I-25. Northbound. Traffic was getting denser as I approach downtown Denver. The four-lane highway turned into stop-and-go as people merged on and off.
Suddenly, I saw a car plow into another just in front. Metal and glass sprayed everywhere. As I rubber-necked to view the damage, I felt fortunate it wasn’t me…
Then I turned back to look ahead, and saw the wall of stopped cars in front of me. Too close.
I slammed my foot on the brake and my car began to skid on the asphalt
It was too late.
A few days earlier, I emailed back and forth with the owner of the company I worked for, settling on a day and time for me to visit the head office and sit down with him.
To say that, since then, I’d been excited for the meeting… would indeed be an accurate statement.
Finally, the day arrived. I stood outside holding my sign for a few hours, and then came in a couple hours before I was scheduled to meet the owner, to begin my drive over. I wanted to make sure I was on time.
Then I headed out. Outwardly, I felt calm. But there must have been some serious churning going on, at a deeper level. Because on the highway, I ended up slamming into a stopped car ahead of me.
The front of my engine let out a dull crunch as my hood crumpled upwards
Much in the same way one fixates on the sight of a wound after cutting oneself, I stared with horror at the gnarled mess of my engine. It had just been totaled.
“SHIT!” I yelled.
I felt a little outside of myself, registering and yet not believing what had just happened. Both me and the other car pulled to the side of the highway. Another casualty of the heavy traffic.
I switched off my engine as I saw coolant spill everywhere, like the car’s blood.
There went my meeting with the owner.
I practiced, in as tiny a way as I could muster, assuring myself that this was perfect. Heck, I think I even muttered, “This must be perfect for me” when I pulled over.
Then I realized… what the heck was I supposed to do with my car?
Tow it? Where?
I dialed the mechanic’s number – the one who soaked my catalytic converter. Based on my dealings with him over the past few weeks, chances were he would not pick up the phone. And then I wouldn’t know what the heck to do.
If there was a time I wanted him to pick up… this was it.
The phone rang… and rang…
“Hey, what’s up, buddy?” he answered.
“Oh man, I’m glad you picked up!”
“Why, what’s going on?”
“Oh you know what happened!” (I don’t know why I said that.)
“No. What? Tell me, man.”
“I totaled it. I just got in an accident.”
“I’ve got to get my car towed off the highway – can I take it to your place to get it fixed?”
“Yeah, but I have to see how bad the damage is.”
“Okay, cool. I’ll get it over there.”
Would he have picked up, had I not affirmed… even a little bit… that this was perfect for me?
I talked to the other driver, who was cool about the whole thing. Although he admitted, looking at his own car, “Yeah that’s totaled, the frame is bent.”
Soon his friend arrived, inspected his car, shook his head, and waved it off. “It’s fine!”
“Really?” the driver asked him.
“Oh yeah, this is no problem at all!”
I interjected: “I like him!”
Soon the police arrived, took down our information, and I gave my insurance info to the other driver. I marveled about how nice he was about the crash, when he affirmed, “Hey, the important thing is we’re both fine.”
That was true – it wasn’t like I was doing 80 MPH down the freeway. Still, one wonders what would have happened, had I not slammed on the brakes.
I later learned that my airbag didn’t deploy only because of a glitch in the system. Because I hit the brakes, the nose of my car hunched down. As a result, I didn’t so much smack into the car ahead, as wedge underneath it – so the airbag signal wasn’t triggered. Either that, or it was just broken.
The tow-truck came, and I gave him the address for my mechanic. He was there waiting for us, as we arrived. Before the tow driver had a chance to lower my car onto the street, the mechanic hopped onto the bay to inspect the damage.
Overall, the news was good. I’d probably just need a new hood, radiator, lights, and a couple other odds and ends.
If it were a regular shop, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it
But this guy could get it done in his own garage for several hundred dollars and a trip to the junkyard for parts.
Considering my car was a requirement for my job, I was grateful.
He even gave me a lift to another of my company’s stores, so I could hitch a ride home with Ken, my friend and co-worker. Plus, it gave them a chance to say hi.
I marveled at how things could resolve themselves so smoothly. By the time my shift would have ended anyway, I was home. I just had to take the bus for a couple days.
So, it was just a matter of rescheduling the meeting with the owner, right?
As it turns out, it wouldn’t be that easy. And I began to wonder if the Universe was conspiring to keep me stuck…