I still surprise myself forgetting that danger is relative. And that taking measures to be safer often results in greater danger. Most of the things that harm us drop out of the clear blue sky. Often literally, as my life will attest.
A few days ago, I arrived home to see that my sister-in-law was parked in the driveway. She drives a truck and isn’t the best at navigating the available space. Because I don’t obsess about such things, I parked in the street in front of my house. If you’ve forgotten, our neighborhood is incrementally becoming a parking lot. I knew it would be a worsening problem as the neighborhood aged. I let neighbors park in front of my house as a courtesy. I try to be aware of traffic, given that visibility is often blocked in both directions. People speeding make it a certainty that one day I will be smashed as I leave the house.
A little later that afternoon, I planned to leave. As I walked across the yard, I watched a young Latina woman exit the house directly across the street. She saw me walking to my car. I got in and noticed that she was going to back out.
I decided to wait, to give her a chance to more safely back out without being concerned about my movement. I could have gunned it and swung backward and into my own driveway; again, I was being safe. People get distracted when leaving. A couple of the neighbors use someone leaving as an excuse to pop halfway out the front door and shout long instructions or admonitions at those leaving.
As she backed out, for a second I thought she might hit me. Realizing that was absurd, I decided not to honk my horn. She kept coming. Before I realized it, she had backed into my car, toward the back end. My car rocked with the impact.
It was at that moment I hit the horn. I’m a genius like that.
How she thought she had enough room to make such a lazy turn out of the driveway is anyone’s guess. How she ‘forgot’ I was there in the .5 seconds since we both walked out is another guess. Since we are all human though, there are a million possible reasons she had such a monumental brain fart. I’ve had them, too. It’s wise for me to never forget it.
To my credit, I got out of the car laughing, especially when I saw the fright on her face. When I spoke Spanish to her, she was quite relieved. “My husband is going to kill me!” she said. Her left back bumper was caved in considerably. Mine wasn’t. It was popped in a bit with a lot of scratches and cosmetic damage. I looked hard at it and said, “No police, no insurance. The man who lives at the house you’re visiting should be able to pop yours out without breaking the bumper. If something else comes up, you know where I live.” I thought she was going to run and hug me. The relief on her face was obvious. “Cars are just transportation for me. No one was hurt and the car will drive exactly the same. We’re good.”
I could see the reluctance on her face to accept the fact that I was just going to laugh it off and let it go. She finally did, though. She left happy.
In one respect, I’m glad for the accident. It reminded me that my initial reaction wasn’t one of anger and that I’m still the same person. I WANT to always be that person. It is the ideal ‘me’ that I hold in my head.
I don’t want my car to be banged up, but safety, people, and keeping a calm outlook trump it all. I made that woman’s day. It could have been much, much worse for her.