When I was 16, a deer flew across the main street in front of the Hardee’s of my home town and charged the windshield of my dad’s new car while I was driving. Out of nowhere this rampaging buck filled my vision. My dad had just bought the car to take on a family trip the next week. He’d been in the back seat with a bad back.
In the manner of a truly invincible teenager, I don’t remember being worried about myself at all. Instead, I was terrified the crash had just thrown my dad around the car, hurting his back further.
And the windscreen was smashed in. The deer’s shoulder had pushed in the window frame in front of the passenger.
The deer didn’t have insurance.
If there’s a funny point, it was the novelty t-shirt I’d been wearing. “Wisconsin Shark Hunter’s Association.” It even had a fake bite out of it. The officer, upon seeing the shredded shirt with the screen printed blood, needed both my dad and I to convince him it wasn’t my innards that were torn up.
Well… not my physical innards.
I was pretty sure I’d not only ruined the family vacation, not to mention the new car, but I’d also killed a deer in cold blood. It all hit me hard, and I remember trying to be very grown up during the aftermath. I didn’t go emotionally numb until the officer asked if I wanted to take it home for venison. It’s probably a requirement in Wisconsin that he asked me that, but it put a capstone on the horror of it all.
Fast forward many years.
I was 23 or just barely 24. It was a horrid, snowy mess, and I was crawling along at less than 20 mph to start my 6am shift. I’d just exited a four-lane road, and was going down the ramp to turn left under the highway. In the dark and snow through my rear view mirror I noticed headlights coming in fast.
A huge late-70s Chrysler Land Yacht barreled into the back of my little Geo Tracker. He pushed me into a support pillar under the overpass. I saw my car’s hood pop open, the glove box exploded and mechanical bits landed in the passenger seat. Then I don’t remember anything for a while.
When I regained awareness, the Chrysler was gone. I didn’t have a mobile phone yet – they were still the purview of the wealthy – so I walked to the nearest place I found open and called it in. After my accordioned Tracker was hauled away, the officer finished his report and left. What I did next I can only chalk up to a combination of shock and poverty, and realistically it was probably mostly shock. I walked the 6.9 miles back home in the snow and didn’t speak to anyone for several days. I’d lost all faith in people over that. Not that the driver caused an accident, but that he drove off and left me.
I also lost my job thanks to their strict intolerance of the “no show.”
The police actually tracked down the Chrysler. Turned out its owner lived nearby. He was uninsured. So the whole thing ended with the city trying to fine ME for supposed damage to a cement pylon. I remember my insurance agent saying it was common for municipalities to blame the insured drivers so they had a hope in collecting something. So much for a fair justice system. The insurance company fought it. I have no idea how that ended up, but since I was an under-25 male, my rates went up though I was declared not at fault.
My faith in government and people has never quite been restored.
Which brings us to today.
I was on my way to pick up my parents from the airport. I was on a four-lane highway, about to turn left onto another. This required me to stop at a light, then cross under and turn left at a second light. The similarities to my last accident make me feel cursed.
I stopped at the first light.
When it turned green I crossed under and began my left turn at the green arrow. Two oncoming lanes of cars were at a stop, so I didn’t see the car in the third, farthest lane flying at me until it was colliding with the passenger side of my fiancé’s car. I remember feeling airborne as I went up over a small bank of melted and refrozen ice, and I remember being sure I was going to tip over sideways as I came down the other side.
When the bouncing stopped, I was shaking. I’d hit my head on the side window and my hand hurt. I didn’t know where anything was.
I did my best check to see if I was alive. I’ve read too many stories where ghosts are standing right next to their bodies not sure what’d just happened. Pain is the indicator of life, though, so I moved on to trying to feel for broken bones. Once I’d determined nothing internal was grinding, I started looking for my phone. It’d flown out of my pocket into the passenger foot well. Unlike the last time, when I’d only called the police station, this time I called 911.
Help on the way. Time to call Jason. I hated doing it. Not because his favorite car of all time was totaled (that shame would hit me later), but because I knew he’d be frantic to get to me and I’d left him at home without a car. I didn’t want to do that to him. I wanted to be able to handle it somehow, but wisdom has come grudgingly with age.
So, I called him and added the final piece of crappy news to an already amazingly crappy weekend.
And then I had to let my parents know I wouldn’t be there to pick them up.
And I was running out of sunlight.
And you’re supposed to take your own pictures of accidents and I hadn’t done that yet.
So I tested my legs and climbed out to take pictures.
Then texted my mom a picture of the accident, and told her I was ok enough to get out and take pictures but wouldn’t be there to pick them up. As I knew they would be, they were far more worried about me than about getting an Uber.
And that’s the crux of it. I hate, no I LOATHE having to tell people … what? I needed help? I couldn’t make an obligation? I’ve just created a pile of crap for everyone? They’d have to watch me for signs of spinal injury? I’m imperfect? I’m mortal?
I can already feel myself retreating into a cave where nobody can see me. After all, out of sight, out of mind, right? I hope that by writing this down now, while it’s fresh, I can avoid the worst of my habitual need to hide or act like everything is ok.
Truth is, it’s not going to be okay, is it? Another person in another car was involved. They’re telling a completely different story, and they’re uninsured. Jason’s car has serious damage and I have no idea how that’ll play out. I can only type with one hand at the moment, and can’t turn my head to the right without wincing.
And I don’t want pity, but I fear I’m going to have to suck it up and accept some.
So I’ll save this post as is and ask Jason to read it and let me know if he’s ok with me posting it.
Then I’ll share. Probably gonna turn off the ability to comment on this post though. I’m not ready for comments. Just saying.