Because I was texting.
I know, right? I know what you’re thinking. Probably something along the lines of WTF is the matter with you? Or what are you some goofy teenager?
I am, in fact, not a goofy teenager. I’m a goofy almost 50-year-old woman who damn well knows better.
The whole thing played out like a literal nightmare. I was shooting off a quick text to someone I was planning to see after a doctor’s appointment and when I looked up, there, in the middle of the road, was a car turning left. At a complete stop.
I hit the brakes so hard everything on the seats flew to the floor (I can still hear the odd clunking in my head — it’s weird the shit you pick up on during an adrenaline surge), but I knew it wasn’t going to be enough. I wasn’t going to be able to stop in time.
I distinctly remember thinking, “Oh, fuck, this is it. This is my fault. I am such an asshole.”
Thankfully, there was enough room on the right to slide out around the guy, but it was a miss by literal — and I mean literal — seconds and inches. If I had been a tenth of a second slower in looking up or my bumper would have been an inch to the left, I don’t think I’d be typing this right now.
I honestly don’t know what would have happened. It makes me want to puke even considering it.
Once I realized I was still in motion on the road and everything around me was still in one piece, I released my death-grip on the steering wheel and tasted that coppery-like blood rush from the kick of epinephrine. You know that metallic taste when you really scare the crap out of yourself?
I thought about how high my blood pressure and heart rate would likely be at my doctor’s appointment and the serious implications of my near-miss.
What the hell would I have told my parents? What would I have told anyone? A few years ago, a lady t-boned me in an intersection because she ran a red light. The accident was her fault and that was the main reason I got the damn-near full value for my car.
If I’d have totaled my car and/or the other person’s in this instance, I’m pretty sure my insurance company would have said, “Good luck, sister. You’re on your own. We’re out.”
And then would have jacked my rates. And they would have been exactly right to do all of that.
Texting while driving, Jennifer. Seriously.
After mentally beating the crap out of myself for the next hour or two, I made a decision. I believe making mistakes is part of being human. Ain’t nary a one of us on this planet that’s perfect (I may watch a little too much Andy Griffth).
Mistakes are a part of life. They’re going to happen. The secret is to learn from them.
This one could have been a hell of a lot worse and I had been given a huge reprieve. I was going to learn from this.
So I put my phone on Do Not Disturb While Driving. Anyone who texts me will get an automated response that says I’m on the road and will reply when I get to my destination. A black bar appears on my homescreen that says You will not receive Notifications While Driving. It’s enough of a reminder to keep me from sending a text.
As an adult, I know that I shouldn’t have to do this. I should have the willpower and mental maturity and discipline to just not reach for that stupid phone.
But you know what? I’m not going to tempt fate again.
I was dumb enough to really believe I could do it. I would think, oh it’s just a quick text. Only a few words. There aren’t that many cars around. There’s no one in front of me. I’ll just send it super fast. No big deal.
I can do this. I can totally multi-task. Behind the wheel of a car.
Ugh. Isn’t that pretty much the most moronic thing you’ve ever read? It’s so ridiculously embarrassing and sad and just…really senseless.
And you know, I’ve seen the television commercials; I’ve heard the stories of the last words someone ever sent. It’s chilling.
There are people who are dead because they believed they could send just one quick text. There are people who have killed other people because they thought they could multi-task behind the wheel of a car. There are family members mourning a tragic, needless loss.
No text, no song, no phone call, NOTHING is worth messing up your life or someone else’s like that. Period.
So, I’m done. I’m learning from this and I’m telling my story — because I’m still here to tell it.
On the way to work today, I continued to ruminate on all of this and I thought to myself, “I got a second chance. For whatever reason, this was a warning, not a tragedy.”
And you know what happened? It creeped me the hell out. Just as I thought about getting that second chance I drove past a billboard about cardiac care that said, I shit you not, “A Second Opinion could mean A Second Chance.”
A chill went up my spine.
Message received. Thank you, universe.
No more texting and driving.
And I got the urge to write about it, despite how very, very stupid I was. My dad said to let it go because everything worked out and no one was hurt, but you know what? I’m going to hold on to the gratitude. Because being grateful is so insanely important in this world.
I also wonder if I’m not alone in my earlier thinking about being immune from the dangers of texting and driving and I figure if talking about my mistake can make even one person — just one — consider keeping the phone in a purse or pocket while driving, it will be worth it.
Because none of us know what kind of chain reaction could result in changing that one behavior of that one person.
Our stories are what give us power. The power to alter the future. The power to bring hope. The power to heal.
So, tell your stories. No matter how sad, stupid, embarrassing or banal they may seem.
Because you never know what changes a few words can make.
Just make sure you don’t text those words while driving.