Last week I had my first traffic accident behind the wheel - and it was very exciting!
It was mid-afternoon and I was heading to the library to drop off some books I'd borrowed. Less than halfway there, it started to rain - not a total downpour, but more than a light drizzle. Apparently, it's common sense (which, perhaps, is why I missed it) that driving in the rain can be a bit dangerous - slick roads and whatnot. I'd always heard that and understood it logically, but never really paid much attention. It's not that I drive recklessly in inclement weather, but being more cautious than I ordinarily am isn't something I've tended to do. I always took Grams's light warnings as being sweet, if not a little over-cautious.
I believe it was The Cure that was playing on the radio as I approached the stoplight and put my foot on the brakes...and put my foot on the brakes...and put my foot on the brakes. The car wouldn't stop. I thought maybe this was an instance of where counter-intuitive measures were needed, such as turning the wheel in the direction of a skid, for example. So, I quickly took my foot off the pedal, and quickly back on again when that didn't work. I didn't know what to do. And with no recourse I could find, I just sat back and watched myself slide in to the little blue sedan in front of me.
Radio off. Breathing. Sitting. The little blue car pulled off to the side of the road and I followed. Quiet, I sat for a few seconds, watching the mind kick in with its questions and narration, scrambling for what to do next. Panic came. Some big dude is gonna jump out of that car and beat my ass. I'm going to get yelled at. I'm going to get shot in the face. Something scary and bad is about to go down. Am I going to get arrested? Where is my insurance card? Is that person injured? Am I injured? Why hadn't I been more careful? Why did this even happen? What the hell?!? It's not like this is a severe ice storm! It's a tiny rain shower in the middle of June, for fuck's sake! Maybe they'll just drive off and I won't have to deal with this. Maybe I should drive off and not deal with this. What am I supposed to say? What am I supposed to do?
The driver got out, as did I, and we met in between to check out the damage. She was in her mid to late 20's, average height, brownish-reddish hair to her shoulders; the friendly, sweet face of a Kewpie doll - she was gorgeous. We each asked if the other was okay; I apologized profusely, and sincerely as I could. I told her that I'd never been in an accident before (neither had she) and asked if she thought we should exchange phone numbers. Her car had no damage and she said that she was fine just going on her way. She actually seemed more concerned with the little bent license plate bracket on my car than with anything else. I was so relieved and grateful that not only was the damage so small and that no one was hurt, but that my accident victim was so very kind! Have you ever met someone in some sort of passing way that radiates a niceness about them that causes you to instantly wish you could befriend them? She was that sort for me.
What I love about this experience is that I had no idea what to do...and I discovered, again - always, again and again - that I didn't need to know what to do. It happened, unfolded. It worked itself out. Life moved; I, right along with it. No need to plan, no need to have all the answers, no set way of behaving. I just need to notice (or not) that like it or not, prepared or not, Life happens. Would I prefer not to have a traffic accident? Yes. But Reality doesn't ask our opinions; It doesn't ask what we'd prefer. If given the choice, I would definitely live this experience over again. Not only did I get to meet a kind stranger, but I was reminded in a real, everyday sort of way, that bumping in to the world isn't all that bad; it isn't the frightening, inconvenient ordeal the mind would often have me believe it is.
Now, for my first speeding ticket! My first flat tire!