Picture the scene: over the last few days, I’d driven 2,000 miles. Three or four miles left until I got to the hotel in New Orleans. I was looking forward to not driving for a few days.
The summer storm had passed. You know, one of those thick, heavy storms that cuts visibility to nothing and sheets the pavement in water. I’d cut my speed, moved to the slow lane. Three or four miles to go; I felt I was moving so achingly slowly. I’d heard of an awesome vegan restaurant I wanted to try out. I fantasized I was ordering their gumbo. I had a quick writing job to finish and send out before the morning. Another late night ahead.
While the rain had slowed, the roads were still drenched. I felt safe in the slow lane. Then, I smelled burning rubber. Someone applying brakes. I checked my surroundings. Couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Then I caught a movement in my mirror. I turned to see the car careen. Straight at me.
I made for the shoulder. Momentarily I thought I was safe. Then the car hit. Hit my door and slid backwards. Then I was stationary in the shoulder. The other car behind mine. Neatly parked. We both got out at the same time.
There’s something unnatural about having a personal conversation with a complete stranger by the roadside. Slightly stunned, we asked each other twice if we were okay. We were. Truth be told, both cars made it out pretty well.
We briefly shared stories: I was arriving in NOLA for a couple of days break; she’d literally just bought the car and would be heading back home to Baton Rouge shortly. She hadn’t even had time to remove the temporary plates; the real ones still in the envelope. She had a real fire in her bright eyes. We called our insurance companies. We exchanged information. I wrote down my number on a business card in case she needed anything, not that she would–our insurance companies would deal with everything.
It was a headache and a jolt more than anything. No damage to either of us. We drove off.
This is the modern world of the internet, right? So after I saw she’d visited my site (well, someone from Baton Rouge visited that evening), I felt okay (well, only slightly creepy) googling her. Turns out she’d Tweeted excitedly the day before that she’d finally gotten someone to babysit her young son. Now she could have the day free to finally get that minor medical procedure she needed. She wondered what other errands she could do at the same time. It looked like one of them was to pick up her new car, a 2004 Nissan. I suspect she was hurrying home to get back to her son; it was getting late when our paths crossed.
Like two atoms hitting each other and moving instantly away, on our paths. Given the situation, we probably both should have been irritated, but it was a pleasant interaction. We shook hands and that was that. As I drove away, I found myself saying to myself: this is water, this is water.