For years I have been telling people that I have been in eleven car accidents. Tsk tsk. I think that there must be something that has happened eleven times to me but, it isn’t car accidents. Nine (I went back and counted) is actually the correct number. Unless you count all the times that I have spun out in my old driveway (due to black ice) and after getting wedged between two trees, needing to get towed out. If we count those we are looking at more like thirteen. And we probably shouldn’t count those because, besides being a total pain in the ass to deal with, it was sort of fun to just spin and spin and then gently hit a tree.
I’ll have you know that none of these accidents were my fault. And I wasn’t actually the driver in all of them either. Well, one was my fault but only because I fell asleep at the wheel for JUST A SECOND while driving on the interstate in Virginia on my way to band practice after a long day of work. I was on my way to rehearse “Baby Got Back” about 37 times with “Pearl,” the R&B band I was briefly in, and obviously the excitement of this was overwhelming enough to lull me into a deep albeit, brief sleep. I hit the guardrail and was pretty much alert after that.
I do hold myself partially responsible for a car accident that my friends Scott, Brian, and I were in while on our way home from our high school graduation rehearsal. I’ve never asked but always dreaded the day that he sends me the bill for the repairs he had to make to his almost fully restored 1973 Buick Apollo. It had all been beautifully finished with the final detail (the hood, of course) being the only thing missing. Oh! That and there wasn’t a back seat. Which didn’t stop us from having our friend Brian, all 220 pounds of him, sit in the non–back seat because, well, where else would he have sat? We couldn’t have even put him on the hood! So, when I accidentally distracted Scott by saying the one thing you should never say to a jittery driver of an incomplete and possibly illegal car, “Oh, was that a cop?” causing him to look over his shoulder, thus slamming into the back of the car that had stopped in front of him, all 220 pounds of Brian came forward, literally ripping my seat out of the frame of the car. That was just a little funny. Or a lot funny. The front end of his car looking like scrap metal was not funny.
Most of my accidents have had a glimmer of comedy about them (always looking on the bright side, me!). Like the time I was rear ended at high speed in Norfolk, and when the driver of the other car and I pulled into the nearest parking lot, which just happened to be a very lively apartment complex, all these children came running up to me asking me for my autograph. “Mariah! We love you music! Please to sign! Can I touch your hair?” So, that was cool. And getting hit by a van six months before our wedding sucked in the moment, but we were able to use the repair money from the insurance company on our wedding. We still have that unrepaired car, and every day it reminds us of our love and our gross irresponsibility.
I suppose now, in retrospect, that not telling my Dad that I had smashed my friend’s windshield with my head in yet another accident (actually, the first) was not the brightest thing I’ve ever withheld. I see now that I suffered a concussion, whiplash, and possibly a major vertebral misalignment. But, whatev. I didn’t want to get grounded for taking off my seatbelt (in my house that was as big of a no-no as knifing someone) to grab my mix tape off the floor. There isn’t much funny about that, except it makes me giddy to think about mixed tapes.
The worst one was the hit and run. Nothing says, “I hate humans” like smashing into the driver’s (um, me . . . the driver being smashed into) side of a car, practically totaling it, looking the driver (um, me . . . the driver being looked at) of that car in the eye, backing up, turning your car around and driving away. Quickly. (Not quick enough for the elderly, shirtless, insane, yet spry witness (who never ONCE stopped watering his lawn) to start shouting “YRB-765! YRB-765! Remember that license!” over and over again until it was forever seared into my memory. That accident sucked. I sat, dumbfounded, in my car (with YRB-765! being screamed at me) for a full two minutes, just sort of waiting for the guy that hit me to come back with help. A few months after the accident, I received a nice but very pathetic letter (in Spanish, which John translated for me) from him, apologizing. Although I am pretty sure he was more sorry that he (1) didn’t have a license, (2) didn’t have insurance, (3) wasn’t old enough to drive, and (4) got caught.
It reminds me now of another out-of-body experience. My friend Matt (hi, Matt!) and I were in downtown Syracuse getting coffee. When we left the coffee shop we decided to climb up a fire escape that was overlooking the parking lot where I had parked my (very visible) car. We were high enough up, though, that you wouldn’t have noticed us, and we were talking pretty quietly, this being before I became the loud, obnoxious woman I am today. Anyhoo, as we were chatting, this kid walks up to my car, looks both ways all fidgety-like and proceeds to start trying to break into my car. I thought to myself and then said out loud, “Seriously? IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING? You are seriously going to break into my car right now?” and the kid ran off. What the fuck is wrong with people?
There was this one time? At band camp? No, really it was on the interstate through Pennsylvania during a snowstorm. I was the only car on the road, and I was most likely going my version of the speed limit, which, I am sure you can imagine, is not the actual speed limit. I was an idiot. A total and complete, fearless, and, as I thought at the time, invincible idiot. So imagine my surprise when I started to spin. And spin, and spin at a high speed, alone on a snowy interstate in the early evening. If it weren’t for the snow, I would not be here to be as awesome as I am because it made hitting the guardrail more like hitting a blow-up guardrail. It was sort of pleasant, actually. Not pleasant? That would be when the COP that had been chasing me (the snow was so thick that I hadn’t seen him) to warn me of the danger of driving at high speeds in the middle of a snowstorm finally caught up to me. He must have had an idiot for a daughter because he was pretty nice to me and helped me get towed and all that. Lesson learned, again.
Oh, relax. The truth of the matter is that I am actually a fantastic driver. A bit of a control freak (shocker!) and maybe a bit too aggressive but all in all, safe. (I just remembered the time I ran a red light because I was trying to find the right Radiohead song. Don’t judge me on that one, I learned another lesson.) Now that I have kids I feel like everyone else on the road is out to kill me with their horrible vehicles of death so I am more cautious and I stay well within the speed limits. And, let’s not forget how cute I am! So that automatically makes me a better driver than you.