Flipping Crazy (#84)


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.”

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

31 thoughts on “Flipping Crazy (#84)”

  1. Yes, finally! Another atheist who doesn’t give too much two cents about religion.

    Thankfully you escape that flipped car unscathed. Certainly that was your lucky day. Lucky weekend, in fact. It turned out to be a pretty social one in the end.

    Talk about religious people trying to convert you. I had a friend who tried eight years to convert me. Gave me stuff about the bible and Christian jewelry. I’m still the same old me.

    1. Eight years! That’s a serious investment. College Roommate only tried for 3. Well, she still tries on FB, actually. She moved to Texas, which, sadly, only reinforced her fundamentalist views. Now we argue over everything from Boy Scouts to gun control. She’s a very smart person, which makes the circuitous thinking even more frustrating.

      1. For the first years when we knew each other, my Christian friend always gave me something religious-related for my birthday. Once I got a children’s book about all the important figures in Christ. Last year she gifted me perfume, and since then we never saw each other.

        Funny how you two sort of get along even with such different viewpoints. I’m sure there is compromise somewhere… 😛

  2. The state trooper wrote you a ticket?! I am outraged!! Glad you made it out of that one okay. I can’t believe you continued with your trip. I would have been too shaken.

  3. You are a woman after my own heart. My first thought would have been that I was going to be late! I’ve been in two accidents but they were small time with no drama (except for that old guy who lied afterward). No one came running. Glad you weren’t hurt.

    1. I think in LA you chances of being in an accident must quadruple. So many cars, so many drivers from other cultures, and now so many people looking at their phones…

      People only come running when it looks really bad. Unless it’s so bad the car is on fire. Then you just hope they are running up with an extinguisher.

      I should maybe start carrying one of those.

  4. WOW. What a story. Like Rosie, I’m disgusted that cop wrote you a ticket! So awful!

    I’ve never been in such a terrible accident. Luckily you made it out without a scratch! Ach! This story really frightens me. I always call cars ‘death traps’ and most of my American co-workers and friends think I’m crazy and a worry-wart. But seriously. Driving is so dangerous, especially when you have to do it in L.A. I’m sure my chance of death or serious injury has increased 20% since moving here, just by being on the road.

    Oh yes. Religious people. I grew up in Utah (mormons) so I was always finding ways for them to stop converting me. Even yelling ‘stop converting me!’ in their face doesn’t work. They’re great people, don’t get me wrong, but no means no. I will never be Mormon, dah!

    Glad you’re alive to tell this story Autumn! So scary!

    1. These accidents are not uncommon on the 15 freeway to Vegas and then Utah, sadly. A lot of sleepy drivers veer off the road, or swerve at high speed. But if you are buckled in, your chances of survival improve greatly. I am living proof! (Still glad I had no passengers, though.)

      How did you not get converted in Utah? So much revolves around the church — I mean, in the smaller towns it’s everything.

  5. I am glad you didn’t get hurt! Good you had a good, German car. 🙂

    And to me, you sound more like an agnostic rather than an atheist.
    And do atheists really have such a bad reputation in the US? But hey, here in Europe we shake our heads about crazy US fundamentalists who believe in Creationism, or that humans lived together with dinosaurs.

    1. Atheists only have a bad reputation among the crazy religious. They confuse us with everything from Satan-worshippers (my friend JM’s mom was sure I worshipped Satan because I had a black cat and a black car, for example) to bacchanalian pleasure-seekers. It makes no sense, but neither does the idea that putting “under God” in the pledge of allegiance will somehow save the country.

      And yeah, 75% of the U.S. population also shakes their collective heads at the Creationists (and also at cable channels who give them TV shows).

  6. I know many people who go to church every Sunday, claimed to be the best Christians ever, but continually hurt people, gossip about others, and stab people in the back. Now, that just makes my eyes roll!! Total hypocrites!

    Anyway, onto commenting on the post.

    That must have been a scary experience. I admire that fact that you continued on and by the sounds of it, had a great time!!

    1. Yeah, I know those people, too. College Roommate is a genuinely nice person, but oh, the biblical contortions she and other fundamentalist Christians go through to justify not behaving like Christ would toward a homosexual or a Muslim or even a Mexican…

      I think I was in shock for a few moments. It was over before I could even be scared, really.

  7. I thought your roommate would have decided your lack of injury was a miracle meant to show her that God loves atheists, especially atheists like Autumn.

    I’m glad you came out of that terrible accident without serious harm.

    Re. swear words. My dad couldn’t stand hearing “shit.” It turned his stomach. He also disapproved of talking about my Biology class at the dinner table. It’s strange that the “f” word is considered so outrageous by some people. I think it has something to do with fashions in swear words. It was uncommon when I was growing up. Now it’s so common, we’ll have to invent something else to shock people. It’s probably already out there and I just don’t know it.

  8. Good point, Nicki. My fourth grade teacher was horrified by “crud.” Somehow I doubt any teacher now would be so horrified.

