Nine years ago on Tuesday I was involved in a head-on collision on my way to school in the morning. Sorry I didn't write about it on the very anniversary--I'm two days late. Byrd Baylor wrote a book called I Am in Charge of Celebrations (gift from CHH) and "Head-On Collision Day" happens to be one of my celebrations. That's right, March 27th.
It was a spring snowstorm and I was living West of where I teach. A roommate called to let us know there had been a four car pile-up on the highway due to a snow storm and that she was glad she had a book to read. I decided to take a back road to work, a dirt road that has since been widened and paved.
Because of the weather, I felt that I should pull over for a moment and pray. I asked for a blessing of safety. I made sure my windows were clear, my lights were on, and my seatbelt was secure. Unable to think of any further preparations, I proceeded on my chosen course. I drove a stick shift back then and recall that I didn't dare take it past second gear on the icy road. So, no, I wasn't speeding or anything like that. In fact, I wasn't doing anything wrong.
A car came at me, head on. The end. That's all that happened. There was no way to escape him. No citations were issued. No ambulances were called. We both walked away. His air bag deployed. My car was too old to have an air bag. My glasses flew off my face. My head hit the head rest hard enough that my hair came all undone. I just sat there, processing at first. Oh good, he's getting out of his car. He's alive.
After thinking for awhile, I decided I could try moving. Nothing really hurt too much and Mr. Collision was tapping at my window while talking on his cell phone. I cracked my window open. I heard him say, "Yeah, Jim, I just wrecked the company car." I reached for my cell phone. Mr Collision asked, "Who are you calling?" I replied, "9-1-1." He said, "Oh yeah, good idea." We were blocking traffic in both directions and it was still snowing. The four car pile-up on the highway wasn't a good option for all of these other people either.
I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door. I stood up and felt okay. I didn't look too closely at my car, but I knew, of course, that the damage was severe. Fluid was leaking out onto the road. I called the school secretary to let her know I would be late. The police arrived. They offered an ambulance to me approximately five hundred times and I declined each and every time. They asked questions and I answered. They gave me a report to fill out and I filled it out in the officer's passenger seat. He commented approximately fifty times that I was very lucky. I remembered my prayer. It's not every day you walk away from a head-on collision. No citations. No ambulance.
The tow truck came and the officer dropped me off at my school. The principal and the secretary were so kind and solicitous. The substitute was there and I let her stay, because when you are involved in an accident, you suddenly have several things to do. And it was my teacher neighbor, SW, that helped me do them. She had a student teacher, SY, who took over her class so that SW could drive me to the tow truck place to clean out my totaled car. I didn't ask her for this favor. She thought of it all by herself. Then she helped me take the stuff back to my house and unload it. Afterward, she took me back to school so we both could teach for awhile. It was the Maturation Clinic that day and I was doing a hygiene class for all of the fifth grade boys. The officer wondered why I grabbed an empty box of laundry detergent out of the trunk of my car (visual aid).
As the day wore on, my muscles contracted. The bruises on my body were nothing short of glorious. I had my roommate (WPC)take pictures that evening in case I needed to prove something legally in the future. Those seatbelts are amazing! The wonderful SW volunteered to take me to my doctor's office after school to get checked. This was WAAAAY out of her way, but I will never forget her kindness. I cannot.
My doctor was busy with other patients, so I sat in the examination room for quite some time. I was problem-solving. How to get home without wheels...how to get home? I called another roommate, SG, who was oh so willing, however, the clock ticked away and snatched her opportunity to help me because of her long term promise to help others. I called another friend, PC, and left a message.
My doctor poked and prodded. He x-rayed. "Good news! Nothing broken." He prescribed. My muscles were tighter than tight. I couldn't walk without severe pain. It was time to go, but I didn't have a ride. PC called back and my doctor volunteered to drive me to the pharmacy if PC could pick me up there. They thought of this all by themselves. I didn't even have to ask! People are so kind. I cannot forget this. The doctor called his wife as we left his office to explain that he had a patient in the car who needed a ride to the pharmacy. And people wonder why I love him so. The doctor pulled right up to the front of the store and said, "Wait here!" He ran inside and grabbed a motorized cart and drove it out to the passenger door for me! I had a camera in my bag and snapped a photo of his smiling, motorized, approach. He helped me into the cart and made me promise that PC really was on his way.
As I motored toward the pharmacy counter, PC caught up to me. He waited patiently while I got my prescription filled and took me home, completely out of his way. He helped me up the front steps. None of my roommates were home. PC didn't want to leave me alone on the ground floor, knowing that my bedroom and sleepwear and bathroom were upstairs. He also didn't want to seem inappropriate. Being a practical fellow, he offered to get my pajamas for me. Hah! You might say he was trying to get me into bed! For my own good, not his.
He offered to haul the stuff from my car that SW and I had thrown on the floor in the entry way to my room upstairs so that it would be out of the way of my cohabitants. This was a huge concern of mine at that moment; I had already inconvenienced enough people. I finally relented and told him how to find my pajamas (flannel). And then I said something like, "I'm worried about letting you see my room. I'm pretty sure there's a box of tampons on my desk!" PC smiled and said, "I've never seen those before--I have sisters." Funny what you remember about the day of your head-on collision.
It was about then that our Relief Society president arrived on scene. I think PC was pretty relieved. It didn't take long for him to make his exit. She had a candy bar poster for me. I don't remember everything on it, but the starting line read, "I heard you had a little CRUNCH!"
Catching a plane the next day for my nephew's baptism in the midwest was not the ideal way to heal. However, I tipped people to push me around airports in wheelchairs. The standing up part of going through security was painful. TSA winced when I winced. My sister put me to bed with a Lortab saying, "You poor thing," as she turned off the light and closed the door. I improved daily. No wheelchairs necessary on the flights home.
On 4 April 2003, I mentioned to my roommate, BY, that I was going to buy a car after school that day. She asked, "Oh? Just like that, you're buying a car? Have you shopped? Do you have one picked out?" I answered, "No, but there are a lot of people who are willing to sell a car to me today and I need to stop bumming rides." The ever-serving SW took me to a dealership after school and I bought my car. Brand spankin' new. I took SW out to dinner to thank her for all of her assistance. It's been a trusty little thing all these nine years and it's about to hit the 95,000 mile mark. I paid it off in less than fifteen months, and then this park ranger asked me to marry him. But that's another story.
Everyone gets so happy when early March seems sunny and warm. Not me. I sort of hold my breath until after March 27th. And then I celebrate. I breathe. I celebrate God's watchful care over unimportant me. I celebrate friends and coworkers and doctors who dropped everything to help unimportant me. I celebrate by saying another little prayer, one of gratitude, that I can still walk and talk and see and hear. All of these gifts open up like the blossoms on the tree. Every year. I celebrate.
So there you have it. March 27th is Head-On Collision Day.
3 hours ago