The first auto accident I remember took place when I was between 4 and 6 years of age. It was a nice little fender bender. A large dump truck decided to reverse and collide with my parents car. We were in a parking lot, waiting for the truck to turn when he began backing up. I am sure he could not see us at all and was as surprised as ever to find he had smashed up our little family car. I have no memory of before the accident or right after. I do remember the sound of the collision and the sight of the truck backing up.
I have been in three accidents where I was the driver.
The first is a story my family loves to recall. Sheryl and I were not yet married and I was driving us home from work. We decided to stop off at a local ice cream shop and get shakes first. My tiny GEO Metro was just over three months old and I was finally comfortable with the standard transmission. I remember driving down 3200 west and at some point glancing to my right as someone jogged along the street. I looked forward in time to see a stopped car preparing to turn left off 3200, oblivious to my fast approaching car. I was confident that I still had time to veer out of the way and pass on the shoulder. I braked and steered to the right but I completely misjudged how close I was to the other car. As I depressed the brake and my front end dipped, the hood of my car collided with the rear bumper of other car. The front end of my GEO crumpled accordion style, and I ended up a bit underneath the other car. No one was injured, though the other driver was a bit sore and shocked. The best part-both Sheryl and I let go our shakes during the collision and ice cream splattered all over inside of the car and all over us. It found its way to our faces, hair and clothing. We looked ridiculous. I felt completely stupid.
A second accident was a completely idiotic situation where one vehicle was stopped, waiting to turn left and the car in front of me stopped short. I tried to quickly stop but was unable to avoid denting the vehicle in front of me. Of course, my car took the worst of it; one fender ripped off and a smashed headlight. Again, totally my fault and I felt like a fool.
Both of these accidents I remember vividly. I can see myself trying to slow, trying to avoid the collision and seeing my car hit the other. The world around slowed and though I couldn’t avoid either collision, it seemed as if I had time to look around, see the trees, the darkness, the pizza place to the right.
Last Saturday, I was again involved in a collision. This time, it was not my fault.
While driving my family on a shopping and dinner excursion, I was stopped at a red light. The cars across from me were turning, a green arrow letting them through the intersection. The light turned green and I waited while two cars preceded through. As a third began to speed through, I started across the intersection. Both Sheryl and I were watching the driver as she finished her turn, a bit annoyed that she thought she could turn at all. Then, almost at the same instant we realized that a fourth vehicle, a Dodge Ram had decided to also turn. I veered to the left, he failed to accelerate and I hit the rear wheel well of his truck.
I couldn’t tell how much damage I had taken but the car was still running. I drove forward, hearing some scraping, but I wanted to get as far out of the intersection as I could. Again, everyone was unharmed and only vehicles were damaged.
I admit, I was livid. Angry at myself for not seeing the truck, for going into the intersection before being sure it was clear. Then my anger shifted as I realized I had waited close to twenty seconds before moving forward. FOUR cars had tried to shoot the light. This ass was totally to blame. When I exited my car and saw the damage, I was more angry. The other driver had also continued thorough the intersection and was now out of is truck and coming towards us. He was apologetic. I thought back to the accidents I had caused and the kind reaction of the other drivers. It was, after all, an accident. I was able to calm myself. No one was injured. My car could be repaired. Nothing would be gained by a poor and mean spirited reaction.
The odd thing-This accident is so fuzzy. I remember looking at the third car as it turned in front of me, but everything else is very hazy. I really never saw the truck until just before I hit it. It may be cliche, but it was like seeing through a tunnel. I can’t even make out the color of the truck, just the large lumbering metal in front of me. Even the sound of the accident, usually a sickening thud, a heavy banging, littered with ripping metal and shattered plastic or glass, is muted in my memory.
In the ice cream accident, the sound was so damn loud, my ears were ringing for hours afterward. I am trying to understand why this time it feels so different.