I’m not a great driver. I’ve been involved in a number of car accidents. On a number of occasions, my dad has lamented, “You drive like you’re using braille!” The first time I was going 80mph, no seatbelt, throwing care to the wind when I came upon another accident that had just happened. I ran slam into the back of the two other cars that were already crunched. I sat on the side of Interstate 81 bloodied and burned by the airbag for more than an hour waiting for my boyfriend at the time to show up and collect me. My lime green VW bug my parents got my the summer before for making the Dean’s List was smashed and it was devastating. The worst part was I couldn’t call my dad and ask him what on Earth I was supposed to do because he and my mom were in Antigua.
The next time I was driving back to West Virginia after a weekend at home when I may or may not have been looking at my cell phone when I veered a little too far over on to the rumble strips, overcorrected and flipped my car three times. It remains one of the most terrifying things that has ever happened to me. Remarkably I was unhurt and the delightful state trooper, who clearly loves life and his job, said to me disgusted, “You can’t just do that! You can’t just flip your car!” I was too stunned to reply wittily as he wrote me a ticket for failure to maintain control. It’s a good thing troopers don’t observe me in my everyday life or I’d have a stockpile of those violations.
*Sidenote: my parents complained about how I was treated that day and the delightful trooper was reprimanded and my “charges” were dropped.*
I rode with the tow truck driver to the body shop that day and waited for my parents to arrive. Clearly shaken, they scooped me up and said how grateful they were that I was okay. The VW didn’t make it out alive that time. My dad found me an exact replica and I was back in beetle shortly thereafter and just in time for the winter months in West Virginia. Most people look forward to snow days, but when you’re a reporter and it snows, it means you have to go toward the danger and toward the reflective vest and roadside live shot to exclaim, “It’s snowing and the roads are really slippery!” On an especially slick morning I took the turn around Little Beaver State Park a little too quickly and went over an embankment in my replacement bug, stopping narrowly in front of an enormous pine tree. I wasn’t hurt. The new VW had seen better days, but didn’t need repair either.
*When I first moved to Beaver, WVa., my Ma was very disturbed. “You can’t live there,” she demurred. “Beaver is another name for something else.”*
As I drove with white knuckles and sweaty pits, it became abundantly clear that if I was going to survive West Virginia winters I was going to need a car with four wheel drive. I traded in my beloved beetle for an SUV and safely traversed the wild and wonderful roadways for the remainder of my stay in almost heaven. When I left tv and treacherous terrain, I traded in the SUV for a sassy Prius. Since then, I’ve been t-boned by a dingleberry leaving a gas station. I t-boned a man in his van that I didn’t see coming when I was living in Arlington. And, I strayed a little too close to parked cars in Alexandria and knocked off a woman’s side mirror. I continued on to work that day but feared somehow someone saw that I hit and ran, so I retuned to the scene of the crime and left a note on the car and later paid to fix it out of pocket. Shoutout to that lady for not filing an insurance claim.
When the Prius reached its last leg, I traded that in for a four-door Fiat that is every bit the sporty action movie escape driver car you may imagine. It’s definitely sassier than the Prius and when I was rear-ended on the day we bought our new house and I was minutes away from turning into our new neighborhood I shouted, “You have got to be kidding me!” The car is fixed and sits adorably in our driveway as I rarely leave home or, as we’ve established, my pajamas.
It should come as no surprise that in my formative years as a driver, my parents expected that if I called them at an odd time of day that I had been involved in a car accident. I will never forget one day when I called my dad on a whim while driving who knows where and he answered, barely audible, “Did you flip your car? I’m in a meeting.” I suspect the people he was meeting with could hear me laughing over his whispers. I could picture him, talking out of the side of his mouth to avoid detection and picturing me with the crumpled remains of whatever car I had at that time.
Thankfully he’s come to expect me to call with far better news or perhaps he knows that I now know to call the insurance company first because they have to be the ones to help me. He always answers though and whatever question I may have, he finds the answer even if he googled it for me just as easily as I could have myself. From tripped circuits to tree species identification, I count on him in every way and I’m beyond blessed that he never fails to show up.
*Sidenote: I wanted the VW Bug because when we were kids my dad had a pale blue, original bug that sat in our backyard. My sister and I would lay on its hood, look up and find animals and shapes in the clouds.*