I am pleased to bring you the first of three stories about car accidents I have been in.
The first accident took place in July 1999, when I was living in Nashville. It was the summer between my junior and senior years of college, and I was living with three other girls from my college while doing an internship with a small event planning company.
Well, ok, actually, the first two weeks of the summer Brooke and I lived in the apartment of her fiancee. That was quite the experience. He played the keyboard for Carman. (Yeah, that Carman. Remember The Champion, Radically Saved and Satan, Bite the Dust?) The one memory that really sticks out about those two weeks is the time we ran out of toilet paper. 'Nuf said.
After two weeks of bachelor hell we finally landed an apartment. Since three of us were only there for the summer we didn't bring any furniture with us. We slept on air matresses, had a turquoise blow-up couch (sort-of like the barbie furniture I used to have, only slightly bigger), a few lawn chairs, and a crate that held the TV. Looking back on this experience I realize how much I probably increased my mother's prayer life during this time. I was oblivious to the horror of it all because I was in Nashville. I was finally living out my dream of the past 12 years - I was living in Nashville and had an internship planning special events within the Christian music industry.
I also had a terrible part-time job at a small record label, owned by a guy who used to play guitar for Prince. [Perhaps an alternate title for this post could have been "Name Dropping, Part I." Although I'm not sure that Carman and Prince are names that qualify for the good type of name dropping, where people hear it and think "oooh - you must be special to know people who know those people!" They might be more along the lines of "Hmmmm - maybe I shouldn't associate with you anymore."] He and his wife were nice, but the job just did NOT work out. I finally got up the guts to say, "Hey, this isn't working out" which left me without a job. My internship was not paid so a job was mildly important.
On July 2nd (or maybe it was the 3rd?) I had an appointment with a temporary staffing service to see if I could get a job through them. I got into my cute little Neon Expresso - it was black, had two doors, a spoiler and a sunroof, and was dang fun to drive - and went off to the agency. My appointment was in the afternoon and I didn't have time to eat any lunch because, as usual, I was running late. I arrived at the agency where someone explained to me that they had lots of positions available working as a customer service rep at a call center.
Translation: I would have to work crazy hours and talk to disgruntled customers. My job would be a last ditch effort to try and talk them into staying with the company, which might be met with a teensy bit of resistance and a few a choice four-letter words.
If I had not been a naive college student at the time I would have said, "No thanks. Do you have any other positions available?" Instead, I stayed for at least another hour so I could take a test that would determine if I was competent enough to be a customer service rep.
By the time I got done I was frustrated, tired, and HUNGRY. I left the agency and headed back towards the apartment, stopping at Arby's on the way. I got a roast beef sandwich, curly fries, and a drink. I couldn't wait to get home so I could devour them. I got into the turn lane to make the left turn onto the road that would lead me home.
Now, this particular light had a green arrow for left turns, but it wasn't a "turn left on the green arrow ONLY" light. So the light was green (but not the arrow) and I moved out into the intersection in anticipation of the traffic clearing, giving me a chance to turn.
The light turned yellow, and I was in the middle of the intersection so I knew that I had to make the turn. I waited for the oncoming traffic to stop before I completed the turn. And that's when the big, black truck from Texas decide to try and run the light. He was behind another car (which was in the process of stopping) and swerved out to charge through the intersection. Except that he charged through my car instead.
He hit my passenger door and sent me flying through the intersection. I smacked into another car and came to a stop.
My first thought was, "OH MY WORD!!!!!!"
My second thought (as I was trying to catch my breath) was, "I wonder what internal bleeding feels like..."
My third thought was, "Well, crap. There goes my sandwich and curly fries."
I took mental stock of all of my limbs and organs and decided I was doing ok. A paramedic showed up at my window and asked if I was ok. I suddenly doubted whether or not I really was ok.
I was afraid that, even though I felt ok, I would get home and discover that my back was broken or I had some type of internal injury that would cause my kidneys to explode. Not very realistic, but what did I know? I had been living in an empty apartment where I would sit on a blow-up couch to watch a TV that sat on an old crate, and I'd been sleeping on air matress for six weeks. I really wasn't in any position to judge where I fell on the spectrum of being "ok."
Since I didn't have a cell phone to call my parents and get a second opinion about whether or not I was "ok", I decided to err on the side of caution. The paramedic asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I said, "Sure," almost as if he had asked me to run down to McDonald's for an ice cream cone. (At this point in my life I had no concept of hospital bills or insurance rates. I was so blissfully unaware!!)
At that exact moment he said, "Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to keep your head straight."
"Excuse me?" (I still had my head turned, looking at him, wondering who he was calling "Ma'am.")
"Please look straight ahead."
"Um, can I get out of the car?"
"No. Stay right there and look straight ahead."
Within a few seconds a stretcher appeared. Then came the body board and the neck brace. First, the paramedic carefully put the neck brace on me. Then they had to slide the body board into the car and slide me onto it, then heave me onto the stretcher. I thought, "Dear Jesus, what have I gotten myself into? I want to get checked out, but is this really necessary??"
And please remember, it was all happening in the middle of a very busy intersection during rush hour traffic.
So I'm laying there (or lying there? I can never remember the rule on this...) as they strap me down. I couldn't see anything aside from the clear blue sky, because the neck brace prevented me from turning my head. They wheeled me into the ambulance.
This is when I also paused to wonder if I had put on clean underwear that morning. (I'm pretty sure I had.)
And then, they drove me 1/10 of a mile up the hill to the hospital. I think it took them longer to get me all strapped down than it did to drive to the hospital. See the picture below? Point A = the scene of the accident. Point B = the hospital drive where we turned in to go to the emergency room.
I'm not sure how much that short little drive cost my dad.
It turned out that I didn't have any broken limbs, or internal bleeding, or potential for exploding kidneys. I did have a seatbelt burn and a monster bruise on my leg, along with some cuts from the shattered passenger window that came flying in at me. The saddest thing of all (aside from the lost sandwich and fries) is that my sweet little Neon was totalled.
Thankfully, my parents were already planning to drive down the next day to visit me. I don't know what I would have done if they hadn't rescued me! They decided to give me their car, which was a snazzy Dodge Dynasty. (Yeah, I know you're jealous.) They rented a car for the drive home and bought a different car soon after (which they had already been talking about doing.)
I was also thankful that a police officer had been sitting in traffic at the very intersection where I had the accident and he witnessed the whole thing. While I was partially at fault for trying to turn left on a red light, he saw that the other guy was more at fault for gunning through the intersection. I'm not sure if it made a difference on the insurance paperwork (once again, thanks Dad for taking care of me!) but it probably would have been worse had he not witnessed it.
I finished out the summer and determined to never sleep on an air matress again. After finishing college I moved back to Nashville, to a better apartmet, and ended up with a much better job. But I was still driving the Dynasty. That car traveled with me to Jacksonville, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; Fresno, California; and Dallas, Texas. It died one day in the parking lot of a gas station near Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas. And that, my friends, is another story for another day.
Moral of the story: Never pull into the intersection while waiting to make a left turn at a light. And avoid big, black trucks from Texas.