I watched you hit us.
You were really busy that day, rushing home after work.
I don’t know who was texting you, but I watched you in my rearview mirror, flying down the highway looking down as you drove.
You failed to notice that all the cars had stopped at a red light before you. You failed to notice me. I was carrying a car full of love with me that day.
As I watched, the part of my brain that wanted to protect me was hyper-vigilant, analyzing the speed at which you approached my car and whether you had time to punch the brakes before hitting my SUV. A quick calculation experienced in slow motion told me that you did not have time to stop before you saw me—if you looked up to see me at all.
The unimaginable was about to occur and so I braced for impact, knowing I would take the thump of a lifetime. I squeezed my eyes shut, held my breath, gripped the steering wheel, pushed down on the brake with all my strength, and readied myself. The others, unlike me, did not see you coming in fast and hard, distracted by the shiny thing in your hands.
We all heard the crunch and the bending of metal. Screech. Crash. Bam. Kapow. I counted down the bashes my head took: one to the chin, two to the seat behind me, three to the chest, and four to the back again.
Did your head hit something, too? Are you okay?
You bruised our brains and hurt my dogs, and yet, there is no part of me that is vengeful; I wish you no harm for what you did, but please remember this was avoidable. You left a huge impact—not just to the back of my brand-new vehicle but to every facet of my life, to the people who love us, and to the people I support in my work as a registered psychotherapist. Everything stopped for them because you failed to stop.
Metal makes a horrible sound when it’s twisted by force, doesn’t it?
My eyes flashed open quickly again when I heard my boyfriend scream out in surprise. He was mid-sentence when your car demolished the back of mine. When my eyes flashed open, I saw my dogs in the air. The logical part of my brain said, “How strange; dogs don’t belong in the air. Dogs don’t fly.”
Unlike me, they did not know what was going to happen. They were all relaxed; they were taken by surprise. I was not taken by surprise; I was taken aback. Later, I was taken for a ride.
How is it possible I have been hit by someone texting and driving?
In the psychology world, there is a term known as the invincibility fable. It is a defense mechanism humans use to feel safe in an unfair and unsafe world. We are biased to believe that bad things won’t happen to us—bad things happen to other people. It is the same reason that people have unplanned pregnancies, accidental deaths, and unexpected traumas. Unconsciously, we believe that we are invincible but that others are not.
Misfortune happens to other people. Misfortune happens to those people. You know, the ones who deserve it. Bad things happen to idiots who should know better and to the ones who make bad decisions.
You are not invincible, my darling.
We are all going to have to deal with things we don’t see coming. Sometimes, those things will be the consequences of decisions made by strangers. I am sure you never thought you would be the guy who crashed his car into someone while looking at his phone. However, you are that guy and I am that someone.
You flipped my life upside down while I was one block away from my home on a quick trip to the store to buy Halloween chocolate for kids. In the same way that you thought you would never hit someone, I never thought a stranger could make my life explode into tiny little pieces while I waited at a red light. Two weeks before the accident, I had just set down a heavy load of responsibility I had been carrying for six years. My life was supposed to get easier, not harder, and then I met you.
What if I had walked that day? What if I left five minutes later? One second with you felt like an hour.
The force of your vehicle colliding into the back of mine created its own type of energy and momentum that pushed us, conjoined, down the highway into the car in front of me. My internal protector counted one more final thump before we all came to a standstill as a three-car pileup. Time slowed, like it does with trauma when the brain takes an incident and dissects it into countless little Polaroid photos to be stored in the brain one image at a time.
When you got out of your car, you stood frozen with a look of shock on your face; I saw the horror in your eyes when one of my small dogs escaped the vehicle in the mayhem. Terrified, he bolted into traffic, running erratically while nearly getting hit numerous times. He was the only dog not in a seat belt that day.
Isn’t it strange that not a single person stopped to help us?
Everyone was rushing because everyone had somewhere they had to be and not enough time to do the things society told them to do. Everyone is so damn busy these days, distracted by the rat race, but captivated by their phones.
Silently, I begged to something higher, “Please don’t take Dash; I can handle losing my car, but please don’t take him while we watch helplessly. I can’t cope with another animal’s death.”
