Monday, April 14, 2008

I Got Into A Car Accident But It Taught Me A Lot About The World, or My Fender Bender As A Metaphor For Other Things

I hate it when people start speeches or essays or blog entries with basic word definitions. But because I'm feeling a bit contrary tonight, I'm going to do exactly the shit I hate, and start this entry with a basic word definition.

The word is:

Accident (ak-si-dent): Any event that happens unexpectedly, without a deliberate plan or cause.

There are other definitions, this is true, but I like this one because it doesn't have a point of view. No side-taking, no partiality. It's the Argon of the available definitions on, and so I'm going with it. This is how I want to think of the word Accident, and how I want you to define it for the duration of the time it takes you to read this entry. If you're a fast reader, I promise that'll only be like, 3 minutes max. After that, you are welcome to think of Accidents however you please and I'll be none the wiser.

I'll argue for just a minute why I like this definition of Accident. Firstly, I think my friend Accident gets confused too often with his evil (fraternal) twin, Mistake. You've heard your friends parents casually slip the word into their conversations about how your buddy (let's call him Chucky, because who doesn't want a buddy named Chucky?) came into the world. "Well you know, our little Chucky was a mistake!" Sure, you're taken aback at first, because you love your friend Chucky, and he's no stinkin' mistake. In fact, you're pretty glad he exists. And so are his parents, when you really get down to it. Aside from the constant chatter and fake gun noises and lizard squashing, alongside the high emotional cost and financial burden of raising a child, Chucky's mom and dad are probably pretty happy they decided against abortion.* What they meant to say in front of you at the neighborhood BBQ after one too many pomegranate ciders (Chucky's mom is a lightweight), is that as parents are happy that Chucky happened into the world. But the fact remains that Chucky was an accident. A happy little Ritalin-popping, bundle-of-joy Accident.

Have I made myself clear? Not all accidents are mistakes. That's the point I just made in case you missed it. And this is the lens of enlightenment through which I have decided to view something that happened recently to me... something that happened unexpectedly and without deliberate plan.

Let's call it a car accident.

I call it that because that's what it was. Gosh, you're really reading into this aren't you.

Yeah, so a couple of weeks ago, I was cruising along at my normal pace (my Life-Pace I like to call it), which is a mind-dulling 10 mph, waiting my turn to get onto the freeway. Down here in paradise, I often find myself in interminably long lines, waiting to pick up the pace. So bored, I do often get. And nothing could have been truer on that fateful Monday morning.

I was in traffic on Sunset Blvd. (man, fuck Sunset Blvd.), waiting to get on the 405 (man, fuck the 405) and I stopped paying attention to the path laid out before me for just a split second. LITERALLY JUST A SECOND, I swear - when BOOM! came the impact of the fateful fender bender. The Crash Heard 'Round the World, I like to call it.

I was immediately shaken. (Shaken, not stirred, mind you). I saw the crunched hood of my car and the pieces of shattered headlight on the pavement - which are still there, by the way. My stomach dropped at the sight of my front end violently kissing (more like raping, I guess?) the bumper of the Honda CRV in front of me. Fuck me, I thought ever-so-sweetly to myself. I have... a situation.

A situation indeed. An unexpected situation. An unplanned situation.

An accident, if you will.

Useless details aside, I was actually astounded with the chain of events that followed. Or more accurately, I was both astounded and delighted with the people involved in the events that followed. First, the young woman whose rear-end I violated with my huge metal machine could not have been nicer about it. She was more concerned with my safety and well being than with the pretty minor damage I did to her (and her car... oh snap!). Her understanding was only paralleled the thoughtfulness of my co-worker who came to pick me up from the scene of the accident. Oh, not to mention that the woman I spoke with at AAA, Diane, was both sincere and accommodating. Diane even went to the trouble of sending me a tow-truck driver on a great white steed who actually gave me a hug and told me that because I was so beautiful he'd take my car anywhere I wanted! Oh boy, I thought. Take my car to Disneyland, please!

And then the guy at the auto shop was so sweet and helpful. For the low price of $5,000** he even got my car done a few days ahead of schedule. What a gem, that guy. Chris, if you're reading this, you made my collision repair experience borderline enjoyable. Thanks a load.

So after it was all said and done, my Situation... well it turned out all right. Sure it was kind of rough, but I'm not going to say I wish it never happened. I can't say that. It was unexpected, and out of nowhere, and cost me a bit of time, energy, and frustration. Oh, and money (dammit! I wanted new shoes, too!). It's the feeling of helplessness, of being far away from the problem and unable to fix it immediately that causes the greatest stress. But I did learn something. I learned how to handle it. I learned to see things from a more hopeful angle, and to trust that things would be OK in spite of whatever damage may have been done. Accidents happen, we all know this. But it's how you choose to react and move forward that really matters.

Remember Chucky? Well I know that even though he's fictional, he's still glad he exists. Even if it's just here in the blogosphere (it's a real place, shut up okay?). Some accidents can cost you six years of little league, a thousand sleepless nights, and the price of a college education, while other accidents can cost your insurance company $5000... but that certainly doesn't make those things Mistakes.

Give adversity (and the asshole who rear-ended you) your most insulting middle finger! Fuck you, adversity! I choose to stand up to you! I will beat you down, wreck your face, and overcome your torture. Because I am strong, and capable - and now I guess, flat broke.

Yes the situation sucked for awhile. But I'll be damned if I didn't learn something good about the world.

It's not so bad out there.

*One would hope. I've met some people who I suspect really were mistakes. God's mistakes.

**Don't worry! I'm in good hands with AllState.

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