Car accidents suck.
We know this as fact because they’re a part of everyday life, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. We’re intrigued by them because we’re nosy, we want to know what happened, how it happened, who was involved, whether they’re okay or not. We want to have a part in helping, in saving someone or calming them down. For most of us, we never believe one will ever happen to us. We see them all the time, we hear the sirens and wonder where they’re going. We sit in traffic because of them. We drive by them, rubbernecking to get the best look. Sometimes we’re even (un)fortunate enough to witness one. But none of it compares to the reality of being in one.
I wish I could still say I’ve never been in a car accident. To still have the pride of knowing I’ve done everything I can as a driver to avoid a crash. But I know things happen, things we can’t plan for, things we never anticipated. You can’t have that many close calls without ever knowing what the real thing feels like.
It doesn’t happen like you think it would. There’s no slow-motion flashback of your life, no replay of all the things you’re going to miss if you die. You don’t even have time to react because by the time you realize what’s happening, it’s already over. Cue: aftershock.
I always thought the sound of two cars colliding was exactly how they portray it in the movies. That crunching sound when one car smashes into the other. But it’s nothing like that. I heard the screeching tires, his brakes working overtime to stop the impact; I don’t even remember seeing him. I just remember the popping sound of his front end meeting my right rear tire.
It’s kind of like popping a balloon. Or uncorking a loud bottle of champagne. It’s fast and loud and nothing like what I expected a car crash to sound like.
But it sure hurt like hell.
I would imagine side impacts hurt a lot worse than front or rear impacts. While hanging out in a neck brace, on a backboard in the ambulance, the EMT, who genuinely entertained my witty remarks and blubbering commentary, confirmed my beliefs (it would make sense that your body can’t get thrown sideways without a little residual pain. or a lot). Thankfully for me, I walked away with nothing but some seriously sore body parts (see: strained neck and bruised ribs), but it was more than enough to completely rock me to my core.
Even now, several days later, it still feels surreal, like it was a dream I had, or something I made up in my mind. I didn’t even scream- sure, in my head I was yelling “did I just get hit? was I in a car accident?!” but no words ever came out of my mouth. I didn’t even hit the brakes- I really didn’t need to, I guess. His car slammed me sideways and stopped me facing the wrong direction. My first thoughts were “did that just happen?”; my mind raced, not knowing what to do. My windshield wipers were going off; I couldn’t figure out how to turn them off. I didn’t know what to do, did I move my car out of the road? My first thought was to call my parents. Some nice man came over to see if I was okay, and I put him on the phone with my dad. Thank god for that guy, cause I was crying so hard I couldn’t get the words out: I was in a car accident.
It’s weird to analyze the thoughts that enter your head when you’ve had an accident. I didn’t want to move for fear of further injury, so I waited in my car for the ambulance. Looking around, I noticed there wasn’t any inside damage to my car; nothing had gotten thrown around much, there was no broken glass or jagged car parts jutting in at me. I thanked god I had dropped my laptop off at home before going back out; I would have been pissed if my computer had been busted. Same thing with my phone; surprisingly it was fine, everything was fine. The only thing that had fallen onto the ground was a check. I was anxious about that check. I didn’t want it to get lost or be left behind, and I couldn’t move to bend down and retrieve it. When the EMT came in on the passenger’s side, I kindly asked him to shove it in my purse. When my dad arrived (I explicitly demanded I not be taken to the hospital until he got there), he took my purse, and I finally stopped worrying someone was going to jack my stuff. Now all I had to worry about was the pain in my back and the bruises from my seatbelt.
I’d like to say being in a car accident has opened my eyes and changed my life- and maybe it would have moreso if it had been worse (though I’m very grateful it wasn’t). Yes, I treat driving a little differently than I used to. Yes, I’m a little more cautious of all the a-holes on the road. Yes, I value my life and hope I never have to go through this (or put anyone through this) again. Will I never run a yellow light again? Probably not.