“What the fuck just happened!?”
When I think back to last night – actually, the wee morning hours of the very day that is now drawing to a close as I type this – shouting those words is the first thing that comes to mind.
The impetus for the exclamation was the sudden, jarring impact that left my car looking like this:
You might notice that the entire casing of the bumper is gone. Dead upon impact.
I said my heartfelt goodbye after dragging his poor, mangled corpse from the middle of the Dallas North Tollway off to the side of the road.
He died a hero’s death. Without his sacrifice, it might have been my mangled corpse being dragged from the middle of the Dallas North Tollway.
Heavy thought huh? Tell me about it. That’s the second thing that comes to mind when I think about last night:
Man, am I lucky.
My neck and lower back have grown increasingly sore as today has gone on, which is a concern. But here I am. Able to type. Able to tell the story of what happened.
To whatever guardian angel kept me from slamming my head against the steering wheel, kept my car from spinning out into the nearby wall, kept me…alive…just know that appreciation and gratitude bursts from my heart for you.
The news here in Dallas was dominated not long ago by the story of the Dallas Cowboys player who died because he was riding in the car with a teammate who was driving drunk. And just last week, leaving the very same Super Bowl I attended, family members of 49ers player Delanie Walker were killed after being slammed into by a drunk driver.
I suppose I should mention that.
The woman who slammed into me from behind, accelerating as she did so (at least that’s how it felt), appeared so intoxicated upon emerging from her vehicle that I’m not sure I can describe it in words.
It was so bad that my first thought upon seeing her – when she spilled out of the driver’s side of her totaled car amid a heavy cloud of smoke and holding something cigar-like in shape and color – was just…pity.
This woman had no idea where she was or what was going on. It was not surprising that she hadn’t thought to, or been able to, avoid smashing into the back of me as if trying to drive right through me.
This woman, unkempt in appearance, thought, and speech, literally had to be pulled out of the middle of the road to avoid being in harm’s way as traffic continued on past us. Fortunately, two cars’ worth of selfless, kindhearted people had stopped to help us. They protected this woman from herself.
So yeah, I can’t begin to express the gratitude I feel right now.
No, I’m not looking forward to having my neck and back looked at. I’m not looking forward to working with insurance companies. And I’m not looking forward to having to testify at the inevitable DUI hearing I’ll be called to. But I sure am looking forward to my next breath, and the one after that, and then the one after that.
I walked away. So many people have similar encounters with impaired drivers and do not. I’m lucky. At least I was last night. And I’m so grateful for it.
My apologies if the tone of this post is a bit…heavy. My thoughts are a bit heavy right now.
It’s a discombobulating experience, being hit from behind with zero warning – I don’t think her lights were on, because I had no idea another car was near me – and then realizing that in the consequential moments right after impact, I pretty much won the outcome lottery. It could have been so much worse.
And yet, it didn’t have to happen at all. And this is a thought that, frankly, fills me with a rather foreign feeling: anger.
Because I didn’t do a damn thing wrong. And lucky to be alive or not, I shouldn’t have to deal with with the inconveniences that await me.
Sure, you can argue with wisdom of being on the road at the time I was on the road. This was one hell of a reminder of the old adage that all of our parents have told us over and over again. Yes, I get it, the probability of encountering an impaired driver is certainly higher after Closing Time than during normal driving hours.
But my reason for being on the road was because I was driving someone home. And I did so with extra care and precaution because it started raining sideways not soon after we’d left. A 25-minute drive took over an hour. But we made it, she was home safely and soundly, and I was five minutes from being the same when I became an unwilling participant in Tollway bumper cars.
I’m not trying to be flippant in comparing it to bumper cars. That’s the best way I can describe the sensation of impact, because it’s the closest comparable personal experience I have.
I remember once doing bumper cars with the family and being blasted into from behind without realizing it was coming. It was shocking. Of course, it wasn’t TOO shocking because you’re always half-expecting to be hit when doing bumper cars. I had zero expectation of this, and the speed of impact was far greater.
“What the fuck just happened!?” indeed.
So as I write this, I am angry and a bit discombobulated. As fate would have it, I had to make the very same drive just a few hours ago after getting my rental car. It was really, really weird and eerie.
But mostly I am just appreciative than I can feel anger and discombobulation. That means I’m here. That means I’m not another drunk driving statistic, at least not the worst kind of drunk driving statistic. And that means I’m grateful.
As I’ve mentioned a few times in other recent posts, appreciation and gratitude are my personal themes for 2013. I want to feel them and express them more. What better time than right now?
To God, or my guardian angels, or just random chance…or whoever/whatever is responsible for me being alive…thank you.
To Ty Hardaway, the driver of the SUV limo who saw the accident from the other side of the Tollway and doubled back to be of great assistance and a witness, thank you. Your goodheartedness was inspiring.
To the other two gentlemen who did the same, whose names I didn’t catch but who went so far as to bring me a towel to dry off with as we stood in the pouring rain, thank you.
To my rear bumper, I hope you’re enjoying Bumper Heaven. You earned it. ‘Ppreciate you bro.
Finally, to Kim – at least I think that is your name, based on the insurance info the state trooper found in the car and gave to me – while I have nothing to thank you for, obviously, I’m glad that the only apparent physical injury you suffered was a busted lip. It would have been so much worse for you too.
And even though this moment of fate that brought us together is likely to bring many rough but deserved consequences your way, I hope that as your journey continues you can find peace from whatever demons led you to be in the state you were in last night. That was a shell of a human being I encountered in the aftermath of our unfortunate and unnecessary collision. I can’t help but feel sadness when I think about it. I just can’t imagine anyone with a happy heart being in such a bad way.
I wondered if I should sit down and write this. I’m so glad I did. (And thanks for reading, if you have.)
It’s disconcerting, to say the least, dealing with the aftermath of a moment that legitimately had the potential to take your life away from you. Shoot, just typing that sentence will mess with your head. It just did mine.
But the discombobulation has subsided as I’ve typed. And, frankly, some* of the anger has too, replaced with an unexpected (but frankly more pleasant) wish that last night’s moment of impact can somehow prove to be a positive one for Kim.
* – As consciously averse to anger as I am, I can’t totally let go of it all, even as I try to empathize. Nor should I. This woman could have taken my life or someone else’s. That’s worth being angry about.
Most of all, I’m determined to find the positive in this. And I will. I know this from recent experience.
This is the second car accident I’ve been involved in over the past year. The last one, in March of 2012, also was not my fault. And sure, it was inconvenient, and I was fortunate to not be injured, but in hindsight a part of me is glad it happened. It came at a time when I needed a jolt of…reality? inspiration? something…to initiate some positive changes in my life. I decided to spin the accident, in my own mind, as the universe conspiring to give me that very jolt. You may call me crazy, but it worked. Much of what I wrote about here happened after that point.
And so I’m going to view what happened last night as the universe conspiring to provide me with the ultimate reminder for why it’s so important to live every single day with a heart filled with appreciation and gratitude.
Because what if that had been…it? It could have been.
Would the people who are important to me have known they are important to me? Would I have had regrets? Would I have left this world a better, happier, more optimistic place than I found it?
I’m so grateful I don’t need to answer those questions with finality right now. I can answer them…and continue to do something about the answers.
Appreciate life. That’s all I can think about right now.
And do I ever.