Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Accident

October 17, 2008 was a cool and dreary day. Not a pack on the sweaters and bundle up day but surely a day for a jacket day. To top it off there was a slight drizzle which only added to the miserable index of the day.

Big dog (yes that's his name) wakes me up every morning between 4:30 – 5:30 am. Sleep is still clouding my head as I silently slip out of bed so I don't wake my husband.

"Yuck" I said as I took the dogs out. Of course the dogs don't like the weather either. They look back at me silently wondering why I wasn't running after them with an umbrella over their heads.

Once back in the house I did all my usual morning rituals and duties. Feed and water the dogs. Feed myself. Go up to the loft and enter my sweeps. I have a crazy little ritual about what sweeps I enter each morning. I begin with the daily sweeps that will be entering on a particular day. I then enter the sweeps ending in the next two days. Whil not quite OCD in the manner in which I enter I do have a certain belief that somehow entering the sweeps in that particular manner will make me more likely to win.

Six o'clock means it's time to go down stairs and try to rouse Darryl from bed. "Darryl honey," I say as I grab my clothes in the near dark room. "Darryl wake up. Come on honey it's time to get up." It's a well choreographed dance we have. I know his first sentence will always be "I'm so tired." This sentence is usually followed up with "I just can't ever seem to get enough sleep." Sometimes though he'll throw in "I need to start going to bed earlier." This of course is only tossed out for effect and never actually an action that he plans to begin any time soon.

The sky is a coal grey outside and thin rivulets of rain run down our bedroom window. Were we only in St. Lucia the week before?

"Come on honey. Get up. I have to go to work and I get stand here all morning trying to get you up." Sometimes the bargaining process goes on. "You know Cathy it would help me get up if you could just rub my back a little." Sometimes he throws the cover aside says little except "Do I have any clean clothes?' Of course he does. He knows that he does but the words automatically tumble from his mouth.

This morning he gets up, walks past me, brushes my cheek with his lips and says "So are you and Kim driving together today?"

Questions like this sometimes get to me because I know I've already told him who is driving the next day because he always asks who drove when he gets home. He always asks who's driving the next day. He always asksand at times even appears to process the answer only to wind up asking the question again the next day.

Since the dogs have already eaten 45 minutes earlier they need to go back outside to do their business. So it's back outside I go. The drizzle turns into a fine mist that makes the streetlights halo. The dogs spend their time carefully seeking out the perfect location to deposit their droppings which they seem to deliberate as though they were making decisions that could actually impact the world.

It's spirit day, aka to those who have real jobs, casual Friday. This means I can wear jeans as long as I'm sporting a RHS t-shirt or even a sweatshirt. No problem. It's a price I'm willing to pay. I kiss Darryl good bye and walk out to my car.

My car is a 2002 Huyndai Elantra. I love that car. It's the first new car I've ever owned. Darryl bought it for me the year we got married. It is not show room perfect but every ding tells a story.

My roof had some hail damage from the day Darryl and I got caught up in a tornado. The hail had battered the car as we sat in the parking lot of a McDonald's in Cartersville. The wind was blowing and I was frightened. I wasn't sobbing but trust me I wanted to.

The front bumper has the now infamous "Cuban Dent". It got its name from a close encounter of the bicycle kind.

I had won a trip to Miami but it didn't include transportation. We wound up driving my car down there. One night after eating at a restaurant in South Beach we stopped at a red light. A man riding his bicycle began going through the cross walk. His bike swerved because a car came a little close and "POW" right into our front bumper came the man's head and his bike.

I screamed. "OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!! Is he dead? Is he dead? It had happened so quickly we couldn't even tell you what the car looked like. Darryl got out of the car because the guy had hit the passenger side where I was sitting. I was afraid to look, fearful that he was dead.

Darryl was almost half-way to him and the bicyclist popped up grabbing his bicycle. "I'm fine. I'm OK!" he says. We ask if we can call a cop. "No no." He insists. "I'm Cuban. I'm a citizen. I'm fine." I try to say look let us get you some help. He clings to his bicycle and gets on it. "No. Look I'm fine. I'm going now. I'm fine. See I can ride. I'm fine." He takes off just like that. Just bizarre. It really spooked me. It left a dent in that side of the car the size and shape of his helmet.

