Monday, August 29, 2005
Not that I'm being judgmental here, cause see I'm one of them, cell phone, sandwich and all--though in my case the sandwich is likely to be a veggie rollup. (Aren't I virtuous?) Yes, I'm out on the road with all the other stressed out, bird flipping drivers trying to negotiate the new millenium, or just get to work on time.
But I'm here to say I don't like it. And from the one-step-from psychotic rage reactions you get in ordinary traffic, I'm starting to suspect that a lot of people aren't having much fun either.
Then the other day, I had just returned from my two day seaside retreat and was feeling totally calm and zen-like. After I got off the bus, I found my happy little Honda Civic, put in my favorite CD, checked my cell phone messages one more time, and contemplated the shortest way home from the bus station. Though I'd only been away a couple of days, I was eager for the sight of the rooms where I live my life, and the people and pets with whom I live them.
However, as I was driving down the road that led from the bus station, a car abruptly pulled out of a parking spot--and crash! right into the rear door of my pristine little vehicle.
Since I'm not all that good with the practical realities of life, I tried to think of what I was supposed to do. The first thing that came to mind (probably from watching various movies and TV shows) was that I was supposed to get out and yell and wave my arms and call the other driver a MORON with a few choice epithets thrown in. But really, I'm not all that good at that sort of thing, and besides, as I said, I was in a particularly tranquil state of mind.
"Excuse me, but it seems as if you've just smashed up my car," I said politely approaching the other vehicle.
The driver was a teenage boy around my son's age. He even sported a rock shirt that looked like one I've laundered many times, and an impressive collection of tattoos. My sympathies were immediately aroused.
"I looked, but you weren't there!" he said hopelessly.
To which I could only explain that it seemed, in fact, I was there.
"Well, you were in my blind spot," he said, rubbing his goatee nervously.
"Maybe," I said, not wanting to be so rude as to point out that I was actually right in front of him.
I, too, stroked my chin, and tried to remember what they did next on the TV shows and movies.
"I think we should exchange information," the young man said, as if he'd just realized he was dealing with a less than fully functioning adult. He kindly offered to loan me a pen.
Well, that's when my trusty cell phone really came in handy. I could call my husband at work! Being better at reality than I am, he told me to get the license number, and then call the police.
Unfortunately, there was some kind of major action going on in town and every officer was out on a foot chase. The kid and I, trapped in our little mishap, would have to wait. Demonstrating an impressive awareness of the importance of first impressions, the kid promptly changed from his angry looking rock T-shirt to a plain grey one.
We stood and leaned against our cars, pretending to be the strangers we were before our fates suddenly connected us.
"Are you in school?" I finally asked, already wondering what the accident would do to the boy's car insurance premiums.
"Nope," he said, cocking his head in the direction of a nearby gas station. "I work over there. What about you?"
"I'm a waitress," I said. "But I want to be a writer when I grow up."
"You look pretty grown up to me," he said. By then, he was eyeing me suspiciously, obviously wondering what kind of whacko he'd gotten himself mixed up with.
Around that time,the officer arrived and relieved us of our faltering small talk.
Turned out he was a particularly kind man as well. He immediately reminded us that though the accident was unfortunate, the only thing that mattered was that neither of us had been hurt. A philosophical cop! I was loving it.
I then told him what happened, as plainly as I could.
"And what's your side of the story?" he said to the young man in the grey t-shirt.
"I looked! She wasn't there!" he said. "And I wasn't going fast either." I was a little disappointed that in nearly an hour of waiting, he hadn't come up with anything more inventive.
"I see, but it seems you pulled out and hit her car," the compassionate cop was forced to point out.
He went into the cruiser to fill out the accident report while the boy and I sat on our hoods and felt the breeze of a late summer evening on our faces.
In the end, the philosopher cop was right. The only thing that mattered was that no one had been hurt.
But I still think there are too many cars.
And I still don't like it.