Everyone kept asking if I was OK. The man in the car in the accident. His friend, who came about 20 minutes later (to translate for the people in the other car, non-native English speakers more comfortable speaking in their native Chinese). One of the guys in the ambulance who preceded the arrival of a police cruiser by nearly two hours. The guy who came to claim my car and tow it somewhere “safe.” The two police officers who arrived more than two hours after my 911 car. Holly and Shaun, during separate phone calls.
Are you OK, they kept asking, and I kept saying that of course I was OK. My right wrist hurt, but nothing else seemed bruised. My car bore the brunt of the damage, and is crippled and mangled, jagged bits of metal where, minutes earlier, had not been jagged bits of metal. The driver’s side door barely able to open. The headlights, intact, as were the tires. Somehow important, that the tires didn’t pop and the airbags weren’t triggered.
“I don’t think I’m going to make it home in time to take you to the airport,” I said to Holly, when I called her. She is taking the kids to California for a 10-day trip. The time in the morning was going to be all I got, and then they’d be gone. They will be gone.
The brake lights three cars ahead of the car in front of me, and the brake lights even further ahead, and then I was swerving my car to the right and hitting my brakes and then I saw the car in front of me swerve too, directly in front of me, and then our cars were close enough to touch and then were touching and were loud in their touching and then we were pulled off to the side of the road. I called 911, the driver of the other car got out, knocked on my window, and apologized.
“They were stopping so fast,” he said. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
Holly, after seeing pictures of my car: I think it looks driveable.
Shaun, after seeing pictures of my car: Oh my God.
The driver’s side door, unable to fully open. A hole in my car where no hole had been; its teeth, jagged pieces of metal.
I hadn’t been using my phone. I had texted Shaun a bit earlier, asking if I could call him later, and I wasn’t listening to music or checking Facebook or Twitter. My phone was in my lap, and then it was not in my lap but on the floor, underfoot (though not broken).
Shaun always urges me not to text and drive, and often won’t talk to me on the phone when he knows I’m driving.
“I wasn’t,” I told him, when I talked to him. “My phone wasn’t in use.”
I called 911. And then I called AAA, which couldn’t dispatch a tow truck to my location since my location was not serviced by AAA, and then I called my insurance company, which, on the weekend and after-hours, only employs a skeleton crew unable to provide any information. I called the two rental car companies with ties to my insurance company, but their only open offices were at airports, and only for another hour, and only if I was willing to pay for the car; turns out, airport car rental spots don’t accept payment from an insurance claim, and that skeleton crew at my insurance company couldn’t tell me if I would be reimbursed if I paid for the rental out of pocket.
Braced for impact, and then the thoughts: how do I get home, and where do I leave my car, and will my car be OK, and how will I come back for my car, and how am I going to get back to Boston in time to take Holly and the kids to the airport, and I don’t have time for any of this, and at least I didn’t have the kids in the car with me.
On the phone with Holly, explaining, and figuring out how to get me home.
“What about a bus or a train?” she suggested.
Hadn’t considered either (mostly because I’ve never traveled to or from New York by bus or by train).
“Can you look into that for me?” I asked her.
She did, and texted me pictures of Saturday timetables. Buses at 2 and 3:30 and 8.
Affordable, or, at least more affordable than a rental car that my insurance company may or may not reimburse, even with the rental coverage Holly and I added to our automobile policy.
Waiting for the police, I started putting things into my bag that I didn’t want to leave in my car. I could only find one of Aurora’s shoes. The other must have gotten lodged under one of the front seats, but I couldn’t find it, and how could I be OK if I couldn’t bring home my daughter’s shoes, not that having them would matter since she will be on a plane by the time I get home.
And my earrings. I took out my tunnels sometime between picking up my car at the garage where I stowed it during the day and the point of impact. I couldn’t find my earrings.
Talking to Shaun on the phone, I think I mentioned three times that I couldn’t find my earrings.
“I’m just glad you’re OK,” he said.
Everyone asking me if I was OK.
How not-OK I really was.
Note to self: You’ll need to buy new tunnels. You hate your plugs. They’re heavy in your ears.
My car was towed to a garage in Queens, and one of the employees drove me (in a flatbed truck) to a nearby train station, and I took the train that stops at Port Authority, and of course that train was being re-routed (necessitating a transfer and a dumb-luck guess about the train I needed to take). A two-block walk through Times Square (which would have been fun under different circumstances) and I was at Port Authority, on time for a 2 a.m. bus to Boston.
Except the 2 a.m. bus to Boston had been oversold; about 25 of us were left in New York.
“Get the next bus,” we were told. “Your tickets will be honored.”
So I am sitting at Gate 84 in New York’s Port Authority. The wireless signal is weak, stolen from a bus idling nearby (near a sign that says Idling Prohibited). A girl near me is using her Macbook. Her boyfriend is bitching about our current situation. A guy in a red shirt has stretched out on the floor. Wake me up, if I fall asleep, he said before closing his eyes. Earlier, a drunk woman tripped and fell. A man who identified himself as a police officer helped her to her feet and escorted her through a set of automatic sliding doors. Two girls with Irish accents are sitting on their luggage. I’ve been awake 21 hours.
On one of the trains (the 7 maybe), I was sitting across from an empty seat, so I could see my reflection, and I thought: This very much could be a scene in a movie. And I pulled the hood of my hoodie over my head, and I thought that I couldn’t think of the song that would play at this moment in the movie, but that of course some song would play.
A different bus to Boston, one that will stop in Hartford and Worcester, and an arrival in Boston more than 24 hours after I left. A series of events, dominoes tipped over after seeing the brake lights of the car three cars in front of my car. And everyone asking me if I was OK.