I do, apparently.
I was driving downtown yesterday and it was crazy. I don’t know if it was the full moon from the night before or what, but people were nuts. I nearly got cut off several times in I-35 (you Texans will surely shudder at the sheer thought of that detested highway). I was preoccupied with trying to keep an eye on all the other drivers around me when I heard a THUMP.
My heart sank. “Was that me?” I said, dismayed, and looked into my rear view mirror. The thump was too small to have been a person, I knew that for sure. There was a bus in the lane adjacent to me – could I have hit something on it? My first thought was that I had clipped its mirror. I didn’t see any damage to the bus, but then I saw the bus driver splay his hands in gesture that clearly read, “What the hell was that?” “SHIT,” I groaned. I decided to pull over – even though I didn’t see any damage to the bus, I didn’t want to be accused of running from anything, even as minor as this.
I pulled over into the adjacent bus lane, which was awkward, because I could tell that the buses had to go out of their way not to hit me as they pulled into their stop. My heart was pounding wildly, and it quickened another 200 beats per minute when I saw the bus driver exit and walk towards my car. Up until this point, my brain had been trying to reassure the rest of my body that maybe it was all a big mistake. My brain gave up as the bus driver walked towards me. He was an older man, in his sixties, and looked gruff. He had the hint of a smile as he approached me. Perhaps he saw the various scratches and dents on my car and thought, Ah, it all makes sense now.
“Were you the one who hit my mirror?” he said. “Um, I think so,” I squeaked nervously. “Is everything okay?” “Yeah, everything is okay with me if it’s okay with you,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong…?” For some reason, I had problems formulating coherent sentences, mainly one that said, “SO DID I DAMAGE YOUR MIRROR AFTER I HIT IT?” “There’s no damage. We’re good.” “Oh, okay,” I said, and then he turned around and walked back on the bus.
I stood there for a moment, wondering if I had done the right thing. I had been trained to call the police in the event of a traffic accident, even for a simple fender bender. But even I knew that calling the police would be incredibly ridiculous in this situation. So I went back in my truck and wrote down the license plate number of the bus, the bus number, and description of the driver. I also noted the date and time we talked, as well as the details of our conversation. The paranoid part of me wanted to prepare for the worst – if the driver returned to his station, discovered that the mirror was scratched, and then wanted to get me in trouble for it, I would have documentation showing that I’d done the right thing.
I dreaded telling my parents about this, but ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this compulsive need to confess when I’ve done something wrong or stupid – I call it the Perpetual Guilt of the Oldest Child. I called my brother first. (“Don’t tell Mom and Dad,” I warned him. “I won’t,” he said, “since you will anyway.” “Yeah, you’re right,” I sighed.) I spent the rest of the afternoon in anger and annoyance at myself. How could I have not seen the bus mirror? I don’t know. There’s a chance that the bus was outside of its lane as it waited for passengers – this does happen frequently downtown. Or perhaps I was skirting too closely to the edge of my own lane.
Either way, I clipped the mirror, and I was not happy about it. I bought PJ Harvey’s Dry album and cranked it on the way home. It was cathartic and I felt a little better as the afternoon continued. By the time my mother called in the evening, I felt good enough about the incident to talk about it. She had a worried, almost nervous reaction to it (“You need to be careful, hehehe. But seriously, be careful.”) But my father, who heard about it in the background, was more forthcoming.
“Damn it, girl!” he said. “Get a bike. Or start walking everywhere.”
My father says I’m the only person he has ever known to get into so many car-related incidents. I helpfully brought up that maybe it’s because I drive a lot – isn’t it simply a matter of statistics, that the more you drive around, the more likely you are to get into an incident? I’ve managed to get myself into various incidents with inanimate objects (mainly parking garage pillars), but of the three accidents I’ve been in that have involved other vehicles, only one was my fault.
What I do know is that I don’t want to hear that dreaded THUMP sound for awhile. Preferably ever.