Driving home Thursday night on 127 street, my mind was racing over the number of things I had to sort out that evening: first I would be cooking supper for Glory and the two young girls she was babysitting, then I had to prep for the introductory video shoot I was doing for our brand spanking new CEO the next day. I needed to go over the scripts and -
Suddenly a sedan headed the opposite direction moved into the intersection to turn, and only just that moment having seen me, stopped perhaps 4 car lengths away DIRECTLY ahead of me.
I slammed the brakes and jerked the wheel to the right, somehow avoiding sideswiping someone else, but it was far too late. Our front left corners smacked together with the strange thudding crash and tinkle of modern day auto bodies flexing and shattering, and the Corolla caromed off before coming to a halt only a few feet away.
Through no fault of my own, my life had been thrown into disarray, with consequences both immediate (dinner) and far reaching (definitely dealing with police and insurance companies, possibly finding and purchasing another vehicle, one of my most hated activities). I was furious, and now filled with adrenalin.
I shoved open my door only to have it rebound back at me, it's normal range of motion impeded by the now-mangled quarter panel bordering the hinge side. I squirmed out and looked at the damage.
Shaking my head, I walked over to the other driver, still sitting behind the wheel. "Are you okay?" he asked.
I was taken aback; it was a reasonable, even expected question, but I was so anxious about getting things resolved that I hadn't thought of the bodily well-being of either of us.
"Yeah; you all right?" I snapped.
He nodded sheepishly, adding, "I'm sorry."
I should have been mollified, but I was still too angry to function like myself. "Well, that was kind of a f***head move, guy," I growled before pulling out my phone to let Glory know she would be on her own for getting supper ready, but had no worries she could pull something off. It took quite a while to get in contact with her though, due to my fuzzy-head, jittery fingers, and the fact that the car was still running so my call was going through its Bluetooth speaker instead of my handset.
Eventually I reached her, called the police, exchanged all the required info with the other driver, determined my vehicle was driveable and pulled it off to the side of the road. I called the police again and told them not to bother dispatching anyone, but it turned out we would have to go all the way to NE division some 60 blocks away in order to fill out the accident report.
I was desperate to get this sorted out as soon as possible, and the last thing I wanted was for my erstwhile car-jouster to go home and have his neighbour or somebody tell him, "oh, you never want to admit fault in those situations, brah," but I didn't know if my car was up to that big a journey. Leaning into his passenger window, I suggested he follow me to my house and he could drive us both to the police station so we could get the reports filed. He agreed, and I hopped into his marginally less damaged Acura.
On the way to my house, his eagerness to do the right thing finally began to smooth my jangled nerves. I learned his name (I'll call him Leo here), that he had only been in Edmonton a couple of years, and had worked over a decade in Dubai.
We arrived at the house at the same time as Audrey, returning from the spa day I had given her back at Christmas. Like everyone seemed inclined to (and why not?), she asked if we were all right, and when I introduced her to Leo, he shook her hand and again said, "I'm sorry, it was totally my mistake." She nodded and opined philosophically that 'these things do happen.'
Audrey had already arranged with Glory to sort out dinner, so Leo and I headed off to the NE Div. of the Edmonton Police Service, but not before I apologized for cursing at him back at the crash site. On the way, we talked about our families, as I had seen the children's seat in the back of his car. Leo had two young children, but his 5 year-old was currently battling leukemia.
He didn't bring this up as an excuse, or a way to explain what had happened in the intersection, but his frank admission once more gave me pause and the ability to view my situation with a bit more nuanced perspective. If anything might leave a person too preoccupied to pay due care and attention to their vehicular situation, I have to think that a pre-schooler with leukemia would be that situation. In fact, he had been on his way to get some ointment for his son's central line at the time of the crash. Currently though, Leo's son was cancer-free, with a decent chance of staying that way.
This is not what brought me fully into Leo's corner though. No, that came as we finally came into sight of the NE Division building, with POLICE spelled out on its side in big, blue block lettering. He tried to sound casual, but there was genuine apprehension behind his voice when he asked, "So, uh, hey, I'm...(heh) not going to get charged or arrested or anything, am I?"
Think about that for a second. Leo had only been in Canada for 2-3 years at best unless he lived there before his time in Dubai, and had never been in a vehicular accident before. He was not 100% sure if the fact that he was at fault was going to end up with facing criminal charges or perhaps even arrested and put in jail.
But he was still driving us to the police station to face the music.
Completely stunned by this new insight, I did my level best to reassure him. "What?" I sputtered. "No, no no no noooo, you aren't going to get in trouble, man. Why would you? You've done everything right! You and I have shared our information, you are driving me to the police to fill out a report, and we are both behaving like gentlemen. You know, eventually, in my case."
He smiled a bit, so I continued. "These things just happen sometimes, regardless of our intentions or efforts; hell, that's why they're called accidents! When we are done, we will leave it to our insurance companies to sort out, and in the meantime we will just be grateful no one was hurt."
"Yes, lucky," he agreed.
Thankfully it was not busy in NE Div. that evening, and once our number was called, Leo wasted no time in explaining that the accident was his fault to the constable that took our statements. We went to a table to fill out our reports and he once again made sure to state that it was his mistake that caused the crash. We showed each other what we had written before submitting it to the officer at the desk , then Leo gave me a lift home, apologizing again for all the inconvenience.
"Yeah, this kind of stuff is a monumental pain in the ass, which is why I got so upset," I admitted, "but look, no one was hurt, we didn't need a tow truck, we are both being civil about this, and our insurers are going to do the rest of the heavy lifting."
After we parted ways I considered exactly how lucky I was to have hit Leo and not
- someone who then drove off (which happened to me over ten years ago)
- someone without insurance (which happened to a friend of ours)
- someone determined to avoid fault or blame (I didn't get a witness to our accident).
It was a strange way to meet a beacon of responsibility, and truth be told, I would forego the privilege if it meant not having to jump through all the hoops of an insurance claim and the attendant vehicle repairs (oh please Lord, not a replacement!).
But Leo's willingness to do the right thing, despite not knowing or understanding the possible consequences, with everything he has going on in his life at this point in time will stick with me for a good long while.
So, yeah; it really could have been a lot worse.