No, despite the title, this not a post about my in-laws. It’s a cautionary tale about what not to do at high speeds while you are in a car. (I bet half of you suddenly thought of something nasty. Admit it.) Because I want any readers visiting from Big Asian Package’s blog to finish the story, I’m not going to tell you if you thought right. Not just yet.
My College Roommate was from a small town in North Carolina. College Roommate was very nice and very, very Baptist. She was shocked that I was an admitted atheist. College Roommate immediately joined the Baptist Campus Ministry and instantly had a group of friends. She eyed me warily at first, wondering what sort of hedonistic horrors an atheist might get up to.
Well, this atheist was pretty damned (ha, ha!) boring. I hated the taste of alcohol, so I didn’t drink. I liked being in control and not being in jail, and so I never touched drugs. My college romances were short — guys didn’t last long enough for sex. Scholarship kid that I was, I took every Honors class I could, sat in the front row, and got perfect grades. I didn’t fit in with the party crowd that made up most of my university.
College Roommate was befuddled. She could not wrap her head around the fact that her atheist roommate was more upright, more uptight, and more conservative than most of the Baptists on campus. College Roommate decided that I was secretly religious, and merely mad at God for my parents’ many divorces and my mother’s untimely death. In vain did I explain that I was an atheist by sixth grade, back when my mother was still alive. She set out to convert me. I was invited to every Baptist party and introduced to all her Baptist friends. I couldn’t walk into a cafeteria without someone from the Baptist Campus Ministry hailing me and inviting me to sit with them.
Once we were in the same Biology Class. I had to listen to College Roommate thrash and argue under her breath with the professor all semester, because College Roommate believed in Creationism, of course. (I don’t know how you can study Biology and History at any colleges outside of the American South and still believe in Creationism, but she managed.)
Everything was a sign from God to College Roommate. She was certain our room-sharing was a sign that she was meant to save me. Whereas I was certain some ignoramus in University Housing thought, “Hey! Look, a girl from Northern Virginia and girl from North Carolina! They’re practically the same person and they’ll get along great!”
Mostly College Roommate was a good roommate. She was neat and her boyfriend didn’t spend the night that often. She went on Baptist Campus Ministry retreats. (An absent roommate is the BEST kind of roommate.) She had a TV and loved Star Trek. (Yeah, I know, how can one love Star Trek AND Creationism? It’s a mystery.)
The one issue we butted heads on (besides the existence of God) was swearing. College Roommate hated swearing – especially the “f” word. While I was used to watching my mouth around all my younger siblings, I did get tired of moderating my language. At least once every few months I’d make the point that “fuck” was in no way taking the name of the Lord in vain. I mean, “God damn,” was perhaps blasphemous, but yelling “fuck” was about the same as screaming “fornication.” College Roommate never accepted my logic, though. Too much to expect from a Creationist, perhaps.
College Roommate was probably as thrilled as I was when I left town one Friday. One of my girlfriends from high school was flying to a town up north. Her college choral group was singing in a State Fair. It wasn’t often we were in the same state anymore, and so I hit the road in my little Volkswagen.
The first five hours went fine. Once I was outside city limits, there was minimal traffic. The highway had two lanes in each direction, separated by a wide grass median. I was in the left lane, doing around 70 mph, when a gold Pontiac in the right lane suddenly swerved into my lane. I swerved left to avoid it.
THIS WAS A BAD IDEA. Never, ever swerve at high speeds. Let the other car hit you. Seriously. Not only will you get some nice paint on your car to prove that you were, in fact, responding to another driver’s idiocy, but you are less likely to lose control of your car. Especially if it is a little car, with small wheels, and no anti-lock brakes.
With ear-splitting shrieks of rubber, my little VW careened left. I tried to haul it back right. The car did go right. Only it went all the way to the right shoulder of the road. More rubber shrieked as I corrected again. The car went back to the left. I was close – SO DAMNABLY CLOSE – to straightening the car out when the left front tire hit the grass on the median.
The VW went airborne, corkscrewing end over end. I saw grass, then blue sky, more grass, more sky… I lost track. By the time the car stopped moving, I was facing south, the opposite of the way I’d been traveling. The VW was upright, at least. As I sat for several seconds, stunned, other drivers pulled onto the median and came running.
One woman called out: “Don’t try to move! It’s gonna be okay! The paramedics are on their way!”
A man was right behind her. “I called them, too! Don’t worry, honey, just sit tight!”
Another man made it to the car first. “Can you talk? Is it bad?”
I swallowed. “I’m, uh…” I reached for the door handle, and pushed.
“Don’t make her move!” the woman yelled.
The bashed up door didn’t budge. I shoved harder and said, “I’m fine, really.”
A Would-Be-Hero argued, “I saw your car flip three times, honey! There’s NO WAY you’re fine! Are you bleeding? I brought my first aid kit!”
I placed my left foot on the door and employed calf and quad muscles. Years of leg presses paid off. The metal protested, but I got the door open. As I pulled myself out of the car and stood, the bystanders collectively gasped. Most sounded like they were witnessing an amazing magic trick, but a few gasps sounded distinctly disappointed. As in, “awwww, shucks, no gore!”
I asked, “Did anyone see the gold Pontiac nearly hit me?”
They shook their heads. Most of the bystanders melted away after that. (Would-Be-Hero sadly tucked his first aid kit under his arm and trudged back to his van.) I surveyed my crushed car. Only the driver’s side area was intact. All the glass had shattered. The trunk was flattened. The roof had smashed down into the backseat. If I’d had passengers, their heads would have been mush. My overnight bag and my purse were all the way across the median. The median was also littered with the remains of my CDs and their cases (yes, this was in ancient times, before iPods and iPhones).
The fire department soon arrived. And by arrived, I mean they slowed the engine down to about three miles an hour, yelled, “Is anybody hurt?” and continued on as soon as they saw me shake my head. I began collecting my CDs, my purse, the former contents of my purse, and my luggage.
The State Trooper was next. As I had no witnesses and no lovely gold paint from the Pontiac to show him, Mr. State Trooper wrote me a ticket for “inability to control my vehicle.”
A regular tow truck appeared. The driver saw my car, snorted, and radioed for a flatbed tow truck. While I waited for the flatbed, I sat on the median and sorted through bits of debris to see if any usable CDs survived. It was pretty much the picture of pathetic, really.
The flatbed finally arrived. The driver whistled over the car’s damage, shook his head over the driver’s lack of damage, and loaded us up. We went to the small town’s auto body shop, and found the one car rental place that would rent to a person under 25. I rented the one automobile they had left on a Friday afternoon – a massive old Ford pickup truck.
I finished up my trip. I even met up with my friend, an hour or so behind schedule. We used that pickup truck to haul members of her choral group around all weekend, from the State Fair to the beach and back.
On Saturday, I called my college roommate, told her about the accident, and requested an airport pick up on Sunday.
College Roommate expressed relief that I was okay. She agreed to collect me at the airport. And then she said, “You flipped your car three times. You walked away without a scratch. Now do you believe in God?”
I rolled my eyes. “I believe in German engineering. It’s why I got the car.”
“Didn’t your life flash in front of your eyes?”
I snorted. “No.”
“Weren’t you thinking, ‘Jesus, save me!?’”
“What were you thinking, then? As you were flipping over and over?”
“You sure you wanna know?”
“I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is really gonna fuck up the weekend.”