Today I got in a car accident. It was terrifying. I saw the woman brake in front of me so I tested mine. Realizing I wasn’t stopping I pushed my foot to the floor and continued to slide the 4 meters between she and i. Her shiny red bumper greeted my silver one with a CRUNCH and before I knew what I was doing I shut my car off and got out. I could see the others scrambling out of their car, the driver cursing and swearing and saying something about it being brand new. Her synthetic nail had split leaving a bleeding mess behind and I stared at it repeating “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry. I just couldn’t stop” as she hurled accusations in my direction. Isn’t it funny the side of human nature we see when faced with a crisis or emergency? We see the inner workings of each other. We see the treasures and the kindness and we see the darkness and cruelty. I asked repeatedly if she and her son were okay and if they had a cell phone. Mine was dead so they had to call the police. I went to my trunk as they sat in their car calling the police, and my shaking fingers searched frantically for my phone. As I plugged it in inside my car the woman came back looking in through the window. “You weren’t talking on your cell phone when you hit me were you?” she sputtered. I was not, but thinking of other moments I had used my cell phone while driving I surely realized how ridiculous (and guilty) I would have felt had I been. It all felt so big- smashing into the back of someone, potentially causing injury and some hefty legal and damage fees. I think it’s easy to forget what kind of a weapon vehicles can be. The woman softened, for a moment, and handed me her phone. “You can use it if you need to” she said, and wandered off back to her car.
It’s also easy to forget the weapon in words. By the time the cop showed up I was a shaking mess. He was predictably sympathetic to the red car owner’s cause and I received a lecture on knowing what to provide in the event of an accident, which I did not because I’ve never actually been in one before. My brain felt like it was operating in an ice bath- slow, foggy and unprepared. I tried to explain my side of the story I just as well could have sat on the hood of my car like an ornament and not said a word and the outcome wouldn’t have been any different. Careless driving. Forget the black ice that created powerful current between my car and hers, the cop deemed my actions careless and wrote up a ticket and fine to match. Forget the 4 meter gap I skid, forget my 7 year perfect driving record. This is perhaps one of those ‘remember, everyone is fighting their own battle’ moments during which I should try to remember the cop’s perspective but mostly all I’m thinking is ‘what about my battle?’. Selfish right?
It took me a very long time to calm down after everything. The woman from the other car who’d discovered “back and neck pain” while the cop interviewed her walked naturally into the gas station quick stop where I pulled into cry. People honked around me and drove off impatiently on their way to work. Some rushed by in a hurry peering at me from their peripherals in concern, while trying to appear like they were minding their own business and I thought- how strange we all are. Bustling from one destination to another, annoyed with delays, annoyed with each other, fighting each other with venomous words and actions, afraid to show each other who we really are under all that; what the darkest and lightest parts of ourselves look like.
My mom and aunt showed up to take me for coffee and sat with me as I cried and poured out my sob story. I went to work and some of the 12 guys I work with rushed to see that I was okay (and hear the gory details). The dark lifted a little. Text messages poured in from concerned friends. It’s these moments that truly force you to straddle the line. I can focus on the cop who gruffly handed me my fine and said “This was your fault. I’m not going to hold your hand”, while laughing,OR I can think of my mom’s hug while I cried in her arms (I was kind of a baby about the whole thing- lots of tears), the coworker that admitted sheepishly “well, I’m just glad you’re okay” or the kind words of loving friends. I believe we have these moments every day- these choices between living on one side or the other and that determines the outcome of our person. It’s never easy (sometimes one world tugs a little harder than the other) but these choices authenticate our character and define our values. For those moments lost in the dark, be sure to carry a light to find your way out.