Of course we can't forget my windshield. I was riding to work one day behind a dump truck and pow the rock came straight at my window. At first it was shaped like a small star staying pretty much the size of a nickel. It stayed that way for about two years. Then one hot morning I went out to drive and I noticed a line about the size of a stick of gum coming off one of the rays of the star. The next day it was worse. Before it was over the crack took up almost a quarter of the passenger side of the windshield. I always imagined that one day I would be driving and the window would cave in on me.

A year or so ago someone had rammed into the back of my car leaving only a scratch and causing me to go on a high speed pursuit trying to get her license plate number. She originally looked like she was going to pull over when I did and then she took off. The more I chased the more upset I got. The damage wasn't really that much and we never reported it to our insurance company.

The car, like me was showing its age. The driver side window couldn't be lowered. If it was you couldn't always guarantee that it could be raised. I stopped using that window. Bye-bye drive thru. The air conditioner/heater only threw out air if the dial was on high. Anything beneath that wouldn't allow the fan to operate. So the car was either hot or cold and you had to flick it on and off in accordance to how it felt at any particular point in time.

My plan was to hold on to the car for ten years. At that point I would replace it with a car that I want. Since I could say I finally owned a new car I would be OK with a second hand car and even had dreams of the features I wanted on a new car. Still for all that was wrong with the car, I loved it and it held many memories for me.

As always when I'm not driving with Kim I was listening to an audio book. This time it was "The Black Swan". Since this book involves statistics and mathematical theories I really have to pay attention to the darn thing. Perhaps not the best driving around book but it is still very interesting.

The sun was hidden behind the grey rain clouds. At times the weather seemed on the verge of rain and other times the mist or drizzle seemed to be ready to stop at any moment.

I approached the dreaded left turn in front of the school. Just last week I told Kim that this intersection is an accident waiting to happen. There is a light and for about a minute or so it has a left turn only. Then it turns yellow for about a half a minute then red. The red stays for a second or two and then turns green for both sides of the four lanes. So you have to negotiate a turn across the road going the other way. Not always easy because if anyone is in the opposite turn lane you can't always see the oncoming traffic. I hate that turn. I would do almost anything to avoid it if I could.

The left turn light was on and a few of the cars ahead of me were able to make it. The car directly ahead of me made a mad dash to make the yellow. It turned red and I stopped. Not in the intersection. Not in the middle of the road but front end scarcely over the yellow line. For me this is the worst position to be in. I am now in the position to hold everyone up. People will be upset. I'm one of those crazy old ladies who tries to plan her routes to make only right turns when possible.

I look up at the light and then I stare at the car in the opposite turn lane. It's a big van and I won't be able to see over it. Just as I'm trying to formulate the thought about staying until the van leaves when the light turns green and I can see traffic I hear the impact almost second after I feel the impact. Maybe it's just my head being a jumble but it felt that way. I turned to see a blue pick-up truck.

I can't just stay here and block traffic. I'm able to make it across and into the school parking lot. The truck pulls up behind me. It is a parent and thankfully not a student. The parent has a student with him and I don't know the kid. I walk over to the car to get his insurance information. I just want to get the information, park, and get to class. As I walk up car I glance at my rear bumper which is now busted up completely.

I try to keep the tears from flowing because I'm upset. I walk up to the window and say, "I'm going to need you insurance information. You hit my car but your vehicle looks OK." The parent glares at me and closes his window. WHAT?

I walk to the back of the truck to get his license number. It is at that same moment I realize I don't have my license. When we went to St. Lucia I had kept my license and passport with me just in case we had problems getting in or out of the country. My license was still with my passport in my other purse. Great I thought. Just great.

Some of the teachers begin to slow down as they are driving by. "Get Trixie!" I say. Trixie, Office Morgan, is our school's police officer. I think she's great. I have taught one of her son's and also her oldest son's girlfriend. As scared and nervous as I was all I wanted was someone I knew to be there and help me through this. I felt scared, upset, and actually physically ill. I felt like throwing up and passing out. I was trying so hard not to just start sobbing. Turns out Trixie wasn't there so out comes the second string.

