Driving is something that becomes second nature as we age. It’s something that we, by the time college rolls around, don’t really have to think about anymore. Just hit that cruise control and it’s all gravy, baby. Putting on some mascara in the review mirror on your way to class? You’re such a champ. Eating Chipotle, snapping a burrito-stuffed selfie #nom, and still serving as the official weekend-morning-walk-of-shame-prevention taxi driver? Get it, girl. Stuck in traffic on your way to the tanning salon? No biggie, you’ll just troll through your various social media outlets until it starts to move again. Need to parallel park in front of your favorite restaurant on girls’ night? Well, no one really has this down yet, so we’ll just leave it out. Did I just hit the curb?
Most of the time, our overly confident ways manage to get us from point A to point B with no problem, but there are times when this comes back to bite us in the ass. “Don’t turn red. Don’t turn red. Don’t turn red.” It’s going to turn red. “I think it’s my turn?” It’s definitely not your turn. “Is he telling me to go?” Nope, he isn’t. “OMG! Jason just texted me!” The light also just turned green and 10 people are now honking at you, but don’t worry. Road rage doesn’t kill people, people kill people. There’s also my favorite: the approach of a fiery red sports car from behind. “Is he going to stop? He’s going pretty fast. I’m sure he’ll stop. OMG. He’s not stopping. He’s really not stopping. IS HE EVEN LOOKING?” He’s not even looking.
The few seconds before your first minor accident are filled with mental blankness. Time slows to a deadening pace and everything is in slow motion. Your emotions are a mixture of confusion, fear, and shock as you watch what unfolds. You have an urgent desire to stop what is happening, but you also have no control whatsoever. It’s like you’re falling off a cliff and desperately grasping for a hand to pull you to safety. Sometimes you are just going to fall, and when you do, your thoughts may mirror these.
“What just happened? Is this real life? Did what I think happened really just happen? Oh, my God. Where is my phone? I have to call Dad. No! I can’t have my phone–they’ll think I was texting. What do I do? Do I get out? Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Don’t cry. Don’t. Cry. What if I’m hurt? Am I hurt? No, I’m not hurt. But what if I am? What if he’s hurt? Or is it a she? I hope it’s a woman. She won’t make me cry.”
You slowly get out of the car. Your heart is pounding, and thoughts are racing through your mind. Everything around you is muffled.
“Oh my God, it’s a man. Fuck. Don’t cry. What is he saying? He’s coming closer. Insurance? Police? What? Don’t call the cops! What if they find the half-empty bottle of vodka in my trunk!? Is my car okay? Take a picture. They always say to take a picture. Picture of him. Picture of the car. You can’t have enough pictures. Dad is going to KILL me. I’m dead. I’m sooooo dead. Like, there was that time I ran over a squirrel, but this is SO not the same. Why would I even compare it to that? God, why am I so stupid? Only stupid people get into accidents. I’m so stupid.”
You finally find your insurance card, which you have never seen before in your life, because that’s what parents are for. You hand it over trying to hide your uncontrollable shaking.
“I’ll pay for everything. Just don’t be mad at me. I’m so sorry, sir. Why am I such an ass? Wait. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault. Whose fault is this? I don’t care. I’ll pay for everything. Just get me home. Can I drive home? What if I’m stuck here? Well, it wasn’t that bad. I’ll be okay. But what if something is wrong on the inside? I don’t know what goes on in there. I don’t know what a car does. Well, it drives–that’s what it does. What if I break down on the way home? Dad, where are you when I need you? This man is so mean. Why is he yelling at me? Just stop yelling at me! Oh no. No. Don’t cry. Please don’t cry. Deep breath. Deeeeeep breath. Just wait until you’re in the car. Just a few seconds longer.”
You eventually finish dealing with the hostile victim of your everyday fender bender. You get inside the car and instantly begin sobbing–not just your average crying, but the full on, can’t breathe, why-don’t-I-have-tissues-in-my-car kind of sobbing. Instinctually, you begin rummaging through your purse for a pair of sunglasses and your phone.
“Why can’t there just be a backspace for life? Siri, why don’t you ever work? Oh, it’s ringing. Please pick up. ‘Daddy? I have *sniffle* to tell you something. Please don’t be mad at me. I got into an accident, and I don’t know what to do, and the guy was mean, and I just wish you could come get me. *Trying to breathe past snot bubbles* Yes, I’m okay. No, I don’t know where I am. I think I’m somewhere downtown. I might be able to drive. I don’t know. Does it sound like I can drive? Why did I have to go to school so far away?’ ”
Then, you hear the most relieving words in this world from the only person on the planet capable of calming you down: “Sweetheart, everything is going to be okay.”