It was a fine Winter day in Texas. The sun was shining, the air was brisk, and I had just finished up with Choir practice over at a friend’s house. Life was good. Good, that is, until I got behind the wheel. You see, I’d only gotten my driver’s license about three weeks earlier. I blew through Driver’s Ed with flying colors, acing the written test and wowing my driving instructor. As far as I was concerned, I was the best driver in the world. As I found out that fateful day, I was dead wrong.
I pulled out of my friend’s house and sped down the road, easily going twice the residential speed limit. No one was around, what was the harm? As I approached the 90° curve in the road that heralded the exit to the neighborhood, I decided I was going to have a little fun. Maybe I’d been playing too many racing games lately, or maybe I was simply not in my right mind. I really don’t know why I did it, if you want to know the honest truth. But for whatever reason, I floored it, planning to slam on my brakes as I entered the curve and drift around it like I was driving a Mario Kart. I suppose it goes without saying, but things didn’t quite turn out that way.
In the end, I lost control of the car I was driving, my Dad’s 1981 Mercedes Benz (likely built the same year I was born), swerved off the road, and slammed directly into a huge oak tree. I had to have been going at least 50 mph. Though the impact totaled the car, and despite the utter lack of safety features that have become common in nearly every vehicle built today, I miraculously walked away from it without a single scratch.
Why do I tell you this story now? Because until last Friday night, that was the only accident I’ve ever been in.
I was traveling up to Forney, TX, which is near Dallas, with my daughter Claire to my brother’s house to attend my nephew’s birthday party the next day. About a 5-hour drive. My parents, coming from a different direction, somehow ended up within a few miles of us on I-45. So, we ended up meeting at a burger joint and having dinner. My mom, looking for a little more leg room, ended up riding shotgun with me from there, with Claire still in the middle seat behind me as usual. For the next two hours we drove without incident, listening to Claire’s music and talking politics and stuff that you generally only talk about with family. We were only about fifteen minutes away from my brother’s house when something huge appeared in the middle of our lane, seemingly out of nowhere. It looked kind of like this:
It was nearly as tall as our vehicle, standing at almost 6′ tall and about as wide. I had no idea what it was at the time, but doing some research later, I found out that they’re called Intermediate Bulk Containers, or IBCs. They’re generally used for transport of fluids and bulk materials or chemicals. And yes, with me traveling down the interstate at 60 mph, this thing somehow suddenly materialized in my headlights right in front of me.
Naturally, I hit it. I tried to swerve, but was going too fast and had too little reaction time to completely avoid it. I managed to swerve enough to keep from hitting it head on (which would have undoubtedly caused massive damage), but it still messed up the car pretty good. It ended up hitting the left side of the front fender, then glanced off and skid across the entire left side of the vehicle. As it did, it completely tore off the driver’s side-view mirror, which in turn punctured the driver’s side front window. It sounded like a bomb going off. Shattered glass flew into the vehicle, completely covering me, my mom, and everything inside. Well, almost everything.
As it turns out, Claire – who was sitting right behind me and should have been the one showered with the most glass – was untouched. After the collision and somehow keeping control of the car, we pulled into a gas station to check everything out. I pulled Claire out to see if she was okay, and couldn’t find a spec of glass on her. My mom took her into the bathroom to double check and confirmed this. Though there was glass all around her, on the floor and on her seat, and though my mom and I were covered in tiny pieces of glass from head to toe, she was completely clean. Even better, she was asleep when the impact occurred, so she couldn’t even remember it happening. She later said that there must have been a shield around her when it happened. I think she’s more right than she could possibly know.
In the end, other than a few small scratches on our arms, my mom and I were also okay. The car was a mess, I had no window or mirror on my side, the fender was messed up, and there were several dents and scratches along the side of the car. Otherwise though, it was drive-able, and I was able to get the rest of the way to my brother’s house that night.
In the end, we had a fun day at my nephew’s party the next day. Lots of go-karts, bumper boats, putt-putt golf, and video games. I was unable to find a place there near Mesquite that could repair the window that morning though, so we ended up having to make the five-hour drive back to Richmond without a window. Not a lot of fun, but Claire was a trooper and didn’t complain (much). Thankfully, we’re past the hottest part of the year, so the weather was mild, if not a little cool near the last couple of hours, and we made it back just fine.
Now, the car’s in the shop, and we’re waiting on estimates to see what the damage will be. It’ll cost plenty I’m sure, but considering how lucky we truly were, it’s a pittance in the grand scheme of things.
All I can say is, it’s been nearly fifteen years since that first accident until this one. Let’s hope that pattern doesn’t continue.