didn’t yell at me or get angry.
6. The mustachioed police officer also did not yell at me or get angry.
7. The kind-faced police officer did not give me a ticket.
8. The kind-faced police officer let me off with a warning.
9. All of the police officers were nice.
10. The tow truck driver was even nicer.
11. The other people at the garage were also very nice.
12. I was able to adult by myself until my mom arrived, and I did a pretty darn good job at it even though I was extremely traumatized and mid-panic attack.
13. The insurance people were also very nice.
14. Gerald cost $4000 and was a total, but we got $3300 from insurance.
15. My dad has not once been angry with me about any of this situation.
16. My dad kept the collision insurance on Gerald in anticipation of an event like this.
17. We are in a better place financially than we were when we originally got Gerald, so when we are able to look into getting another car, it may end up being a much better car. (Sorry in advance to my brother, who will undoubtedly resent me for this as Gerald was originally purchased for his use.)
18. Everybody I know has been extremely kind to me about it, and some wonderful people have even given me rides to and from places.
19. Driving my mother’s minivan has not been as completely terrible as I thought it would be, and I am slowly getting used to it.
Nineteen little miracles, all of which add up to another big miracle. As my dad put it: “This was the best possible outcome for a car accident.” It kind of sucks that it had to happen at all— but since it did happen, I could not have asked for a better outcome. It’s one of many things that proves to me that God is real, and that He loves me and wants to take care of me when I can’t do it myself.
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