Certain Choices: The Car Accident I Can Still Write About
It was 10:30am on Election Day. I had just responded to a facebook status where several friends debated my decision to withhold my vote, in protest of what I think is the flawed two party system; because the lack of choices voters have, basically represent an illusion of democracy, and not the real thing. All our lives we’ve been told that we must vote because our vote is our voice and people fought and died to give us this privilege and to refuse a vote is disrespectful to their struggle. This argument has been repeated so much, that we’ve internalized the concept that, patriots vote, and anyone who doesn’t, must be a “moron” or an “idiot.”
A “virtual” friend picked up on the status debate and carried it over to her own page, where she wrote about her “jimmies” being “rustled” because some people, like me, say they refuse to vote, always blame the system, never take responsibility and only bitch and complain but never take action; and how people, like me, should stop bitching and complaining and just “SHUT THE FUCK UP” (her caps). And then her friends, loyal to her ideals, hurled a few “morons” and some “idiots” at those people, like me, who withhold their votes.
I almost entered that conversation, but decided against it because that type of discourse never really advances a logical argument. I doubt I would’ve convinced them that inaction, in and of itself, is a form of action; that refusal to endorse any of the two major candidates is not only a protest against the flawed two party system, but in my particular case, also a protest against American foreign policy, that between the two candidates is practically identical. I doubt I could’ve made them understand the process at play in my refusal to vote for either one.
Of course the argument would’ve been made that I should at least vote for a third party candidate. But is that really a choice? The Electoral College practically guarantees that no third party candidate can ever win a presidential election and the mainstream media has silenced all third party candidates so well, they’ve been rendered invisible so that no one knows their names or faces, or the platforms they stand by.
I decided not to vote or respond to that facebook status and instead, went about my business, eager to get back to work after a week of Hurricane Sandy disruptions. One of my students emailed earlier and asked if I could meet her at 11am to help review one of her papers. I could’ve said no since she emailed last minute and I had already planned to do other things with my few morning hours. But I chose to get to school a half hour earlier and meet her anyway. I packed my bag with a laptop and books, slipped on a warm sweater with my stylish black Italian blazer and oversized H&M scarf, sprayed some Dolce & Gabanna on my neck and headed to the University.
At a stop sign, blocks away from home, I had a choice to go either left or right to get to campus. To the left, a few blocks away, Sandy had knocked down power lines and trees and the road had been closed for a few days last week. To the right, it usually adds three extra minutes to my commute. “Should I take the chance and go left? Or be a few minutes later and go right?” I thought to myself. “They should’ve cleared the road by now. Fuck it. I’m going left.” And at that fork in the road, I chose what I thought would be the faster route.
Several blocks later, I pulled up to a red light at a busy intersection. Due to the current gas shortage, the BP station on the right corner was still closed. The Exxon on the left was finally open, but had a long line of cars that ran up the hill for several blocks. As I drove through the green light and passed the line of cars, I looked at my own gas tank, which was still at ¾ full, and remembered that dreadful morning a few days ago when I went out at 3am, thinking I’d be slick because there wouldn’t be any lines at that time, but the gas lines at 3am were longer then they were earlier the day before. I felt like I was driving into a scene of Mad Max. My gaslight had turned on and I realized that in my search for gas, I was running out. By 7am, I had finally gotten a full tank.
I drove up the hill, past those poor patient souls waiting to get gas and thought about how lucky I was because I only lost power at the house for 48 hours, while others had been without power for a week now, and I thought about those who lost everything in the storm, including their homes and even their lives, when suddenly, from my left, an orange sedan blew through a stop sign and came barreling toward me at full speed and all I could say was “Oh fuck” as I looked down at the car, but it was too late to react since the car was already on me and I thought how this would make a serious dent, but never imagined the impact would send my car, first spinning toward the right from the rear, and then tumbling over as it flipped and took me along on an unsuspecting and turbulent ride for what seemed like minutes, but was actually only a few seconds before the tumbling and crashing stopped.
While my car rolled over, I thought death had finally come for me. “No. No. Not like this. This ain’t happening,” I thought, because it just didn’t seem real. But it was and it happened so quick and so sudden, yet I seemed to be bouncing about in slow motion because I actually had time to think and react enough to cover my face and head with my arms, tighten my body, and look around in all directions, expecting at any moment that some object or broken glass would come crashing into me. When it was all done and I landed back upright, the car was filling with smoke and hissing something violent and the engine was revved at full speed, maybe because my foot was full down on the gas or maybe the engine had busted and locked, I didn’t really know, but the car wasn’t moving, only vibrating, so I quickly put it in park and the revving stopped.
