How a reckless driver gave me back my writing mojo
I was in a car accident earlier this week.
It was after work, and I was in the parking lot, getting ready to back out of my space. I checked both ways behind me before pulling out—physically, which means I turned around and actually looked—and then slowly crawled out. I had barely gone a couple of inches when suddenly? WHACK!
I thought for a second perhaps I’d struck the light pole I was parked next to, but then I turned around and saw a black Jeep Cherokee sitting several feet past me—he’d been passing me. Not head on, just driving by in the driving lane.
Shit. Where the hell had he come from? He had to be going pretty fast to just show up out of nowhere, and because he was past me, he either didn’t stop at first or it took him a while to stop his vehicle. All of this pointed, at least in my mind, to unreasonable speed. In addition, it was a straight away. I definitely would’ve seen him coming.
The driver, a kid who would later prove to be in his mid-20s, leapt from his car, phone in hand, screaming “I’m so sorry! Are you hurt! Are you hurt?”
Well, at least he asked the right question.
He had some damage to his driver’s side door. Mine was a different story—it was pretty severe, probably more damage once it got opened up at the shop than could be seen with the naked eye. We agreed to exchange information, but I wanted to call the police. He was very uncomfortable with the idea, but I’m a Gen-X adult who knows better than to not call. I wanted the cop to see us both walking around and breathing, mostly so that this kid couldn’t invent terrible injuries later. He wasn’t acting like a jerk—in fact, he was polite, just totally confused and didn’t know what to do because he said it was his first accident—but his discomfort with getting the police involved signaled he couldn’t be trusted.
He hedged around the parking lot, pacing, calling his mom and his wife. Then, he asked, “Can you call back and find out when they’re going to get here? I have to go to a Mets game tonight.”
Oh, so irksome. Really, dude? “They’ll get here when they get here,” I said.
He whined a little bit, then examined the damage to my car. The whole back end was smashed inward and shifted toward the passenger side. “You can drive that,” the kid said. “It should be fine.”
The driver’s side bumper was crushed against the tire. Clearly, my dad gave me a better education on what’s safe to drive and isn’t than this kid’s parents did.
The cop arrived—Officer Weber from Danbury Police Department—who was very kind. He guided us through the whole process, and confirmed that no, I could not drive the car, even though the kid was still insisting to him that I could. Officer Weber even went above and beyond the call of duty and gave me a ride home—after we watched the kid literally speed away.
The next couple of days were rough—chaotic, and full of making arrangements. Progress on prepping for Necro and a few other projects I have going ground to a halt. I had a brief reunion with cigarettes. An old debt that I wasn’t aware needed settling resurfaced, which I took care of. But then, something amazing happened.
I’ve been working on a novella called Fireworks Concerto since early July—a magic realist piece that examines the consequences of secrets and reactions to sudden trauma. While I haven’t had much time to invest—too many things to juggle—mostly, I hadn’t fully taken the plunge because I felt emotionally disconnected from my writing. The message I wanted to convey was clear, but the emotions usually so prevalent in my canon just weren’t. I was really happy with my opening scene, but the segue into scene two—even though I’d tried it three or four times—wasn’t right.
This changed all that. If you’ve been in any car accident before—no matter how minor—there’s a certain emotional aftermath to it, something very specific. I stood in the shower this morning and it hit me: the emotions I felt immediately at the scene of the accident were exactly what I’d been trying to describe. All I had to do was regress, sit down, relive it, and write it out, and I’d have the segue that had been eluding me for weeks. Since the incident, I’d been sitting around whining to the universe going “why me? What is the point of this shit?”
Now I know.
Meanwhile, a few of my building coworkers, when I described the accident and the black Jeep Cherokee, had said they had almost been hit a few times by this guy—and the fact that they knew the vehicle means that’s probably true, because you don’t usually remember near misses unless they’re scary enough to leave an impression. Clearly, this was not his first rodeo. This, what he claimed was his “first accident,” was just the moment at which he got caught.
A couple of days later, I was informed by my insurance company that we would be paying for the damage to the kid’s car—because I was backing out, and that’s what the law states. Even though I had looked both ways and was crawling at a snail’s pace, to do the damage that the kid did—plus the lengthy scrapes on his driver’s door—indicated that he just was going so fast I would not have seen him coming (I took forensic courses back when I was going for an archeology certificate. The chapter on accident reconstruction stuck with me). Sure, this made me angry. Not because my insurance was going to go up, but because it was clear this kid told whatever story he was going to tell to make it not his fault—after all, he had to get to that Mets game!—and he wasn’t going to learn his lesson, because he wasn’t going to be held responsible. Which meant—if my coworkers are right about almost getting whacked by this same black Jeep Cherokee in the past—he was just going to continue to be reckless, and next time, he might kill someone.
What will happen to me? Nothing. While justice wasn’t done here, and I’ll have to pick up the tab for someone else’s failure to take responsibility for his actions, things could have been much worse—like what if I’d been walking and he’d mowed me down? What if I’d been going a little faster and had smacked my head on the steering wheel? What if he’d hit my car head-on? What if he’d crippled or killed me? I’m counting my blessings. While now, driving through parking lots is scary and traumatic and will be for a long time, I park farther away from any building so that there are fewer cars, resulting in more exercise (which I need anyway). I have a nice rental car, and I’m still going to Necro. Whether my Kia is repairable or not (it’s old), I might even buy that brand new Hyundai I’ve had my eye on over the course of the next year.
In addition? Well. I got back my writing mojo. And that’s something that, as writers, we should all keep in mind. If you live and breathe this passion like I do, it’s helpful to remember that sometimes, when bad things come out of nowhere, we’re not just supposed to get through it on a surface level. That’s fuel. It’s fuel that’s valuable, something that could develop into a piece that could help those who read our work later on. As creatives, we’re supposed to do something with that. In the end, what this all boils down to? Is that this is a gift.
As for young Joseph R. Hafkemeyer of Brookfield, karma will take care of him. Let’s just hope the lesson’s learned before the next parking lot he decides to use as his own personal Autobahn isn’t full of pedestrians.