A week ago I had my first car accident in twenty years.
That sentence makes it sound dramatic. It’s not. We were exceptionally lucky and had nothing more than some paint rubbed onto our front bumper. In fact, my first accident — the one I had during driver’s ed — was much worse.
Driver’s ed?! OH YEAH, it was during driver’s ed. Really, that should have been the end of my time behind the wheel. If you have an accident during driver’s ed, shouldn’t that make you automatically disqualified to drive a car? Shouldn’t that be a sign that maybe this driving deal just isn’t your thing? Well, I did keep driving and turned out to be not so bad at it (shut up, Michael.) And in my defense, that accident was NOT my fault.
I was driving down the busy streets of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with my instructor and my twin sister, Allison. I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it. Feeling confident. Feeling good. Then I made a right and saw, halfway down the block, a double-parked car.
DUH DUH DUUUUUUUUUUH.
This presents a challenge for a young driver, because those Brooklyn streets are only so wide and if a car is double-parked you have to squeeze between it and the parked cars on the other side. So I steeled myself, started going around the car, and all of a sudden the woman in the passenger seat opened up her car door and started getting out. Right in front of me.
Now, as a now experienced driver, my course of action would be to slam on the brakes and raise my hands in the air in a “what gives?” kind of motion. (That is my go-to move when people do weird things in their cars.) But as a new driver I did what my young, nubile instincts told me to do, which was to get the heck away from her. So I threw the wheel to the right and kept on trucking, scraping the sides of three or four parked cars and taking the side mirror off one of them. My instructor slammed on her passenger side brakes before we took out the rest of the block, and then (like a good New Yorker) got out of the car and started screaming at the woman, who screamed back at her, and then all of the neighbors started coming out of their houses and sitting on their stoops to take it all in. It was quite the scene.
Meanwhile, I spent that time sitting behind the wheel in shock saying, “I’m going to die. I’m going to die” because I don’t over-react much.When my mother came and picked me up, I remember lying down across the backseat of the car weeping and insisting that I would never drive again. I wanted to “select out,” as they say.
Of course that didn’t last and I became a good, safe driver (shut UP, Mike) who never had a single accident until last week. And this one? Also not my fault. A woman blew through a yield sign and I, with my husband and kids inside the car, braked hard enough that we just managed to hit her back passenger side enough to swap some paint, instead of t-boning her like we easily could have. The kids, you’ll be pleased to know, were completely unscathed by the whole thing. In fact, after the accident they said, “Why are we pulling over?” Like they had no idea that anything out of the ordinary had happened.
This does not say much for my day-to-day driving skills.
But ignore them. And ignore my husband. And most other people who have ridden in a car with me.
I am an excellent driver.
(p.s. my mom agrees with me so suck on THAT, Mike!)