In a previous post, I recounted for you a few of the …ummm… misunderstandings I have had regarding traffic laws. I hinted then that those were just the stories of tickets and warnings, and that there was another chapter to be written on accidents.
And here it is.
Before I start, I feel inclined to knock wood, pray, burn some sage, and send a check to Pat Robertson in order to protect myself from further bad luck when I assure you that my driving record has been clean for years now.
The first accident I ever had was when I was probably fourteen. I grew up in a private neighborhood of only a handful of families. I think everyone had five or more acres (it was country y’all!), so the homes were far apart. For much of my time there, the main road into the neighborhood was gravel and stretched for over a mile from our driveway to the “main road”. The first mile or so of the road had NOTHING on it–pastures to one side, some wooded areas on the other. The stretch of road that people actually lived on was (and still is) heavily canopied by trees and only wide enough for one car to pass safely–but it was rare that any two cars came along at the same time. So it was common to see kids riding bikes, four wheelers, motorcycles and, yes, even cars between homes or just up and down the road for fun. It was HUGE when I first got to drive on our street. I have loved all things automotive (well…except for changing tires and oil) since I was a kid and couldn’t wait to have my own car. So from the time I was 13 or so, I was allowed to drive between the house and the “main road.”
I’d done it dozens of times without incident. Dozens! One day, mom, sister, grandma, and I were going somewhere. (No doubt out to shop, because that was what we always did.) I asked if I could drive. Now, my grandmother is a nervous sort of woman. The sweetest, kindest thing you will ever meet, but more nervous than a crack baby. She instantly objected to my going anywhere near the steering wheel. Mom assured her that I was actually quite good, and that was that.
I backed down our driveway and started cutting the wheel to line myself up in the road. Our driveway sat at the fork of the only two streets in our neighborhood. Ideally, you back out of the driveway–the rear of the car stops somewhere along the narrow bank of trees between the two roads and you pull forward. As I was about to shift into drive, either mom or grandma gasped.
“WHAT?” I said.
“Nothing. Nothing. I thought we were going to hit the trees.” Well we weren’t…but the outburst distracted me and I didn’t realize that I was still in reverse when I hit the gas again.
BAM! We hit the tree. It was a self fulfilling prophecy.
But it wasn’t the last time I’d crash before even getting out of the neighborhood–or even the last time I would crash without a license. While in possession of nothing more than a learner’s permit, I took my mom’s car to Wal-Mart ALONE. (It was probably with her permission, because we’ve long established that she is nuttier than squirrel poop). Along the way I crashed into the back of a slow moving Chevy. Visions of prison danced through my head. But luckily, the other car was driven by none other than the father of my 5th grade teacher. She was a few car lengths behind us, and after she vouched for me, he kindly went on his way without calling the police. And I wrote a while back about my first car…so this might sound familiar, but a year or two after I hit the trees coming out of the driveway, mom had two large posts installed so that it might be “gated” off to keep cars from using our driveway as a turnaround area. One Christmas break, my sister, a friend, and I decided to go see a movie. As I maneuvered down the driveway, careful not to hit any of the other cars that lined it, I was met with a sudden THUD as the drivers mirror snapped back against the fender. I had backed the entire driver’s side of the car down the pillar at the end of the driveway, scraping off half the paint I’d had put on just a few months earlier.
That car was barely back from the shop when I drove it into a concrete light post at the mall…obliterating the front end (and my friend Red’s knee).
I’ve already told you about the accidents that happened just days before my twenty-first birthday (Rear ended by a bike, then hit head on, all within 24 hours!) so I won’t bore you by recounting them again. But a few months before that, in the same car, I was rear ended in a curve by a University Services van. What makes that incident remarkable is that I was dropping a friend off for class at the moment of impact, her legs were on the pavement and she turned to say something to me just as the van bumped us. She did a quick “Wilma Flintstone” and managed not to fall out on the road.
A late-night run for food in college ended badly when I somehow launched my car up and over a handicapped ramp at the corner of the Pizza Hut parking lot–shredding a tire, a rim, and the rocker panel in the process. The body shop did a wonderful job patching that up, but that car was laid to rest a year later when, just weeks after moving to a new town out of college, a ditzy mom in a big SUV tore the rear end off of it in a parking lot.
That car’s replacement didn’t fare much better. It was a year old when I was rear ended by a news van as I waited to get onto the highway near my office. That intersection would prove to be particularly irksome–as I was sideswiped there the following year, and a year after that, rear ended AGAIN. That’s right, kids, three wrecks in three years all within site of each other. Please note, none of them were my fault.
I just realized that I’m up to about a dozen fender benders at this point. And I’ve intentionally left out a few that, like the 21st birthday crashes, merit a blog of their own. I didn’t realize there were so many until I started writing them down. Ok, gonna go send another check to Pat Robertson…