I’m driving to work and I will arrive exactly on time at 7:30 AM.
I’m listening to a podcast in which two people mention how they routinely worry about car crashes.
I make a right turn, onto the freeway ramp. This particular ramp is metered, so you have to stop at a stop light before entering the freeway, two cars at a time.
I stop at the red light. A car crashed into the back of mine so hard that my seat ends up in a reclining position. I feel myself flopping backwards, hitting the headrest. I start screaming.
I’m not sure what I’m screaming but I’m enraged. I drive my crippled Toyota Corolla to the side of the freeway–thankfully there’s a large shoulder–and climb out, still yelling. Immediately after, I remember screaming, “OH MY GOD OH MY GOD” but in my memory I’m screaming something like, “YOU ARE KIDDING ME!”
I don’t really know.
I struggle to remember how, then dial 9-1-1. I tell the dispatcher that I was in a car crash on the 78. I am hysterical and the dispatcher has to tell me she can’t understand. Was I injured? I don’t know! I don’t know! I’m not bleeding but I don’t know. Do I want to be evaluated? Yes!
I want everything. I want the police. I want a traffic collision report. I want the fire department to tell me I’m okay. I call my husband and The way he responds tells me I must sound hysterical. He asks if he should come and I don’t know. Do I need a ride? I tell him where I am and say that I guess I need him to come. I don’t know.
Am I okay? Everyone keeps asking but I don’t know. I think I’m crying–I feel like I’m crying but when the fireman walks up to me and I point to the car and he asks me if I’m okay, he looks me in the eyes and says okay, let’s breathe. I don’t think my face is wet so maybe I haven’t been crying. Maybe I’ve just been gasping and yelling.
I look over at the fire trucks arriving and the highway patrol vehicle and the flashing lights and the woman in yellow who is holding her wrist, grimacing and he tells me, hey, look at me. There’s a lot going on but it’s okay, just breathe.
And I breathe.
I tell him I was just listening to a podcast that was talking about car crashes!
He tells me the Captain will talk to me and sure enough, the Captain comes over and speaks to me and I tell him the same thing about the podcasts. The sheriff walks up, a short man, and talks to to me.
I call my work, calmer now. Tell them I won’t be in. Tell them I was in a car crash.
Then the highway patrolman comes and takes my statement. I stopped at the light, I tell him, because it was red. And she didn’t stop! She didn’t even slow down! I didn’t even see her! And then I pulled over to the side and called 9-1-1.
I’m furious all over again.
Her Nissan Altima is still blocking traffic but it doesn’t look as damaged as my car. My husband arrives. We take out the reusable shopping bags from the trunk and the stuff from the glove compartment. When I open the door, I can see that it does not close right. Even I can tell that the car’s frame is bent. I notice that my phone charger was dislodged and flew backwards.
The driver’s seat is tilted back.
Something’s leaking from the engine.
The tow truck comes. The tow truck driver drives my vehicle up a ramp onto the flatbed. He hooks up her car. I leave with my husband.
When I get into the car my husband drove, I start gasping again. My brain and body are still terrified. I’m sure it’s the adrenaline still surging through me. But I ask him to get off the freeway. It feels dangerous.
I never do speak to the other driver, a woman who looks a little older than me. I am so angry with her for smashing my car and throwing me backwards.
I call the insurance company. My husband calls the Toyota dealership–it was a leased car. I take to my bed and try to sleep but every time I start to doze, the phone rings. Insurance people, tow yard people, more insurance people. It’s dizzying.
I go to the doctor the next day. I have a headache and my upper back hurts–I purposely haven’t taken any pain reliever since the day before so I can see what really hurts and my head definitely hurts.
The doctor was surprised I wasn’t more injured. She diagnosed me with whiplash but I have to say that other than this headache, I don’t feel too bad. She said it was lucky that I didn’t see it coming because if I had braced myself it would have been worse.
She told me to stay home from work and wrote me a note. So I’ve been resting and sleeping and trying to have good posture so my neck isn’t strained more. I am grateful to be okay.
The vehicle was officially totaled by the insurance company.
This was the first time I’ve ever been involved in a major crash. I do hope it’s my last. I am grateful I knew what to do, grateful for firemen, the sheriff, the highway patrol, the tow truck driver, the lady who stopped On the freeway to ask me if I were okay and to give me a hug, the insurance people, the medical people and my husband.