Wednesday, September 26, 2007

the car crash and humanity

We were sitting at our computer reviewing some newer photos when it happened. The horrific and unmistakable crunching of metal and plastic; a car accident last night in front of the building next door. There were no screeching tires before the loud thud, just the sound of the impact followed by the backing up of one vehicle and voices yelling at it to stop. Peering through the red Venetian blinds out the window, it was obvious what happened. A late model mid-sized SUV hit a late model Honda parked on the street in front of the stores next door. I asked Greg to call 911 immediately, put on my shoes and went outside.

The SUV hit the parked car pretty hard as evidenced by how far the Honda was pushed out into the driving lane and the damage to the front end of the truck. Standing on the sidewalk were the owners and family/employee/patrons of the Korean restaurant, as well as two random spectators. The owner of the parked Honda, a twenty-something Korean, evidently angered, was pacing and glaring wild-eyed at the woman sitting behind the wheel of the SUV. His girlfriend was unsuccessfully trying to calm him. I asked if they were in the car or injured to which he slightly shook his head "no" while still staring down the driver. The owner of Sun and Moon was on the phone and the others were all chattering in Korean, a language I am not versed. With all of these people, including the two random spectators, no one went over and see if the driver, the only person physically involved in the accident, was okay.

I walked over to her open passenger window to hear her, in a barely audible utterance, saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" over and over. She was evidently upset and possibly experiencing shock over what had just occurred. I am sure this was only being exasperated by the irate Honda owner looking like he wanted to pull her out of the truck and pummel her to pieces. I walked around to the driver's side and motioned for her to roll down the window. The smell of a freshly smoked cigarette permeated my nostrils, but no scent of alcohol. Her facial expression was that of complete upset, practically frozen that way, and she was still saying "I'm sorry". She was almost completely holding her breath and might have expected me to scold her as the others were doing. I gently put my hand on her shoulder, looked her in the eye with compassion and asked her if she was injured. She quietly said "no" and there was no sign of external injury. All I could do for her was to talk calmly, gather her focus and ask her to take some deep breaths. At that point, the first police car pulled up and asked me and the one other spectator, who kept her distance but followed me to the driver's side, to please step off the street so no one else gets hit by passing traffic.

At that point, I made my way back to my apartment but not before a gentle reminder to the Honda owner that what was important is that no one got hurt. I do not think he heard me.

I know that it is upsetting when your car, especially a new one, gets hit. (Heck, all four of the vehicles I have owned have been hit in parking lots usually when I was not even of them multiple times....three times in 7-11 parking lots.) It can even be extremely inconvenient to not have your car for a week or so while it is being repaired. I am sure my previous and multiple car-crunkee experiences do influence my ability to shrug off damage to inanimate objects. It is vital to remember is that a car is only an object. They can be fixed or replaced, but a human cannot. We, as humans, need to keep situations like what happened last night in perspective.

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