Friday, July 3, 2015

It Only Takes a Moment

For most people making a life change like mine, there's a plan.
I had no plan.
I only knew I couldn't move forward until I left my home, left my marriage.
Once I began to tell my friends, one I had known for 35 years (but hadn't seen in 15!) invited me to come stay in her home in exchange for part-time work in her shop.  It was an unexpected offer and one that intrigued me. Elena had an antique/consignment business — and I loved rearranging things and setting up displays, plus my decades of thrift-store shopping meant I had an abundance of things to sell.  It seemed very fortuitous and she lived just ten minutes from the ocean — a huge bonus for me.
The ocean is a place of refuge for me.  The smell of briny water, the echoey crash of the waves pounding in on the shore reverberating in one's ears, the intense heat of the sun baking your skin to a darker, more flattering color.  The ocean always made me feel good, made me feel better and that was exactly what I was looking for so, I accepted her invitation, packed the car with boxes of china, pottery, knickknacks, clothes to sell, and supplies from Trader Joe's — Thai Red Curry Sauce, Epicuro wines (and two-buck Chuck), sparkling pomegranate juice, vinegars, pasta, pesto sauce, pitted Kalamata olives — the works.

I drove out of town on my own with no plan other than to get to South Carolina.  I wasn't much looking forward to the four-hour ride but it was a Saturday and the middle of the day when there'd be the least traffic.  Unlike my usual self, I drove UNDER the speed limit the entire way.  I didn't even have my phone out because I didn't want to be distracted by calls or tempted to answer them.  I was being exceptionally careful.   

More than three hours in to the trip, I was on a small two-lane highway going 45 mph in a 55 zone.  I glanced down at my GPS to see how much further before I had to make a change in direction — saw twenty-two miles, looked back up and there — smack in front of me — was the back of a black pick-up truck.

SLAM!  Without time to even step on the brakes, I smashed in to this truck that seemed to be stopped in the road.  And then there was steam or smoke coming out of the hood, my car door was being opened, and a woman from I-don't-know-where was frantically urging me.

“Honey you gotta get out of this car NOW.  Can you move?  We gotta get you out honey.  EARL! Come help me GET HER OUTTA THE CAR!!”

“I can get out but I can’t get out without my phone, my laptop and my chargers,” I stupidly replied.

“Now honey you’re be gonna be okay but you gotta FORGET about those things and get outta this car.  EARL!!  C’mon now honey,”  she implored, hands waving, hair falling in her face.

Chest heaving I repeated in a strangely high-pitched voice, “I can’t leave without my phone and laptop!” I was starting to get hysterical as I saw the pieces of my car scattered over the highway, saw the crack in the windshield, saw the front of my Toyota bunched up against the passenger side of the car.

I knew the laptop and chargers were in my black bag stashed on the car floor right below the impact, so I dragged the heavy bag out but couldn’t find my phone.  The woman’s voice was still insisting I get out of the car.
Slowly it was sinking in.

I’d had an accident. 

My car was badly smashed.

I wasn’t going to be able to drive the rest of the way to Elena’s.

I couldn’t find my phone anyplace and then I realized it was still in my pocketbook.   So with the woman’s hand on my arm lifting and leading me out, I started to exit the car.

Another woman was bringing a folding chair from Clemmon's Seed, Feed and More to the edge of the road so I could sit down.  The ladies from the feed store were looking out for me until the ambulance could get there.  I never saw the truck I'd hit (it rolled off the road and into a telephone pole) or the guy in it who had slowed down to turn in to the feed store.  When I sat down I saw broken pieces of my car — the glass, plastic, and hubcaps littering the roadway — I began sobbing and crying out:


EMS workers showed up, started looking me over and getting me into the ambulance while I kept repeating “OH MY GOD, IS THE OTHER GUY ALRIGHT?” as they kept taking my vitals and reassuring me everything was going to be alright.

“The other guy is refusing to go to the hospital so he’s walking on his own steam.  He’s gonna be fine and so are you but you should let us take you to get checked out.” And off we went to the local medical center.

Three hours later a PA saw me.  No broken bones, no injuries other than significant bruising across my chest (seat belt doing its job) and a painful knee.  Two more hours before I could be released but to where?

The officer who'd been on the scene came to give me the paperwork.  My ticket said I "failed to reduce speed to avoid a collision."

"Isn't there en-knee one you can call?" Officer Ransom asked in his thick Southern drawl.

"No, my husband is more than three hours away and he offered to come, but he can't leave his mom unattended and that would be six hours back and forth.  My friend is over an hour away and not available until later."

"Whay-ell, I cud drive you to the state border but that's as far as I kin go.  Maybe your fr-end cud meet you there?" he offered.

"No, it doesn't make any sense.  I'd just have to come back here Monday with a rental car to get all my stuff.  OH MY GOD, my stuff.  Where is my car?  Do you think it can be fixed?"

