I got the text everyone would hate to get: “Call me. In a car accident near the park.” This was from my wife, yesterday morning as I was in a meeting presenting to a group. Because my wife was texting I made the assumption, completely irrationally, that this wasn’t a CODE-RED emergency. So I texted back asking if everyone was okay, then finished up my meeting. This I will always regret, much as Bush regretted continuing to read children’s books after hearing about the 9/11 attacks. Ten minutes went by then I rushed from the meeting and called her. At that point she was in the ambulance with the children. Her tone of voice said everything—this was, in fact, a CODE-RED emergency. The children seemed okay but CH was strapped to a back board with suspicion of spinal injury and they were on the way to the emergency room. Now fully alerted I rushed to the hospital only to be called by my wife asking me to stop by the accident scene since she hadn’t the time to talk to the police or other driver. Here’s what I found:
At this point over an hour had passed since the accident and still I was monkeying around at the crash site getting details and talking to police while my family was in the emergency room. For the rest of my life I’ll be able to recall the intense agitation in knowing you are supposed to be somewhere else. I broke away and made it to the hospital trying to stay calm and not drive fast—a second car accident would have been supremely unhelpful. At the hospital my wife was hooked up to monitors, shaken and sore but without major injury. The children were seemingly unaffected. CH’s sore back turned out to be minor and she wanted to watch My Little Pony videos on my phone. Number Two wanted to walk around the emergency room and stagger past the privacy curtains and into people’s own private crises. I tried to think of him as a therapy toddler, bringing good cheer as he wandered into restricted areas and pressed buttons on expensive diagnostic equipment.
The remainder of the day was a ricochet of children, car seats, tow lots, rental car, naps, and meals. Now we have the unexpected task of buying a new car and two new car seats. The good news is that things worked as they should. Our insurance company was responsive, accessible, and helpful. In fact we could upload accident pictures on their app while on the phone with the agent, so three cheers for USAA. I had the odd task of emptying the remains of my wife’s car of all our belongings while a lot attendant stood arms-crossed and scowling to make sure I didn’t plunder from other wrecks in the lot. The post-mortem pictures of the car show not just the force of impact but the success of engineering that allowed the car to crumple like a soda can to protect my family. Thank you, Ford, and thank you Escape for taking one for the team.
When you pick up your life and give it a good shake sometimes you’re left scrabbling for a single handhold of normalcy. Last night as the hornet swarm of activity settled, I got to sit in a chair and have a cup of tea and a muffin, brought over by a caring and concerned friend. I got to hug my wife, read books to my children, and sleep in my own bed. Two cars came together at fifty miles an hour and four people walked away safely. All in all, things turned out as well as possible.