I admit it. I was once one of "THOSE" Atlanta drivers. I was offensive, aggressive, and downright nasty at times behind the wheel (this is just ONE of the several reasons why I would not put a Christian fish symbol- ichthus- on my car). I would honk, yell, throw my arms up toward people, and every once in awhile I would even use the ever-popular and oh-so-very-classy one-finger wave, although even I honestly did that VERY few times. I changed lanes quickly and passed people who annoyed me whenever humanly possible, which was frequently. I texted and talked on the phone.
Coworkers always declined riding with me for lunches, which probably should have clued me in to the fact that I.was.one.of.THOSE.drivers. and that is NOT a good thing. Instead, I almost had a sense of pride about it and I thought, although aggressive, I was a GOOD driver. I mean, I hadn't caused any accidents or been ticketed for aggressive driving, right?
Visiting family in East Tennessee a couple years ago, both my Dad and my brother and I went on a little driving expedition of sorts, going by different locations where we had fond and not-so-fond memories, including grandparents' houses, the place we lived longest out in the country, etc. For some reason, they wanted me to drive. I suppose it was to see HOW I drove, and they were handsomely rewarded. After about a half hour, Dad calmly reminded me that "people have guns here, Sherri, back off!" To which I calmly responded, "This IS backed off!" I know some of the comments they made were just generally because they could; after all, they are my Dad and my brother- it's kind of their DUTY to razz me. Some of what they said, though, about my driving, stuck with me. Dad said at one point, "Sherri, you are wound up tighter than a 10-day clock. If you don't calm yourself down you're going to wind up having a heart attack, or terrible car accident. Look how tightly you're holding onto the steering wheel and clenching your teeth. Why? WHY?! You need to CALM.DOWN." Of course it was then my duty to say something like, "Fine. YOU drive!" as I pulled over to the side of the road. Because that's how mature I really can be.
While it's true that I hadn't cause any accidents (that I know of!), I am genuinely embarrassed by this previous behavior (like much of my past behaviors!) and pleased that I can honestly and happily say that I am that way no longer.
This is real progress, peeps. For reals. Since leaving the job that kept me in traffic for literal hours each week day, I have come to realize the errors of my driving ways and have calmed.the.heck.down. I notice people who drive the way I used to and I think how glad I am that I no longer drive that way. I am no longer aggressive, seldom exceed the speed limit, and I do NOT feel compelled to pass every single other driver on the highway just because. I liken it to quitting smoking. Once you quit smoking and are finally rid of the smell in your home, car, clothes, etc, you become hyper-sensitive to the scent on others who smoke. You simply NOTICE it more. I notice that driving and I know that I was one of THOSE. I also was a smoker years ago, so yes I am hyper-sensitive about the smell of cigarette smoke, although I do like to smell pipe smoke for some reason- go figure. But I digress...
Scheduled to meet a friend and his family for lunch, The Tweedle (first grandchild, 19 mo-old Kylianne) and I headed to a restaurant near the office where I worked until last April. I drove using my newly-acquired law-abiding and safe method of non-aggression. Sitting at a stop light I was thinking how it had been 8 months since I'd sat at that particular stop light, and how strange that was since I used to be there every.single.day. at least twice a day, then suddenly I wasn't there at all for 8 months. I was also thinking how glad I was to meet with friends from Orlando and have some lunch together at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, and to meet their new baby, Micah. Traffic opposite me got the green light first, then my lane could go. I was the first on my side of the intersection to begin crossing.
ENTER OBLIVIOUS WOMAN TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE AND NOT PAYING ANY ATTENTION WHATSOEVER TO THE TRAFFIC AROUND HER, hereinafter known as OWTOCP .
Something moving toward me at a high rate of speed caught my eye and I look over to the right. She is talking on her phone, not paying attention, and she.is.going.to.hit.me. As accidents do, this one took just a few seconds from beginning to end, and in that time I had one thought- The Tweedle- who was in her car seat in the back middle seat. I was absolutely terrified and as the OWTOCP's car hit us I screamed as we spun in the intersection, and my head hit the driver side window. There was no avoiding it, I had no idea where the impact was on my Jeep, and when the car came to a stop, about 35 feet away from the OWTOCP's car, I looked down and saw the pedals had shifted. I jumped out to grab Kyli from her car seat. She seemed absolutely fine. I was shaking so hard all over I believe my knees were literally knocking. The Tweedle patted my shoulder and kept saying, "okay? okay?"
Of course traffic everywhere around us stopped and people came running to us. Two older gentlemen in particular showed incredible calm and kindness to me and kept me as calm as possible- thank GOD for these men who were where they were needed at that exact moment! I was unable to speak (those who know me know what an incredible statement THAT is!), other than to say to The Tweedle, "Yes, baby, ok." It was very cold out that day.
They told me they'd called 911 already and asked me who they could call to come to me. I muttered, "David." Someone found my cell phone in the car- contents of my purse and things that had been in the back seat were now in the front and strewn about- and called The Hubby. Paramedics looked over The Tweedle, asked if I was okay, and I said, "My feet hurt." Patting me on the arm he said, "Well, ma'am, why don't we get you OFF your feet and find your shoes?" LOL! Apparently somehow my shoes had come off. My feet had already begun to swell.
There was a lot of commotion, people everywhere, mostly around The Tweedle and me, as we went through the Accident Proceedings, so to speak. Police interviewed witnesses who said OWTOCP never hit her brakes; and OWTOCP, who said she thought the light was green. She was going 50mph when she hit us. Both vehicles were totaled of course, but incredibly, the ambulances took no one to the hospital. Once David arrived and he'd gathered our things from the undrivable Jeep, the Accident Proceedings were over, clean up was beginning, tow trucks arriving, and he drove me and The Tweedle to meet our daughter (Tweedle's mom), Emily, who was about 22 weeks pregnant at the time, and her husband Kevin.
Now there's a phone call you don't want to have to make! "Emily, Kyli and I were in an accident. We're OKAY but we're going to the hospital to be checked out. We're OKAY." That is also a phone call you don't ever want to have to receive!!
We then all went to the emergency room to be checked out. The Tweedle is fine, and I was convinced nothing was actually broken in my body; although painful, I could walk though my feet hurt and were swollen, and my neck was beginning to be stiff. Released from the hospital with prescriptions and orders to go to my doctor in a day or two- whiplash and sprained feet bruised to the bone- so stay off the feet, keep ice on them and your neck & shoulders for two weeks... etc.
One month later, I am STILL on light duty (how exactly I'm supposed to move furniture around and be on light duty, I do not know), going to a podiatrist, going to physical therapy for the whiplash, and hyper-sensitive & scared on the roads. Through this experience I am reminded I am extremely blessed and I know the Good Lord Above was watching over us that day, there ARE kind people out there, even here around Hotlanta where everyone's in a hurry and things aren't exactly what you'd call giving-you-the-warm- &- fuzzies. I am reminded as well that E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G can change in a split second, and it is indeed GOOD to have reminders of that every once in awhile. It is easy to think the "IF" thoughts, "if I'd been going ANY faster, OWTOCP would've hit where The Tweedle was," "If she'd been going faster the injuries would've been worse," etc., but I choose to look at it as an experience that, although I do not want to repeat it, I feel blessed by it.
Here are a couple of pictures of The Tweedle, in all her fabulousness, enjoying one of her favorite activities... BATH TIME!
PLEASE... drive safely out there, folks!