"Well m'am, I'll leave that to Mr. Babson to say, but I'd say it was pretty well wrecked.  We tried to move it off the highway but it just wouldn't move no way.  So we had to have it towed to the salvage yard.  Now, I'm off in an hour and I don't think you're getting out of this place before then seeing as nobody's seen you yet, so I'm on tomorrow at 7am and I'm gonna give you a number to call and they'll call me and then I'll call you and I can drive you over to Mr. Babson's if you like.  It ain't far and if he's willing, I can take you there so you can get some of your things outta your car."  I looked at this as a great kindness.

"Is there a place to stay around here?" I asked realizing that I'd have to find somewhere to stay for two nights as I wouldn't hear from the insurance adjuster until Monday and I'd found out that there wasn't any car rental place within 45 minutes that would be open before Monday.  The one place that was nearer had closed at noon.

Officer Ransom looked at me and said, "Well u're gonna have to go about ten miles from here where there's a Days Inn cause that's the nearest place to stay.  And yu're gonna have to take a cab there because there's no other way to get there.  But don't you worry, I'll come get'ya in the morning to get yur things.  You just call that number." and he and his beige Highway Patrol hat and uniform rose to leave.

I called the Days Inn.  I told the clerk I didn't have my Triple A card with me but I had Triple A.  He said he'd believe me and save me a room.  I told him I'd had an accident and didn't have a car.  He said to call Royal Cab and tell them my "situation." 

"What about a restaurant? Do you have one?"   I hadn't eaten in hours and whatever food I'd brought with me was in the car.

"No m'am. We do have a continental breakfast in the morning, but no restaurant on the premises."

"Anything within walking distance?"

"Just the funeral home next door," he replied.  I was certainly glad I wasn't going there.

I called Royal Cab and got the nicest woman.  Told her I needed to stop and get some food.

"Fast food?" she asked.

"Not fast food.  I need real food. Good food."

"Well we got Angelo's and that's Italian and pretty good.  Your driver can take you there and if you call in your order will then that would really help ya out.  Now usually we charge ya $22 for the trip and making one stop — but we'll just charge ya $15 seeing as you're having some troubles tonight."

When I got to my motel room all I wanted to do was get into my pajamas and crawl into bed.  But then I realized — I don't have any pajamas.  I don't have any clothes or my toothbrush or just about anything except my laptop, iPhone and chargers.

At least I had those.  And Netflix.

The dinner from Angelo's was delicious.  I took my painkillers and had a decent night's sleep. In the morning Officer Ransom picked me up and took me to Babson's where Mister Babson came out of his house and unlocked the yard so we could get to my car, pry open the door and get to my luggage.  One look at my car and I started crying all over again.  

Mr. Babson told me flat out there was no salvaging the car.  In a moment my best little 96 Toyota Corolla would be no more.

I tried to think what was the takeaway message from this calamity?   Was it true as many therapists would say "There are no accidents" ?  What was the universe trying to tell me? 

Whatever it was I didn't know.  But I knew that despite this pretty awful setback, I wasn't going back.  I wanted to keep moving forward. Car or no car.

On Sunday afternoon I got a call from the Days Inn manager Dave.  He was home but wondered if I'd gotten out to get any dinner.

"Oh no, I haven't been anywhere — I'm feeling pretty sore but don't worry — I saved half my dinner from the other night for tonight.  And I had yogurt and fruit from breakfast for lunch.  I'm okay Dave."

"Well if you like pizza, I'm gonna send you a pizza for dinner and that way you'll have something leftover for lunch."  And before I knew it there was a knock at my door and the delivery guy brought me a pizza, a dessert pizza, and a liter of soda. 

It was the nicest thing. 

It was again, the kindness of strangers.

On Monday when I took the rental car to get all my things out of my car, not one single thing was broken.  Not the china, not the wine, not the plates, not the pottery, not the knickknacks.  Not one single thing in the car or the trunk.  Very lucky.

I was lucky I wasn't hurt worse.  Lucky the airbags didn't deploy and break my nose.  Lucky not to be paralyzed. Lucky the other guy wasn't either.  Lucky to be alive.   

Because Nationwide took care of the claim and settled with the other driver, the ticket was dismissed, I didn't have to show up in court or pay any court fees or fines.

All in all I have to say — I was feeling unbelievably lucky.

Maybe, just maybe, that was the message.


  1. Wow, I can't believe the state of your car! You were lucky! You were very courageous to continue. Now you're on your way. Be careful, and don't look at that GPS (if it still exists) while driving. Carry on, and enjoy! (once the bruises are gone... -inside and outside).

  2. That was really devastating. Times like that, you can only be thankful that both of you survived mostly unscathed, albeit shaken. It’s too bad about your car, though. Anyway, I hope you were able to shake off that particular incident, and continue driving safely. Take care!

    Ginger Cain @ Ultimate Collision

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thank you Ginger...I'm doing my best but have moments of real fear and haven't replaced the car yet...appreciate your comment. [deleted the first comment due to a typo!]