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.