Slapped in the Face by Reality

The truth is I got slapped in the face by my cell phone. I’ve only been slapped in the face three times in my entire life, all of them shocking, and in my opinion undeserved. This has to be symbolic of something greater than a freak accident? Certainly my head was ringing in the aftermath but there was no button I could push to stop the incessant noise. It’s true, I’ve been holding my breath since posting to the universe last week “I wish you bad luck,” but come on this is 2019, and I thought karma was totally out of her bitch phase. 

Clearly I was mistaken.

As Charles Bukowski claims pain is strange. One minute we’re stopped at a crosswalk, waiting idly for pedestrians to cross the street (thank God they waited), and BANG, the pain arrived so unexpectedly I thought maybe it was happening to someone else. The force of impact was shocking enough, not to mention the sound of metal grating against metal, I think have a mild case of PTSD?

It’s true, my sister drives like an old lady, but I couldn’t stop myself from pointing out all the break lights ahead of us as she drove me to coffee this morning. I was literally standing on an unresponsive imaginary break, like I did when my kids were learning to drive, and the outcome was the same. I have no control over the extenuating circumstances in my life. Shit. Shit. Shit.

Everything flew back, my head, my toes, our glasses, and cell phones, all the change in the cup holder, the Crystal Cruise pen I’ve been looking for, Larry’s left arm, a random water bottle, a book by Seth Godin, a plastic animal Audrey was playing with only hours ago, even my hands were thrown in the air as if praising God, or rectifying an egregious error, futile nevertheless.

With equal vengeance there was this whiplash effect, forcing everything forward, and then violently back as if a puppet on a string. For a few seconds (or so it seemed) there was this eerie silence and time stood perfectly still. Now that I think about it maybe it was my mind trying to catch up with reality.

I watched the pedestrians on the sidewalk react as if in slow motion. I noticed hands moving instinctively to the heart, eyes enlarged, mouths in the form of an O, and then there was this collective inhale, as if holding your breath could halt the horror playing out before them. We’re all such rubberneckers, it’s like you want to look away, but something mysterious pulls our eyes towards tragedy.

The first thought that crossed my mind? Do I have on clean underwear? Really Mom? No one even considered the state of my underwear.  

One minute we’re discussing where to go to dinner and the next thing I know a handsome fireman was taking my blood pressure? I reminded him I was a little shook. He nodded, “just try to relax ma’am.” Who me? I’m totally chill. 

Russell Simmons says if you’re in a car accident, and everything moves slowly, you can be shocked into the present. The past and the future disappear. It’s true. I knew exactly what had just occurred. We were rear-ended but I couldn’t stop saying, “what the hell just happened?”

Nikki Rowe says, “There’s something about trauma to the mind, body and soul. One day your normal and the next your different; you don’t know what changed but you know nothing’s the same and all of a sudden you are learning to adapt yourself to the same environment with a whole new outlook.” I guess you realize how easily things can change. If we had left Julie’s house five minutes earlier? If we took a left at the last light and headed straight to the restaurant? If the young man behind us was watching the road instead of his cell phone? 

The thing you thought should never happen, happened anyway, and nothing is going to change that. It doesn’t even matter why it happened because that is also in the past, and weather you condone it or not, is not going to change the outcome. You can’t mentally argue with the facts, we know this to be true, yet we do it anyway? It’s as if we are incapable of controlling our own thoughts let alone the errancies of life. 

Guess what? There is no divine protection plan just because you are faithful, behave well in public, wear clean underwear, and follow the rules. Life happens. I strongly believe God is nonexclusive, omnipresent in her children’s lives, especially when we screw up. As Anne Lamott so beautifully states, ““You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Imagine.

Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of traffic accidents, in fact, regulators estimate that approximately 40 percent of all traffic crashes that occur in the nation each year are rear-end collisions. The poor young man who collided with us was distraught, concerned, with nasty burns on his forearms from the deployed air bags. He’s an Israeli citizen, served his country in the military, and is legally in the United States, and most blessedly insured. 

I said, “Oh honey, do those burns hurt?”

He said, “I’m okay, I survived the Gaza strip, this is nothing.”

I thought for a moment I have no idea what this young man has been through in his young life. But for some reason our lives have collided. I looked him in the eye and said, “we’re all okay, that’s the only thing that matters.”

If someone hits you from behind, it is virtually never your fault, regardless of why you stopped. The theory goes something like this, if the person behind cannot stop, he is not driving safely. I assume he was looking at his phone, or somehow distracted, because there was no skidding before the big BANG. The impact pushed our car right over the crosswalk, if the pedestrians had been crossing at that time, they would have been killed, or seriously injured. 

Several people stayed to give their statements to the police, to check on us, or help push the car off the road. I noted what a beautiful night it was, still light out, but the heat had dissipated, and this was in such stark contrast with the broken, and bent cars now parked on the curb.

It’s interesting that you notice injuries one at a time. The first thing to hurt was my cheek, after being pistol whipped by my seditious cell phone, it was already swelling. Cool, I ‘m leaving on a trip in three days, one we’ve been planning for over a year, and now my cheeks will be uneven. Maybe no one will notice because I’m getting eyelash extensions? 

I think it just remains to be said that any one of a hundred everyday menaces — a car accident, a head cold, a lie before breakfast — could have disfigured or coarsened his bounteous good looks in a day or a second. J. D. Salinger

The second injury to make it self known was my feet. Literally I lost half my big toe nails? They must of slammed up under the dash board, but come on, I’m going to go on a cruise with half my toe nails missing? God this is so not funny. And that bruise on my heel is going to smart when I try and shove it in those new stilettos. I most definitely will not be dancing the night away. 

Finally my back starts stiffening up as if I smashed my tail bone. Which could be possible. I’m taking a Motrin before bed, sleeping on a ice pack, and hoping for the best come morning. Common signs and symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, stiffness and headaches. Wonderful.

Allison Glock says decisions can be like car accidents, sudden and full of consequences. Ain’t that the truth. The night of the accident I dreamt my mom was trying to drive me to the airport, but I hadn’t packed, and I could not find a pair of matching shoes? It’s like this very, very nice car crash that never ends writes Douglas Coupland. I’ve been given a reality check, but it would have been much more pleasant if God had simply whispered in my ear, “put your cell phone away, don’t stick your feet where they don’t belong, strengthen your spine woman.” But our God is the God of Noah, Abraham, and Moses, who if nothing else is a God of extreme measures. And like all who have gone before me, I found myself seated in chaos, and could not render the situation. Life in a nutshell.


Anecdotes:

  • “There’s a difference between driving and texting. When your driving your eyes have to be open and on the road watching the cars around you, road signs, and traffic lights. Along with your mind on the road and destination. Which means you are multitasking. When your texting your eyes are on your cell phone screen and key pad. Along with your mind on what your going to say next. So how can you do both? Please stop!” Jonathan Anthony Burkett
  • If you recognize that self-driving cars are going to prevent car accidents, AI will be responsible for reducing one of the leading causes of death in the world claims Mark Zuckerberg.
  • A couple of days back, I got into a car accident. Not my fault. Even if it’s not your fault, the other person gets out of their car and looks at you like it’s your fault: Why did you stop at a red light and let me hit you doing 80! Dane Cook
  • “It is usually impossible to know when you have prevented an accident.” Mokokoma Mokhonoana

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