    My current goal is to think of a super shocking new swear word.

  9. Wow, what a story Autumn! I’m so glad you survived the accident intact.

    (Maybe your roommate would argue God saved you so you could share the story with us on your blog?) 😉

    Your roommate reminds me a little of my own college experience. I ended up straying from the church in college to where I am today (spiritual in my own way, but not tied to a denomination or a specific set of beliefs), but was surrounded by a LOT of Southern Baptists (I went to a university in West Va) who seemed intent on evangelizing.

    Anyhow, keep the great stories coming!

    1. College in West Virginia? Oh, I believe it! The Bible Belt, for sure.

      It’s tough to avoid the evangelists in certain areas. And they are genuinely nice and welcoming people. But they do have an agenda.

  10. I’m glad you’re okay. Wow!

    I actually grew up atheist. I stopped going to Church when I was just a little girl. I went to youth group basically just for the free cookies and play time. I didn’t really care for the reading time, especially that one time that helped me decide to never go to youth group anymore. I don’t remember what exactly what they said (it has been over 20 years, for crying out loud). I just remember them saying that G-d killed every child, woman or man who didn’t meet him at a certain time…to acknowledge him. I basically remember my response. I thought to myself, “Just because they don’t believe in G-d, it doesn’t mean they’re bad people! What if a woman was breast feeding her baby and she had no time to meet you there? What if an elderly woman got a stroke and is being taken care of by doctors…who also couldn’t go because they are saving lives? What if the boy has a disability and didn’t understand what you mean?” Yeah, I was a weird kid. I just remember the pep talk didn’t sit well with me.

    My dad believes in G-d but doesn’t really talk about Jesus. Come to think of it, he was never brought up. My dad just uses these youth groups for free babysitting. At first my dad thought it was weird that I wanted to be Jewish, but he got over it real quick. Other people, not so much.
    Rabbis would turn you down three times, saying, “Don’t be Jewish! Your life is good without being Jewish..you’re good!” Differently mentality. I think it should be like that, honestly.

    My husband is a Christian and I respect his values as well as he respects mine. As somebody who is in Georgia, people don’t like me very much…especially with my mentality. I’m always like, “You don’t need to be Jewish to connect to G-d. You don’t even need to connect to G-d to do good in the world.” It drives them up the wall. Don’t get me started on me not believing in Hell…oh gosh, fumes go out of their ears! haha.

    I don’t usually talk about my Judaism because to me, it’s just a personal journey…and nothing else. When I do talk about it, I talk about it in a personal sense rather than…I don’t know. To me, it’s just a moral compass but the thing is, everybody has their “own” moral compass…that is not always religious….and I think that’s great.

    1. Eileen, I love that even as a kid, you were like, “Hey! The world cannot be made so black and white!”

      Perhaps one day the critical thinkers will outnumber the blind followers.

  11. After ages, I’m here too! Tired and worn out, but really happy to read something you wrote. Yes, I still need to catch up and figure out where I left off, but imma do that some other time.

    Anyway, this post didn’t lose its fun side even though the subject you covered was rather serious. I’m happy to see that you were fine. It’d have sucked if you got hurt too. Though, poor car. ;-;

    Hmm… I don’t get why people try to “convert” others against their will. I think that’s not how it’s done. I mean, I’m a Christian, but I am not the kind of person to force my beliefs on others and I don’t think anyone should do that either. Everyone’s free to believe whatever they want to. And if anyone really wants to give “converting another” a try, well, I think that they should do it through their own example, like acting according to their beliefs, and if the other likes it, then they will “convert”. Also if they are to talk about it, they should only keep it as a intellectual discussion, and not turn it into some “bloody” debate.

    Freedom is a key word, for everyone’s free to have their own thoughts and beliefs.

    1. Yes, I would agree that leading or persuading by example should be much more common than banging on people’s doors or threatening them with hellfire. However, if you’re not prepared to debate with someone like Eileen (above) and can only toss out rote answers when someone questions the logic of your religion, well, threatening them with hellfire is easier.

      Every child is psychologically susceptible to brainwashing until age 6. If you indoctrinate a child young enough into a religion, especially if a parent makes their love/ approval contingent upon acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Savior, it is a rare child that can shake off that conditioning, even as an adult. Which is why so many preachers in the more fundamentalist religions push big families and homeschooling. You’ve got to keep away pernicious influences that might make a child question theology. The Duggars, for example, rely on their preacher’s information.

      Ask them about overpopulation? “Oh, all the people on the planet can fit in Jacksonville, FL. My preacher told me so.”

      Never mind that math and a Google Search would prove the preacher a liar and an idiot. If you control the information, especially to the young, and discourage questioning and critical thinking, you can keep your congregation forever.

      1. Mhm. That’s very much true. It’s annoyingly true, if I may say so. Which is a really bad thing, because -idealist here- the world shouldn’t be like this. -.-

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