A Lady Laments About... Accidents
by Jennifer Philo
I first met George when I hit his car pulling out of the parking lot of my place of employment. Unable to see over the towering snowbanks that aligned the parking lot, I did what any respectable driver would do; I went by my keen instincts and pulled out. The silver Infinity seemed to appear out of no where and before I could interpret what was happening in front of my eyes, I heard the squeal of tires, the crunching of metal and found myself facing north, white knuckles clutching my steering wheel. I braced myself for what I was about to see in my rear view mirror.
My eyes slowly made out the faint outline of a car. There was a chuck of something on the ground and the other driver was facing sideways in the middle of this major route. I saw the brake lights and watched as the car made it's way into the parking lot I had just come out of and let out a heavy sigh of relief. Obviously they could still drive and was oriented enough to get out of the road. I put my car into drive and and made the slow about-face turn back into the lot myself. I watched as the driver who was behind the car I struck sit mouth agape at what he had just witnessed.
As I pulled into the lot, I felt like a million eyes were on me. I could hear the snickers and the disapproving head shakes as though I were a dead man walking. I envisioned that if a fruit stand were handy, my car would have been littered with fresh produce lunged by the passerbys. I pulled in behind the car I struck and awaited my fate. Worse case scenarios played out in my mind. Every law firm commercial I had ever seen played over like a recording; "if you or someone you know has been hurt in an automobile accident..." and I clutched the steering wheel harder, wishing I had paid closer attention to the names repeated numerous times in those classic advertisements. Then I saw a man emerge, cell phone in hand, from the struck vehicle.
I opened my door, numb from fear and anticipation, and walked towards him. He finished his conversation (no doubt to one of the lawyers he remembered, I thought) and walked towards me. Stay composed, I said to myself, stay composed. Imagine my surprise when he extended a hand to mine and asked if I was O.K. Stupefied I reassured him that I hit him and that his concern for me was not only unfounded but completely unnecessary and that the primary concern was his well-being. He laughed and said, "I'm fine. These things happen." Sensing my confusion he added, "That's why they call them accidents".
That's how I met George. In the wake of the accident that claimed the right-back passenger side door panel of his Infinity, George pulled out a cigar, I pulled out a pack of Marlboros and we waited for the police. As we smoked, we spoke as if the accident was just a conversation piece. Something to talk about, like the weather or our day at work, not as the life altering scene I had expected it to be. I told him how I was bracing myself for the entourage of swear words and name calling. How I would have thought a claim of whiplash or the ever popular fist-slams-on-the-roof-of-the-car bit to transpire. He laughed and shook his head and repeated, "that's why they call them accidents."
As much as I would like to insert a claim of "my life flashed before my eyes" here for a bit of dramatic effect, I can't. What I can tell you is that this accident confirmed a proverb that has been passed down from generation to generation. In every house, in every family, in every country and in every life span, we inevitably learn the ways of this ancient proverb that will only manifest itself to the purest of heart and to the truest of souls. Shit happens.
While the simplicity in these ancient words appear to be more comical than profound, I ask you to keep an open mind so we can continue the trend of sharing this knowledge to our children and for generations to come. Think back to the times when you got bent out of shape because someone spilled beer on your jacket or your hair wasn't fixed to perfection. You got angry. Down right livid, if you're anything like me. You shouted and cursed, cried and whined, maybe stomped your feet like a five year old, but you emoted rage and frustration as though your bangs were out to get you. Had I known the ways of old, I would have shook my head, threw on a baseball cap and said aloud, "shit happens".
There are too many instances in our lives when it's easier to run than to walk away. When it's easier to shout than to calmly explain. And times when it's easier to blame than to understand. I understand that this accident could have been a lot worse. I understand that I could have killed George or myself, or someone else due to careless driving and never recovered from it. I also understand that none of that happened. I accidentally hit George's car and dented the side. George accidentally taught me that shit happens, and no one is above that.