I was driving down Cadieux toward Mack. The name of the streets don’t really matter. I had just left dinner with a good friend and was headed home.
As I approached the car in front of me, which was at a stop sign, my car surged forward. I smashed my foot on the break and for a second, just a second, I wondered where I was. You know how some people say they hear a Bang or a Crash, or a Thud at the point of impact between two cars I will never be able to tell you what it sounded like when the car hit mine. I just remember hearing nothing else for just a moment.
Not the car in front of me that continued through the stop sign.
Not the cars that swerved around our stopped cars to continue their journeys.
I thought about getting out of the car until I glanced around and saw only complete darkness, no other cars and a sign to the right that said “Welcome to Grosse Pointe.”
I was on the other side of that sign, outside of it.
And the driver behind me didn’t get out.
I dialed 911 and a rude woman answered and asked whether I was hurt, whether I could walk, whether the car was hurt. I told her I wasn’t sure but that I was reluctant to get out and check the car because the guy who had rear-ended me was still sitting in his car.
“Do you want EMS?” she said, impatient, bored, ready to move on.
“No,” I told her. “I’d like an officer.”
There was a pause, then she said she’d send someone. I could hear in her voice that it wasn’t true.
The driver got out and walked to the window, and I breathed a sign of relief. He appeared to be 16 years old.
“There’s no damage to the cars and you’re OK and I’m OK, so why don’t we just leave?”
I could imagine him having to tell his mother about the accident. He had been visiting his girlfriend and had to go through what he called “a bad neighborhood” to get home. She had called him. He reached to get the phone and ran into me.
It was his mother’s fault.
I asked for his registration, insurance card and driver’s license and took pictures of them with my Iphone. Then I turned the camera to the teenager. I need to get a picture of you, I told him. I don’t know why. Maybe I was in shock. Maybe I knew that no police officer was coming, that we’d be leaving and that I’d never see this kid again.
I said “Smile.”
And he did.
And I felt horrible. Poor kid.
I gave him back his information, made him promise to drive slowly and to stay off the phone.
“Yes ma’am,” he said.
I headed home to whatI’d learn later would be weeks of physical therapy for some weird thing with my neck and back.
I’m sure the police just arrived at the scene today – nearly two weeks later. My X-rays showed that my spine is in tact.
But one can find blessings in everything, even a car accident. So I knew three things to be true:
That young man will never talk on the phone while driving again.
I won’t be playing tennis for a while.
And I am really, really blessed because the thing I fear most – the car air bag – didn’t attack me, and I’m going to be just fine.