In the past year, I have had several car accidents. Three to be exact. Spoiler alert, no one was hurt, in any of the incidents. Each time I was barely driving 2 mph. In one, I was parked and not even in the car. The second involved pulling into my driveway. In the finale, the big one, I was pulling out from a parking spot and hit another parked car, that was the trickiest.
Upfront, I will tell you I have a technologically advanced car, and despite a backup camera, front-end camera, sensor detectors set on sensitive, and wide-view mirrors, there are blind spots. There were no mind-altering substances involved, and I haven’t taken a drink in four years and several months.
Before this, I had been in two accidents in my 46 years of driving. Both happened last year, and both times the Police Report validated: Not my fault. I love those three words, not my fault.
An accident as defined to me by Alexa: “An accident is an unintended undesirable event that results in harm, injury, or loss. Can occur unexpectedly, caused by human error or external factors.”
Two of the three accidents this year were my errors. Although entirely unintended.
So, what happened?
The first one was in late March. I was coming home after a long day, and it was dark. I pulled in, in a rush to hop out of the car and pee. That’s the usual reason for the rush! I was about to get out of the car, parked in the middle of my driveway, and a thought crossed my mind.
Everyone is hunkering down for snow. It smells like snow. I am too lazy to come back out in the dark and move the car. So, I decided it was best if I pulled closer to the tree line for the snowplow to have more room to turn around. I live in New England and up here March comes in and out like a Lion. April fools you into thinking it will be warmer. The last two years I had both a light dusting of snow and the first tulips springing forth on Mother’s Day in early May.
The whole idea of making more room for the snowplow is ridiculous. I live alone and have a huge drive. My ex-boyfriend’s truck was parked with a dead battery. (If you are wondering, he did take the truck, and left by my tree a 75-pound battery he promised to pick up six months ago.)
I wanted to blame him for leaving the truck. It was not his fault. I decided to rush and back up again to get closer to the truck. I scraped my passenger side hind quarter to get as close to the truck as possible. It is about a 12-inch gash, only one inch thick in one spot, the rest is a fine line. The estimate was USD 1,600. Ouch.
The whole panel had to come off. The good news is it’s purely cosmetic, with no future damage to be expected, no rusting, or peeling. I decided to live with it. Depending on the light, I don’t even notice it.
In the second incident, I was on a spiritual retreat. My 86-year-old friend Laura and I were checking into the hotel. It took both of us to wield the luggage cart. We left it at the curb and went to open the trunk and get our bags out of the car. A huge gust of wind came out of nowhere. It was so forceful it knocked the cart over and the decorative spiral on top went right into the passenger side door, making a hole and a dent.
The side poles of the cart scaped the paint off in the two places where it brushed down on its way to the ground. Laura and I were both thankful the rack didn’t fall on us! Both of us are about 5 feet tall and would have had no good defense against an 80-pound luggage rack diving on top of us.
I am going to also label that a success. I didn’t take it as a sign that the retreat was a mistake, or that we shouldn’t have come a night early. Surprisingly, I let it go, and as I was there to focus on my calm, serenity, and becoming the person I wanted to be, I focused on my calm and serenity.
That brings us to my latest incident. I’d spent a lovely evening with a friend and her husband, and then off we went to hear our friend Toni Bergins perform songs from her new album. All signs were good. The music was phenomenal, seeing old friends, meeting new people. The night ended with a delicious treat from our local chocolate shop.
I got in, warmed the car and as I pulled out, apparently started cutting to the right, way too early trying to avoid a circular curb in front of me. By the time I realized what that noise was, I was more than halfway out of the spot.
I got out and looked at the damage to the other car. Not much, scraped paint on the bumper. My first thought? No one saw it. No one heard it, no one came outside. There were tons of people still inside. The thought of going in and announcing I hit someone’s car was too overwhelming. I pulled out a piece of paper and left my name and number very legibly. That’s important because there may have been a time when I would have left a note, and hoped I never heard from the person I hurt.
I then realized I didn’t know what it did to my car. I thought: “How bad can it be?” I pulled into the first well-lit gas station I could find to assess the damage. A big sigh of relief as the front right bumper was clear. That big sigh turned into a big cry when I walked around the side and looked. Both passenger doors were dented and scraped.
I don’t know much about accidents, given my safe driver discount – now in jeopardy! – although I could easily tell that fixing it was going to be more than my deductible. I called the police and reported the accident, taking full blame.
And then returned the call to the owner of the car I hit. I profusely apologized and relayed my plan to make a police report and place an insurance claim in the morning. They thanked me for being honest.
Instead of overthinking it, I sat down to write this. Here’s what I have learned.
I have been blessed to drive without accidents all these years. Now there will be a monetary hit for sure. And I can accept that transfer of currency for a lesson. If not spent on this, it would be something else. Frankly, I am just thankful it is not for my daughter, dog, or my health. Could this have been avoided? Maybe.
Should I spend time going down that rabbit hole? Absolutely not!
When the Police Officer, came to take pictures for the report, I said, “Thank goodness I have insurance.” She said, “More like a loan.” I didn’t understand what she meant and was too tired to question her. In the light of day, I realized what she’d meant. Either I pay out of pocket for the damage and don’t report it to my insurance, or I do report it and see a massive increase in my policy premium over the next few years.
There is the loan: I get the car paid and fixed now and pay later through the premium increase. Either way, I pay. Once again, I am grateful that even though I live on a fixed budget, it won’t keep me from meeting my other responsibilities and still getting some of what I want and don’t always need.
Taken from the Disaster Recovery World, I ask myself these questions:
My car is running, just dented. I have the coverage that includes a rental when the car is in the shop. An annoying distraction, but minimal effort. My only job is to do the emotionally hard work to keep my thoughts right there. I cannot turn to my old friends fault and blame and dwell on what went wrong. This situation has a high level of maximum tolerable downtime.
Universalizing as a Social Work term has two meanings. First, your feelings are a normal reaction to a situation. I am not the only person that has ever had a car accident. In this situation, these feelings are not unusual. Others have been in car accidents, accepted responsibly, and paid higher insurance premiums. It helps to know that I am like others.
The second meaning of universalizing is to not make it bigger than it is. What does that mean? To not catastrophize it to the worst possible outcome.
The colloquialism is: Do not make a mountain out of a molehill. It is one problem, one issue, not the whole universe. I can’t go down the rabbit hole of “if onlys,” such as if only I hadn’t parked there because my feet hurt… if only I hadn’t gone out that night… Nor can I turn this small matter into a bigger universal issue: It was a mistake to go out, I am a mistake, my whole life sucks, and nothing ever turns out my way.
There was none of that. It was an unfortunate accident. An unintended event. Full Stop.
I am so grateful that other than my pride, nobody got hurt.
Given my remote living location, I must drive. Abandoning my car is not an option. And while it is always preferable to not have an accident, my ability to accept it, deal with it, and move on is a direct accomplishment of all the “emotional” growth I have worked hard for. If growth comes via a price tag and a car fix, I’ll take it.
Have you been in a car accident lately? How big was it? Were you at fault? What lessons did you learn? Did you go down the rabbit hole of “if onlys?