I’ve been in minor car accidents before. I’ve driven icy roads. I’ve dealt with body shops and fixing dents and the sadness of seeing a crumpled car.
But Sunday topped everything I’d ever experienced.
Here’s the thing. From Seoul, I flew to JFK. From there, I flew to Syrcause, where my bandmates picked me up and took me to Ithaca. We had scheduled a gig there before my trip was even imagined, and we really didn’t want to cancel. I was exhausted, jet-lagged, and cranky. As I was wandering around the stage trying to figure out my instrument cables, I turned around – and there was my girlfriend. My amazing girlfriend who drove all the way out to Ithaca to surprise me and be with me a day early. Words can’t describe how astonishing and comforting it was to see her.
Sunday, we had brunch with friends and headed home. It was raining and dreary, but not too cold. My jet lag caught up with me, and I fell asleep. (No, I wasn’t driving.) Woke up and we started to talk, just enjoying being together again.
Along Route 17, we saw a car pulled over in the right lane and moved over to avoid it. Ice on the road. Skidded. Avoided the other car to our right, slowed down, but slid toward the shoulder and scraped the guardrail. We pulled over to the other side of the highway, got out cautiously through the passenger door, looked at the damage. The entire left side of the car was scraped, and the front tire had gone flat. A Russian guy in a minivan pulled over and cheerfully helped us change the tire. It looked a little flat, so we got off at the next exit to re-inflate the tire. As soon as we started to pull back on the highway, we realized the car wasn’t driveable; the wheel was too far bent. Our phones wouldn’t work.
Finally we talked to a state trooper, got a tow to the next town, where they found someone who could tow us back to New Haven. While we waited for our tow truck driver, we stood in the office and watched the parade of other people who had skidded on the ice. One guy came for his daughter’s things after she’d flipped her car. Someone had gotten their car winched out of a ditch. More than one person heard the news that their cars were history. I started to feel lucky.
The tow truck driver was a great guy. Conversation, chill, but a careful driver and reassuring to be around. We brought the sad, scraped car to an auto body shop we knew, and the gf’s parents met us with her car. It was almost 9:30 and we hadn’t eaten since brunch, except for the food I’d gotten out of the vending machine three hours earlier. So we went to a Turkish restaurant about a mile away that we’d been meaning to try anyway.
It was delicious. Quiet. For the first time we started to relax. I really just felt lucky that we weren’t hurt and we hadn’t hit anyone else. It would be so good to get home.
As we headed back on the quiet city roads, we suddenly shot forward with a terrifying noise. Some car had hit us, out of the blue, hard. While she called 911, I just lost it and huddled inside my coat, crouched on the ground in the rain, shaking. The guy who had hit us stood back at his car, looking at the damage.
I looked up in time to see the bastard driving away. I ran after the car, but he was gunning it. Before he vanished through the green light (that he probably waited for), I got most of his plates. Within half an hour, the cops had caught him.
He was driving under the influence, driving without a license, speeding, and following too closely. Plus, he tried to evade responsibility. But: he was a driving a car that had insurance on it. Which is good for us.
Now I’m just glad to be ok. We might be the only two people we know to be in two car accidents in one day, but we’re ok. I don’t know if we’re really unlucky or really lucky.