birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Accident Magnet

Sometimes I think I am an accident magnet. As a graduate student I was t-boned by a car running a stop sign. She totaled my new husband’s new car and fractured my collarbone. It was my last day on the job with Chicago Public Schools. What should have been a celebration turned into nightmarish visit to the University of Chicago emergency room.
About 15 years later a former student rear-ended me when I stopped to make a left turn on Coshcton Avenue. She basically destroyed my beloved silver Toyota Celica. The frame was bent so badly there was no point in trying to repair it.
More recently I was sideswiped by an angry man driving a huge ford pick-up truck on quarry Chapel Road. It was his second accident of the day and his eyes were all red. He claimed he didn’t see me as he drove straight at me down my side of the road. I drove as close to the edge of the road as I could, but still he sheared off my side mirror and scraped up the driver’s side door of my brand new, all-time favorite white Ford Fusion hybrid.
As a result of these experiences I am a careful, if somewhat timid driver. I don’t know why I seem to be repeatedly finding myself facing another driver who has terrified me and crinkled, bent and misaligned my favorite cars.
It all started when I was 16. My mother let me take her new white convertible for the afternoon. But I had to have it back by four. It was an eye-popping car, especially when the top was down and you could see the red plaid upholstery contrasting with the shiny white paint.
A sunny summer Saturday with nothing to do and nowhere to go. The opportunity was too good to miss. I picked up a couple of girl friends and headed east along the Ohio River where Hanover college is. Hair flying, music blaring, we made it there just in time to turn around. There weren’t any cute college guys there anyway. After all it was the middle of summer.

On the way home I found myself behind a slow-moving beige sedan towing a horse trailer. We were on a two-lane highway and I hadn’t had any real experience with passing other cats. But this guy in front of me was going really slow. It should be a piece of cake to swing around him and if I didn’t I was going to get home late.

When I came to a stretch of road with no double yellow line, I pulled out intending to put this guy and his trailer in my rear view mirror. But as I tried to pass him, he speeded up, and then a car appeared coming at me, so I dropped back behind the trailer. This scene repeated itself three times. The trailer tower would slow way down and then as soon as I would pull out to pass, he would speed up. I would have to go way over the speed limit to catch up with him, let alone pass him.

On my fourth try, the same events unfolded except this time another car pulled up behind the horse trailer, filling my escape gap. Another car was barreling my way and I was in the wrong lane. Time slowed down and speeded up simultaneously. I kept thinking that when we crashed head on it would be my fault if my friends were injured--or—maybe even killed. I couldn’t drop back and I didn’t think about going off the left side of the road. And that car kept closing the gap between us. Finally, I stomped my foot on the gas pedal and swerved into the right-hand lane. We were safe. We’d survived. That was the good news. The bad news was that when I’d cut in front of the jerk pulling the trailer, I scraped the side of his car with convertible’s bumper.
I wanted to keep going, to leave that colossal mistake behind me in a cloud of dust and exhaust. But I stopped, faced the fat man chewing on his cigar, gave him my name and insurance information and nodded contritely when he made me promise I would tell my father to contact him right away. Then, turtle-like, I slowly made my way home to admit to my mom and dad that I had let them down in a much worse way than merely getting the car back late.

I am a Petty Monster

Ice Cream on the Moon