Everyone’s got one of those stories – ya know, the story of their first real car accident. Some of them are pretty intense. I’m pretty sure my story is the weirdest. (Okay, you’re not really surprised at that, are you?)
I was 19, on my way back to school after Spring Break. I was cruising along in my car, Helga (that image that you just got? Yeah, that’s pretty much what she looked like. A tank.), just an hour and a half into my 6 hour trip when IT happened. Somewhere in the row of cars in front of me, someone slammed on their brakes. I can only guess why. All I know is the car in front of me stopped suddenly. So I stopped suddenly. And the car behind me stopped not quite as suddenly.
It was one of those seconds that feels like an eternity. A thousand thoughts flew through my head in succession. My seat tilted up from the back. I wondered how close I was going to get to the windshield. The seat yanked me back again and my head slammed into the headrest. It was a lot softer than it looked, I thought.
The crash was so loud, I was sure my bumper would be sitting on the road. I tried to remember driver’s ed. Minor accidents, move off the road. Major accidents, stay put. In order to know which one this was, I would need to look. Putting Helga in park, I got out to survey the damage.
My bumper was still intact. In fact, it only looked a bit scratched. The guys in the jeep behind me also got out to look. Dressed in black dress pants and button-up shirts, they looked like they were headed somewhere fancy. Part of me hoped, since it was a Sunday, they were on their way to church.
“Do you want to file a report?” the driver asked.
I paused for a moment, considering. Helga didn’t look damaged, but I knew looks could be deceiving. “Yeah, just in case.”
We pulled off the road into the parking lot of a laundromat. I pulled in front of a dumpster. The driver called the police. As I climbed out of Helga again, a realization hit me. I hadn’t noticed it before because I had been so focused on my bumper. Those two nicely-dressed men? Yeah, they had guns. Both of them. Handguns hanging out in shiny black holsters on their hips.
I’m pretty sure they hadn’t covered this situation in driver’s ed. It apparently would have been more useful for me than the parallel parking diagram. (I mean, really. Who learns to parallel park by looking at a picture?)
I called my mom, hoping she wasn’t in church yet. Thankfully, she answered.
It’s a weird feeling, trying to tell your parents you’ve been in an accident. You try to start off with “I’m okay,” but then it just sounds awkward. She peppered me with questions about the guy – “how old is he? what does he look like?”
“Well Mom, he looks like a guy with a gun.” I didn’t say that. But that’s what I was thinking. And what could I say with him standing 15 feet away? It was like the giant elephant in the room that could trample everyone if you spooked it.
The passenger headed for the nearby Winn Dixie and left me wondering if the driver was going to off me or something. I couldn’t believe I had looked at a guy with a gun and told him to call the police. When the officer showed up, everyone was armed. Except for me.
We successfully filed a report. The guys with the guns left to continue their journey. My sore ribs and I continued ours, grateful to be alive.
I wondered why the weirdest things always happen to me… and if I should write a letter to the Board of Education with a few suggestions on things to include in their driver’s ed curriculum. Like a chapter entitled “In the Event of Rear-Ending by Well-Dressed and Armed Men.”
Maybe it’s one of those situations that only happens to me. Or maybe I’m the only one who lived to tell the tale…