On Adrenalin, Freedom and the Kindness of Strangers

A few days ago, I wrote off my car. It was a strange thing and it’s made me want to write a post here for the first time in quite a while. I was driving down the freeway in the dark. I know the road well, am quite a fan of it really, with its sculptures and its many lanes and its not-too-bad traffic. The cars in front were slowing down. I noticed. I was slowing down too. But I wasn’t. I hit a stationary car in front of me at about 80 kms per hour. The noise was amazing. The force of the seatbelt was amazing. A yellow engine light began flashing at me from the dashboard. I started to fret about fire and explosion. My headlights seemed somehow to be almost coming through the windscreen. It took forever to find the button to turn on the hazard lights. My CD was still playing. It took forever to find the button to turn off the music. I was sitting in the middle lane, all crumpled and flashing, as cars sped past on either side. Somehow, I got to the edge of the freeway. The noise driving that small distance was very loud and very grating. I couldn’t open my door, which made me start to shake because I was still fretting about fire and explosion. I shoved the door. I got out. A woman got out of the car I’d driven into. She was frowning and walking towards me. She was wearing a very cool leopard print coat. Are you okay?, she said. Yes, I said, I’m out. Are you okay? Yes. We were both okay. This was good news.

The transit cops arrived, three of them, all sandy haired and bulky. They were reassuring, efficient, a bit macho. The woman I’d driven into was kind; she kept telling me it was fine. I kept apologising and saying I had no idea what had happened, that I thought I was stopping but maybe my foot slipped on the brake or something. I was concentrating. I was watching the traffic. I’m sorry. I was stone cold sober. No one asked me that, but I was. One of the policemen started to take photos of my car and asked for my licence. I asked him why, and he ignored me. I asked him again, and he looked confused. It was as though people never asked him what he was doing and he’d only just registered that a question could do with an answer. He told me I wasn’t going to be charged with anything, of course I wasn’t. The details were just for the insurance company if they wanted a report. He smiled. It’s a write off, you know. I know, I said, and then I started crying a bit. Because that crumpled old car was my freedom car, the car I drive when I don’t have to drive anyone, the car I drive when I want to go somewhere on my own, with my music blaring and no one telling me to put the same track on repeat for an hour, or play eye spy, or count to 199 seventeen times.

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