Sunday, September 27, 2009


A few days ago, I got rear-ended…hard. As I sat on the side of I-5 waiting for the tow truck so I could get back to a book deadline, I started thinking about all the accidents—four, to be exact—that I’ve ever been involved in.

Fresh out of driver’s ed, I was driving to a cast party after a performance of “Don’t Drink the Water.” I was playing Marion Hollander like Edith Bunker and it totally killed, if I do say so myself. For reasons I won't go into, I wasn’t supposed to go to the party; my mom was running interference so I could slip away for a couple of hours. I was on the clock.

As soon as the curtain went down, I changed clothes and zipped across town. As I approached the intersection of Napier Avenue and M-139, I got nervous. Reputedly the most dangerous intersection in Southwestern Michigan, it was a clusterfuck of lanes around the Orchards Mall and the Fairplain Plaza. Impatient, I stepped on the gas in my tiny red Toyota truck and promptly rear-ended a couple. As I got out of the car and scurried over to the pair, I prayed that there was no damage or injury.

“ohmygoshiamsosorryareyouokay?” I blurted out, looking at our bumpers rather than them. Aside from a bit of paint transfer, all seemed intact. Then I looked up. The couple was staring at me, speechless.

I suddenly realized that I never took off my stage makeup. My hair was sprayed gray and I had age lines drawn on with greasepaint. While I was wearing my Guess jeans with the zippers at the ankles and the rad Ocean Pacific jersey I got in Chicago, my face was straight out of granny central casting.

In a word, insane.

Well, after the initial shock, the couple insisted on taking down my digits. Although they never did call, I was on pins and needles during the ensuing weeks, waiting for news that my ass was grass.

After that, I enjoyed a spell of accident-free driving. In my early twenties, I moved to Washington, DC and took a job working at a magazine production company. I lived in Georgetown and drove out Route 50 every weekday into Northern Virginia. Even with the reverse commute, traffic sucked dead bear.

A multi-car pile-up was bound to happen. I was jarred from my NPR reverie by unwelcome impact. Again, rear-ended. I didn’t brake quickly enough, so I rammed into the car in front of me. And so on and so on and so on. While I was fine, the bumper on my Tempo of Doom suffered some damage. This time, I was more concerned about being late to work than anything else.

Fast forward ten-ish years. I was again scurrying to my job, this time at a publishing house in Philadelphia. I had an important meeting…with Mister Rogers. Obviously, I didn’t want to be late and I didn’t want to miss a minute of time with him. The light turned, I got the go-ahead, and I started into the cross-walk. Some dim bulb on her cellphone turned the corner and barreled right at me.

She sees me. She has to see me. I’m in the middle of the crosswalk. Uh…why isn’t she slowing down?

As these thoughts raced through my head, I realized that she did not see me and that I was going to get hit. Luckily, my body responded faster than my thought process. I leapt and succeeded in only getting hip-checked. At this point, the driver sort of noticed me. She stopped, rolled down her window, and yelled, “Did I hit you?”


I bitched her out with signature snark, and kept it together until I got into my office. Then I broke down. And after a good crying jag worthy of Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, I collected myself and went downstairs to meet my hero.

And that brings us to this latest run-in. I’ve been fortunate to have only sustained minor bruising during these collisions. In thinking about them, however, what's been interesting is that I'm always being driven by my passions when an accident occurs. Be it my teenage acting aspirations or my career, I can't wait to trade insurance information, tape up the bumper or my body, and get back to it. Maybe I'm impatient, but it's usually only because I love what I do and I can't wait to stop sweating the small stuff (like a dinged bumper) and get back to what really drives me.


mduette said...

That totally sucks. I do hope you went to get checked out (and I don't mean just by the cute cop, although that would help) ;)
Ok! Here's me! Getting off my soapbox!

Soooo did you grow in Michigan too? I know exactly where you were talking about. I thought I recall my mom saying something about them possibly trying to put in a roundabout there, of all things, if that's the same intersection.

I also had my life nearly ended by a chucklehead on a cell phone (who didn't realize the light was actually OUT at an intersection). Got hit pretty hard though and couldn't get out my side of the car. Naturally this occurred the day I was moving from MI to CA and had my entire car already packed for the trip. (car was totaled.)

I keep thinking Nerf cars would be much safer and a helluva lot more fun.

One final note, and a true story: once, driving home late from my B&N job in Bellevue, on the S-curves on 405 this dude in a Mercedes was weaving way over all the lanes. As I got closer and floored it to pass, I realized he wasn't drunk: he was READING A BOOK BALANCED ON HIS STEERING WHEEL. Where are those hot cops when you need them? And people wonder why I'm paranoid about driving when my precious cargo is in the car?

Again, glad you're okay. And bouncing back (kinda like a Nerf car would. Just sayin.')

mduette said...

Ha! So much for proofreading. I meant, of course, grow UP in Michigan. Though it does sound much more entertaining as is. :P

Jennifer Worick said...

Where in Michigan are you from? I'm glad you shared your collision experiences. We all have accidents we're thankful to have walked away from.

I didn't get checked out but I feel totally fine. Seriously. Not even bruised or anything.

mduette said...

I wasn't bruised either. Just determined to get to Cali. I still left that my mom's SS Crown Victoria wag-o-van with the fold-up seats in the back. Yeah, I said it. Anyhoo, you did get a jolt so I hope you're really okay.

I grew up in Southfield, went to torture (high school) in Birmingham, and folks currently reside in Bloomfield. Moved to the West coast in '94 and up here in '04. Whee. Haven't played Euchre or had Vernors in years, yo. said...

Gigglez. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Kevin said...

Hey Jen,

I think I was a freshman, and the LMC drama club was doing Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians". We were en route to the final performance at Lake Michigan College when my brother John and I got T-boned on Napier Avenue by a Berrien County snow plow. The crash totalled our brand-new Chevy station wagon and sent us both to the emergency room. After getting the shattered window glass sucked out of my face and scalp, they let me go and the show was not delayed! "Captain Narracott" was a hero that night! As I recall, I was still picking little shards of safety glass out of my hair for weeks.

There have been many other accidents since then, but that one had the best story...

Well, except maybe the one involving a couple of drunk rednecks fleeing the scene on the Eisenhower Expressway, trying to carry the rest of their case of beer and the dislocated bumper of their pickup truck with them (the license plate was attached to it).

They had rear-ended my BMW, which was totalled in a chain-reaction involving six other cars ahead of me. I replaced it with the exact same model a week later, and the very next day got sideswiped by a hit-and-run driver less than a mile from the first accident, and totalled that one, too!

Fortunately, like you, I have never suffered any serious injury from a car accident. I hope this doesn't jinx me!

Jennifer Worick said...

Wow, I so don't remember your Ten Little Indians accident. I must have been too busy practicing my scream as the housekeeper who died way too early. I'm so glad we wear our seatbelts.

Chris said...

Holy moly!
I'm so glad you only got a hip check...

Anonymous said...

Personally, if someone hit me while talking on a cellphone, I'd be a little more vindictive -- to the point of suing the person. A lot of fatal accidents happen that way, and it never hurts to send a message.

I hope you're fully recovered, in every sense, from the more recent incident. BTW that's a funny Michigan story.

-- Jim Lowry

Chad said...

I can relate to the clusterfuck around M-139 and Napier Avenue. I always hated waiting at that intersection.

And I was in that "Ten Little Indians" performance oh so many years ago.

After "Horror High" the police stopped the car I was driving along with Dan Drumm. And we were still in our makeup. That was a bit funny.

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