There are a lot of firsts that are inevitable living in a new environment. And, today, one typical “Miami” first that I have been dreading finally came to pass–my first highway car accident.
Miami is not the greatest place to live if you have to drive anywhere. Given the nearly non-existent public transportation system here, that qualification likely encompasses the majority of the population. Without deliberately invoking any comparisons to anywhere else that experiences high traffic volumes, I have to say that Miami is pretty bad in a few unique respects. First, there is a lot more reckless driving down here than I have ever seen anywhere else I have either lived or driven. I cannot believe how fast people drive here, and I am amazed at the remarkable weaving pattern these drivers accomplish, moving in and out of lanes, wedging in tiny spaces between cars, just to get ahead on the road. Second, this “Miami-style” driving inevitably leads to car accidents that are far more dangerous and destructive than your average fender-bender. And, finally, and unfortunately, no matter how vigilant you are on the road, there’s going to come a point when you will become a victim of one of these accidents.
And, today, it was my turn.
I typically have to leave the house very early because I have been assigned an early Teaching Assistant assignment this semester. Slowdowns can start very early into the journey and very early in the morning now that school is in session. This morning was like any other in that respect–I got up at 5:30, and I was on the road an hour later, prepared to hit a proverbial wall of traffic about 15 miles outside of the city of Miami that would require a slow crawl of approximately 1.5 hours to get to the University. This morning, however, things were looking up–I passed Exit 6 with no sign of a traffic slowdown, and a glance a few miles ahead revealed that the traffic was much thinner than it had been in previous weeks. I figured I would get to the University maybe by about 7:30 this time, which was an amazing improvement.
Except, I never got there. I looked into my rear-view mirror, and I saw a car coming up behind me–only the headlights because it was still dark out. The car was approaching me quickly but it wasn’t slowing down. That’s when I realized–“that car is going to hit you.” And, it did. The driver suddenly became aware of my presence at the last possible second, and she attempted to swerve to the right to get out of the way, but, instead, she hit my back, passenger-side bumper with her front, driver-side bumper. The impact was intense. I was thrown into a left distress lane and temporarily lost control of the car. She ended up pulling over, a bit forward, on the right.
Miami is not a place to take any risks under these kinds of circumstances–you never know who could be in the other car when you get in an accident. I immediately called the police. Then, I checked the back of my car, and to my surprise, the bumper sustained only minor (at least immediately detectable) damage. Although expensive and occasionally difficult to maintain, I have to say at that moment, Volvo exonerated itself, and I will continue to be a loyal customer from this point forward.
After assessing the damage, I figured that my car was still driveable, however miraculously. So, I pulled forward so I was parallel to the other driver’s car, and I finally saw both who had hit me and the damage to her car. It was a young woman–and she was Ok–and the whole front of the car was completely crushed at the point of impact. There was no question that she would need to be towed out of there.
Fortunately, the highway patrol wasn’t far away, and we didn’t have long to wait. As a rear-end victim, there was no question that the other driver was at fault, and she did not contest this. In fact, she was very apologetic. I was able to drive away, although I immediately turned around and returned home to file an insurance claim. I was cautious because although the car looked Ok, I didn’t know if it really WAS safe to drive. I did get home without a problem, fortunately, but I am still skeptical about going too far in the car for the time being.
There was, however, one revelatory moment for me in this whole disaster. I had to handle this by myself, and because I wasn’t sure how the other driver was going to react, I had to put on an assertive but confident face almost immediately after the accident. After I reflected upon it, I realized that this is exactly how I would have handled this situation before Stephen discontinued his long absences traveling deep sea. As a point of comparison, when he was more often at home, I more often relied upon him to take care of certain issues and to be present in situations like this. I know that if this had happened and Stephen were home, I probably would have called him to come out to the scene of the accident. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, and there is no question that if an added measure of security is needed anywhere, this city is it. But, when I thought this through, I realized that I didn’t like the fact that I had assigned certain roles to him that I had often engaged myself. If Stephen is going to go away more often on longer voyages, there is no question that role has to be mine, and I have to reclaim it. Although today was miserable, I reclaimed that role successfully and I feel confident in that respect in ways I haven’t in a long time. It’s not that I wish Stephen away, it’s that whether Stephen is home or at sea, my level of confidence, my exercise of problem solving skills, and my ability to deal with challenging situations should not change. And, I think I learned that today.
Of course, I had a great deal of cat help getting over the shock today. Today, everyone participated in “afternoon nap” time, including me.