All was normal on a Monday evening in Tallahassee. It was a clear night with comfortable temperatures. The roads were dry for lack of rain. It was a beautiful night.
Was. Until roughly 8:50pm when I entered the intersection of Calhoun and Apalachee Parkway in my sturdy, dependable 1991 Honda Accord. I heard the blaring of a car horn, screeching of some brakes, and as I looked to my left, I saw headlights approaching too quickly and too close for me to do anything.
"Oh, no, no, no, NO!" I said, as I realized I was about to get hit. My body went right, then left. My head bumped into the window on the rebound. And, massage geek who has treated dozens of accident victims, my brain began processing what happened... and how to treat the injuries.
"Check SCM, and Splenius Capitis and Spenius Cervicus on both sides. Take note of impact at temporal region, look for connections to the musculature in upper thoracic, lower cervicals..."
Fear was an emotion that I might have felt for all of a couple seconds. It came at the moment that I knew I was going to be hit, at the point of impact, and immediately following the end of my body swaying. And then I went straight into anger. I was relieved that I could open the car door. And when I got out, I looked at the guy who had hit me, raised my arms up in the air in an unmistakable motion of, "Seriously??!! You hit my car!! Seriously?!?!?" As the guy emerged from his car and his passengers poured out through their doors, I started yelling.
"What $%*@ were you thinking?!"
He kept apologizing, but I was in vent mode.
"I SO don't need this! I SOOO don't need THIS! Do you know how poor I am?!?!"
That's what was forefront in my mind. As one who has so little leftover every month for any kind of "fun money", the thought of my car being totaled by our "ethic of disposable stuff" culture was putting a pit in my stomach. The car is drivable; but the driver's side door doesn't close well enough to make it really safe to tool around town in. I also was thinking about the discussion that I had just left at St. John's. Over the weekend, a member of our EfM group had come upon a fiery, fatal wreck about a minute after it had happened and was still very shaken by the experience. I was processing that information, and thinking how lucky I was that my own wreck, as much of a headache as it was going to be, was not nearly as bad as that.
We were able to move both cars out of this major thoroughfare and to the other side of Calhoun where we waited for the police. My adrenaline was subsiding, and I was doing what I could to massage my neck.
"Are you hurt?" the guy asked me.
"No, I don't think I am." I explained what I did for a living and that I wanted to make sure that I took these steps now to make sure I would not hurt so much later. I called my partner and asked her to join me as we waited. All of us--me, the guy, and his passengers-- we were all on our cellphones to respective other parties to let them know what had happened.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Trevor, I'm Susan. Sorry to meet under such circumstances."
"I am really, really sorry..."
"I know you didn't mean to do it."
He went on to tell me what he thought had happened, how he'd been watching the car ahead of him, how this was his first accident that he'd been in. As he talked, and did his own venting, I had compassion for him. Of course, he hadn't wanted to run his car into me. None of us wanted to be standing outside waiting for a police officer to show up. We each had had plans for the night: mine was to go home and relax, catch up on Facebook, maybe write a blog entry. His was to go with his friends to the intramural fields at FSU. Now we were lumped into this situation. We talked about his part-time job. We talked about FSU. We were talking.
The yelling had ceased. And while I was not happy with having my car door crunched in, I was able to see the vulnerable and nervous young man before me. And I could feel empathy for him.
The cop finally arrived, and Trevor didn't fight with me over the facts of the situation as I relayed them to the officer. He took responsibility for what had occurred. How rare that is in our America today.
When I got home, I laid down on the bed with a heating pad on my neck. I used my not-so-smartphone to post a message to Facebook: Susan Gage was in a car accident. I am OK.
Messages began pouring in with well wishes, concern, even talk of how I should have stood my ground, a reference to the insane law that George Zimmerman is apparently using to defend his use of deadly force against an unarmed teenager named Trayvon Martin. I appreciated all of it. And at the same time, I found myself extending those same things to Trevor. He is being punished through a traffic citation, and this will increase his insurance rate, too. For me, that is punishment enough for him. I hope he will take away from the experience more caution and attention to the road when he's driving. And for me, out of this headache, I have seen how even in the midst of anger and sorrow, I can still find a way to have compassion for the other. That is an amazing leap for me.