The irony is not lost on me that I had enormous, white wings on the back of the Halloween onesie I was wearing. With zero fear because I was powered by adrenaline, I screamed “stop” repeatedly as I jumped in front of moving trucks with my hands outstretched, screeching like a maniac, as we all tried to catch the terrified little dog. Finally, he understood that running down the highway in a direction he thought might lead him home was more unsafe than running into his dad’s arms to be placed back into the twisted wreck.
Good boy, Dash. That was a good choice, baby.
As the scene unfolded, you stood in disbelief; your behaviour caused all of this. Choices have consequences and we are now living with the consequences of your choices.
You were dressed in your business suit and probably trying to get home to your family after a long day at work. Perhaps you had a child at home who was excited for Halloween and wanted to show you her cute little witch costume.
I understand wanting to be there for your family and we were also rushing to get ready for Halloween. I was excited to see my dogs in their costumes and to take cute photos of them. It was the first Halloween ever that I was going to hand out candy to cute little kids in cute little costumes. Little girls in witch costumes were always my favourite, too.
I want to thank you for taking full responsibility. After apologizing for what seemed like the 50th time, I gave you a high-five because it is in my nature to comfort the distressed, and I said, “It’s okay; we are all alive, and I can get a new car.” I know you felt bad. It was written all over your face. There is no anger in my heart for you.
However, I am angry at the systems that fail us when we need them the most, especially knowing those systems are designed to protect us. Dealing with insurance companies has been more traumatizing than dealing with you. Insurance is irony. We make a bet that one day we will need the insurance if tragedy befalls us; insurance companies bet that we will not face tragedy and they will profit from a person on the right side of luck.
Insurance is great! Until you need them to pay you.
In 29 years of driving, I have never needed an insurance company payout. Car accidents are powerful; the force can often cause not just a physical injury but an emotional and psychological injury, as well. My brain and body will heal in time, but my trust in the systems that say they will protect me is broken. “I do not trust” are not words spoken out loud easily.
I do not trust.
The accident did not break any of my bones but it did, however, break my trust. Insurance providers are attachment figures, like parents to small children. By design, they are meant to be there for us when needed.
A healthy parent will attune and attend to an injured child until it is healthy again. Good parents say, “I got you, girl.” Good insurance should kick in and protect us so we can rest, recover, protect our assets, and heal without additional stress and trauma. Healing is faster in an environment conducive to healing.
An unhealthy parent will abandon their child when the child needs actual help and support. Toxic systems and unhealthy people cannot stomach the responsibility of tending to the injured. People in pain can be such a headache; they make a lot of noise and can cry loudly. They make us feel things. Shudders. Drowning people cannot save other drowning people; it is against the laws of the universe. Sometimes it is just easier to look away.
Bad things don’t happen to me; bad things happen to other people.
My November was an onomatopoeia. It started with a crash, bam, boom. It ended with wails, sobs, cries, and my quiet, gentle singing of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” by the Mamas & the Papas as I held a kitten dying of heart failure on my heart, softly singing to him as he passed with lightening speed from a disease I did not know he had. Unlike you, that one I did not see coming. November taught me the extent that people will lie to make money and that there will always be those who put profit over people.
F*ck! How’s that for an onomatopoeia?
Words don’t always make emotions feel better. Sometimes, life just sucks. Sometimes, life will be hard because we are not invincible and the reality is that life is full of duality. Sometimes, all spiritual, theological, religious, and other faith-based belief systems fall short.
No, none of this is happening for me, rather than to me. No, none of this was manifested by me. No, this will not turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
It just is.
Telling someone that the pain they feel is for their higher good, or their best interest, is akin to telling a child being spanked that the violence is to teach a valuable lesson, so it is better to stomach the sting of the pain and not cry out about it because being hurt is to their benefit. Take it on the chin like a champ, as they say. Wtf? Nobody becomes a better person by taking a beating.
They tell me my brain will heal when it does and try to keep stress down. Before the accident, I was someone who managed a thriving business I built from scratch. After the accident, I am someone who locks herself out of the house, leaves the stove on, and gets lost driving to the places I know, showing up for appointments that I have written down that I don’t actually have. Short term memories are currently hard for me to form.
Although, I think I will always remember you. You had a huge affect on my life and the people I care about. You are the stranger who changed our lives because of choices you made when you were rushing, not thinking, and too distracted to notice the world around you.
I don’t hate you, but please, don’t check your phone again while you are driving—and maybe slow down.