I tried to open my door, but it was jammed. The passenger door was also jammed. I looked at my hands and fingers, at my arms, at my legs, over at the other driver who was slumped on her steering wheel, at the street outside and the lined cars waiting for gas, at my shattered front window and the blue sky above. I looked to the back seat to make sure my son was ok. But then I remembered he wasn’t there because I had dropped him off in school earlier on.
Then I thought, “Oh shit. My son. My son. I’m still alive.” And by instinct, all I wanted was to get the hell out of that car which was filling with smoke, so I released my seat belt and climbed out the broken passenger side window, scurried over to the grass a few feet away and laid back in disbelief at what just happened. I looked over and that’s when I noticed that my rear passenger side wheel had broken off and had landed on the lawn right next to me and I looked to see the other driver still slumped in her car and I wondered if she was ok and that’s when several people ran over to check on me.
“Are you OK?” a woman asked. “Yeah. I think so. Did I just flip over?” Looking me up and down, I guess searching for wounds, she replied, “Yeah. Your car rolled over.” “Oh fuck,” was all I could say.
Time has a mysterious way of interacting with ones choices. In hindsight, I can’t help but speculate about the choices that brought me to that very intersection at that very moment and how things might’ve been different. Had I gone out to vote like a good citizen earlier that morning, the accident wouldn’t have happened. Had I taken a few minutes to respond to that negative facebook status, I might have watched as the woman ran the stop sign a few blocks ahead of me. Had I not agreed to meet with my student, I would’ve been a half hour behind that erratic driver. Had I chosen to go right at the stop sign and not concerned myself with an extra three minutes on my commute, I would’ve been nowhere near that intersection. Had Sandy not come along and created the problems leading to a gas shortage, there wouldn’t have been a gas line and cars wouldn’t have been stopped so close to the intersection and my line of site wouldn’t have been blocked so I would’ve seen that woman speeding toward the stop sign and I could’ve reacted sooner. Had the rear wheel not flown off my car while it rolled over, the revved engine would’ve sent me racing forward, crashing into the gas line and causing more damage.
It didn’t take long for an off-duty EMT worker to come to my side, because apparently, my tire and me where lying on his lawn. He called 911 and a short time later a cop and an ambulance where on the scene. I wanted to find my cell phone to call the University so someone could tell my student I wouldn’t make our meeting and thought about my briefcase with my laptop and wondered if it hadn’t broken in the crash, but they quickly wrapped a neck brace around me, strapped me to a firm stretcher and loaded me into the ambulance before I could get to my items.
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I kept thinking about how lucky I was to be alive and how that seat belt just saved me from a horrible fate and how my son would still have his father and how grateful I was that he wasn’t in the back seat as he usually is because I don’t think his little body would’ve survived the tumble and roll of the SUV.
At seeing my tears, the EMT workers, who were busy checking my vitals, asked if I was OK. I smiled. But just to make sure, one guy asked me, “”Do you know your name?” “Wilson.” “Do you know what today is?” “Tuesday,” I answered. “Do you know today is Election Day?” “Yes.”
“Can you name two candidates running for president?”
I hesitated, then looked up at him and thought about the question more closely, before stammering, “Um…Jill Stein and…Gary Johnson.”
The three men immediately stopped what they were doing and moved closer to check on me, genuinely concerned since they thought that maybe I lost my mind or suffered a concussion that banged my brain about, since I didn’t name the two candidates correctly.
To put them at ease, I quickly responded, “But I know Obama and Romney are also running.” “Wow. You scared me for a second,” one guy said as they all laughed and went back about their work.
And that’s when I knew I was OK and still had things to do on this earth because despite some sores and bruises, I still had all my teeth, I had my two arms and legs, my face was still intact, but most importantly, I was very lucid and my mind was still sharp enough to know that there is something inherently wrong with the two party system, because there I was, with three working class men who might benefit from the platforms of both the Green and Libertarian parties, but neither of them knows who Jill Stein or Gary Johnson are, as if, in the presidential election, we only had two certain choices, either Obama or Romney.