Our Assistant Principal comes out. "Are you OK?" he asks. I answer that I think I'm OK but I just want to get his insurance and get inside. The AP walks over to the other driver's car. He has a walkie talkie and a big ID badge that identifies him as the Assistant Principal. The parent leaves the window closed and ignores him. AP comes back and tells me "I think the driver doesn't speak any English."

After a couple of minutes the student gets out of the truck and looks at me. "I hope that you two can work things out." He says. "Look honey it's going to be OK. You just have a good day OK." In the meantime I leaned against the car feeling sick. I don't want to puke and so now I'm concentrating on not puking or crying.

Finally the cops come. I'm still standing with AP who is telling me it's going to be OK and how grateful we should be that no one was really hurt too badly. The cop speaks to the driver who tells the cop he's afraid to get out of the car because he's afraid I might hurt him. The cop looks at me. I'm all of five foot five and weigh 120 pounds. I'm leaning against my car trying to keep my breakfast down and tears are starting to slip past my eye lids. No one is restraining me. I'm standing over at my car speaking to AP.

AP comes over to the cops and says "She's OK. She's a little upset and feeling kind of sick but we've been over here talking and I don't feel there is going to be a problem."

The other driver is speaking really loudly. First he tells the cop that I could have made the light. The cop said, "Look it's pretty clear cut. You slammed into her so you were following too close." The man jabbed his finger in the air my way. "I didn't even see that she stopped. I was on my cell phone." (I suppose that was my fault. I should have launched a flare so he would know.) Still I stand there wondering what I was going to say when they asked for my license. "Well you see officer; I was out of the country last week so my license is with my passport which is in my other purse." I wondered if he was going to arrest me for driving without it.

My attention was drawn back to the conversation taking place at the other car as the officer wrote the ticket. "Well you know I tried to stop but the pavement is wet so it makes it kind of difficult to stop on a dime."

AP comes back over to tell me that the cops were writing him the ticket and he would stand out there with me to keep me company. He asks again how I'm doing. My head is hurting, not pounding, not yet because that happens later that day. The cop then comes over and asks for my license and I tell him what the situation was. He had to look me up. You could tell this didn't please him too much. His unit wasn't working well. I asked if I could call my husband and have him bring it. I told him I felt sick and wanted to throw up. He told me fine. I ran into school and got on the phone. You see my cell phone was in my other purse too. When Darryl answered I just sobbed, long and loud. I just couldn't stop.

"Please come. Please come. I need you. Please Darryl. Please come." By the time Darryl gets there I have my ticket in hand and a car that wasn't driveable. School let me sign out. We took our car to a repair store to get an estimate. The trunk is pushed up in a way that won't really close. The right tail light is hanging by a wire. The right wheel panel is destroyed. The store said it would talk almost $5,000 to fix the car.

In the meantime, my head ache is getting worse and I'm starting to get numbness in my right hand. We call my doctor to discover that if you are involved in an accident your doctor can decide not to take your health insurance. What's up with that? I had to pay for urgent care out of my own pocket. They told me that his insurance will reimburse me. The doctor took a bunch of x-rays and now wants me to get an MRI. Gee like I can stroke a check for that out of my own pocket.

Oh the car? Well of course they are jerking me over the car. They paid for the rental car until Monday October 27th. They are giving me less than $3,000 for my car. Great. How in the world am I supposed to get a car for under $3,000 that works? How does that make me whole?

So here I sit a week later. Darryl and I bought a car last night. It is a Sebring. JXI convertible. We bought it for about $4,000. It has 87,000 miles on it. My old car had 113,000 miles on it. This car has a CD player and a tape player. Now most people wouldn't care about the tape player but heck that means more options as far as audio books. It also has this feature that tells me the temperature outside and which direction I'm headed in. Darryl says it's a trip computer. I can also program my garage door opener into another system in the car. Pretty cool.

How am I feeling? Well I've had a head ache all week. It's the kind that makes your thoughts cloudy. I'm still getting that pins and needles feeling in my hand. I still have to get my MRI.

Do I wish this never happened? Absolutely! I miss my car, Cuban dent and all. Am I excited about the new car? Yes. As a matter of fact, when Darryl and I got married in Vegas we rented a Sebring convertible. So there is a bit of a link to that time for me.

I'll let you know what happens when I know.

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