Monday morning started like any other work day. My co-worker arrived at work to take over for the day and I packed up my things while filling her in on the shenanigans that happened that weekend. I was tired, but no more than previous shifts after working all night. I put my things on the passenger seat of me car and walked around to the driver’s side, checking my tires like my Father taught me to do before getting in to the drivers’ seat. They were fine, so I got in and started her up while putting on my seat belt. I put the car in gear and backed out of my space. As I drove to the highway, I felt a little tired. Again, not that unusual for a Monday morning.
Things went pretty well until I got off the highway and started driving down another major highway. That’s when the fatigue started to catch up to me. So I turned my radio up, the AC on and continued on my way. I was fifteen minutes away from my house when I pulled out my phone to call my mother and tell her that I would be home soon and to ask her to keep an eye out for me. That’s when things got weird.
I remember having my hand on the phone in my lap, I remember closing my eyes for a second to rest them, then the next thing I know I’m jerking awake just in time to see the back end of a dump truck getting way too close. I knew instantly I wouldn’t be able to stop in time so I jerked my head around while slamming on the breaks. No room to get over to another lane. Shit. I jerked the wheel and aimed for the dump truck’s tires.
I’d just had my first serious accident since getting my license at sixteen.
Nerves shot, I search for my phone to call 911 and report it, but my head had other ideas and I found myself hitting the phone number for my mother.
“Mom? I just crashed my car.”
“Are you serious? Please tell me you’re joking.”
“No, I’m not joking.”
“Where are you? Are you okay?”
“I think I’m okay. I’m at the intersection of Pike and Southern.”
“I’ll get your Father. We’re on our way.”
“Thanks, Mom. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I was shaking as I got out of the car, phone still in hand, to see what damage I had done. At this point, I realized really quickly that I was in shock and that scared me. I had shut down and was answering everyone’s questions on auto-pilot. There was already a cop on the scene. I couldn’t remember calling him, then I realized he was talking to me. I answered his questions and found out that he was on his way to work. He saw the whole thing.
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
More questions followed, this time from the driver of the dump truck and a Good Samaritan that stopped to see if I was all right. I never got her name. When she left, there were more questions, this time from a Fire Chief who stopped to see if I needed attention. I never got his name either, but I’m happy he stopped too.
While standing on the side of the road waiting for the local PD to show up, I realized something. That whole thing where your life flashes before your eyes when you’re in something like that? That’s bullshit. It doesn’t. You think about that kind of thing after something like this happens and you’re standing under a cloudy sky, staring at the car that gave up it’s being to save your life. That’s when you start feeling the urge to cry and the only thing you can think to do to stop yourself from crying it to start babbling and posting pictures to Twitter. Anything to take your mind off what happened.
“Never again.” I swore on the side of the road while waiting to receive the many citations I was sure to get from this accident. The cop who stopped to see if I was okay and control the scene looked at me then.
“Yeah, that was my wake up call too. I was in an accident like this when I worked nights. It catches you off guard and you’re a much better driver after something like this.”
I looked at him and repeated myself, “Never again. I’m getting off the night shift.”
That’s about the time when I started to get my faculties back and went over to the driver of the dump truck to see if he was all right. He assured me that he was. My parents arrived shortly after that to help me decide what to do about the car. Even at my age the first thing I wanted when I saw my parents, was a hug. I’d never dealt with something like this before and I thank god they were there to help me through it. I’ll be able to handle it better if there’s a next time.
The cop who stopped left to get to work on time and shortly there after the cop who would be taking care of the accident scene showed and started the information gathering. I didn’t receive a ticket, but there might be one if I did any damage to the dump truck. It seems absurd, my little Volvo doing damage to a dump truck, but it’s possible. That car was a tank on wheels. I always felt safe driving it and I’ll miss that car dearly.
After getting the car towed, Mum insisted I go to the hospital after. It took two hours, six or seven x-rays, a couple of painkillers and a cute nurse to tell me that I’d be all right after a few days rest. I called my boss to give him the news that I wouldn’t be in to work the next day and this is what he said to me after I told him what happened:
“You know the Destruction Derby is on Sunday, right?”
I couldn’t help it, I laughed. I have the best boss. A short ten minute phone call and shortly there after I was on my way home. Since I had posted the photo of my car and what happened on Twitter, I had an out pouring of support and well wishes. I spent the next few hours taking phone calls and answering Tweets, while sniffling and trying very hard to hold back the tears because the people I talked to every day cared. I instantly felt better after that, so much so that I managed to take a short nap without breaking down completely. I knew there’d be a delayed stress reaction. After all, I work as a mental health technician and I’m trained to recognize that sort of thing. It happened later that evening while I was petting my dog and watching Castle. The episode wasn’t even that sad; but there I was, crying my eyes out over a blue butterfly.
I thank whatever intervened on my behalf and made sure I had enough time to turn the wheel and step on the breaks most sincerely. God, my Aunt/Uncle/Grandfather, whomever. I’m grateful that I’m alive today; I really am. I’m alive for a reason and I just hope that this gives me the kick in the ass I needed to find that reason and grab it with both hands because I’ve realized something:
Life is too damn short and if you’re going to sit around and waste space, the universe will find a way to shock the shit out of you so that you find something to do with your life. I got the message, Life. I’m getting off my ass, I promise.