Okay, so you know how I had my A/C on my to-do list for this week? (Before I get started, thank you to Mom and Dad for giving me my birthday present early because I don’t think I could have survived this summer without air conditioning. It was bad enough up until this point.) Well, it’s in the process of getting fixed, and I am looking forward to driving it without sweating my ass off. But then, I got to thinking: Jesus, I’ve had horrible luck with vehicles.
Other than my Very First Car Ever – Gladys, a 1995 Buick Century that I inherited from my grandmother because she couldn’t see to drive anymore – every piece of transportation I’ve owned has been some sort of death trap. And it’s not like I don’t treat them well. I make sure the oil is changed every 3 – 5000 miles. I get the tires rotated. I use the manufacturer’s recommended gasoline. But for some reason, they always crap out on me.
The first car I bought with my own money was purchased out of necessity. It was the summer after my first year of college, and I’d recently given my parents the middle finger – we have since agreed to disagree about the merits of said middle finger. As such, I was working a minimum-wage job to pay my newly-acquired bills and needed transportation to get me there. I pored over the classifieds, as Craigslist wasn’t used as much back then and Facebook Marketplace wasn’t even a thing. God, it was only 2003 and I’m making it sound like this was back in, like, 1992. Anyway, I came across an ad for a 1987 Ford Escort hatchback, tan in color, and only $600, being sold by a couple about to have a baby. It was an automatic, which was necessary since I had yet to learn how to drive a stick, and it looked like a pretty solid car. I took it for a test drive and came back satisfied.
Now, I name everything that I use on a regular basis. For example, my TV is named Stevie, my phone’s name is Wanda, and my current car goes by Athena. It took me a few weeks to come up with a name for this car, though, and it came about due mostly to frustration: Spaz. Why did I name her Spaz, you ask? Oh, well, because she would shake if you got above 55 mph, and almost every time you stopped, she just … turned off. But I just kinda dealt with it. It wasn’t like I had to go faster than 40 mph on a regular basis, and after a few weeks of pulling me over, the Murfreesboro cops and I had an understanding that I would just roll through most intersections unless there was another car involved. Spaz was barely worth giving a name, and I shouldn’t have even paid $400 for her; she was kept together with bubblegum, happy thoughts, and duct tape.
Only a few months after I had purchased Spaz, I was headed over to a friend’s house to watch a movie after spending the afternoon with my mom at the grocery store (we had, at that point, begun to patch up our relationship). If my oddly precise memory of certain things from that day, she had spent $137.42 on me, which I had lovingly stacked into the hatchback. On the very top of this pile of produce/boxes/cans/etc. sat my favorite food in the world: plums. I almost grabbed one to eat on my way to my friend’s house, but I was reluctant to have one less plum too soon. I thanked my mom and went to hop onto the interstate.
And remember when I said above that Spaz wasn’t so good at slightly higher speeds? Well, I was driving at exactly 50 mph on I-40 in the far right lane because I’m not an asshole, and I look into my rear view mirror to notice 1) there was a dark green pickup truck riding my ass, 2) there was a white U-Haul-sized truck on my left, and 3) a dark semi coming up the on-ramp at a speed that was … off-putting, to say the least. I had two choices: I could slam on my breaks and get rear-ended by the pickup truck or I could speed up and try to get in front of the white semi. The latter option was better for multiple reasons, so I put on my blinker and smooshed that gas pedal as hard as I could. The car was violently quaking, and the last thing I remember before blacking out was seeing the other semi barreling toward me.
I have no idea what happened between that moment and when my brain finally came back online. All I knew was that I was screaming at the top of my lungs, white-knuckled, as I gripped the steering wheel. Broken glass was everywhere, and there was someone tapping on my driver’s seat window. I assumed it was Death, come to take me wherever, but he was able to coax me out of my car. A lot of things started to dawn on me as I surveyed the scene. I was somehow facing the wrong way on the opposite side of the interstate from where I began, and my car was only a few mere inches away from the median. The white truck was parked about 50 yards away from me, and the poor man responsible for it is pacing, his head in his hands. The green pickup was on the other side of the interstate. Spaz is no longer a hatchback, and all of the windows in the rear of the car were shattered. The majority of my precious, precious food has been ruined: rice spilled out of the box onto the floor, and several cans had splooshed their innards all over what was left of the back seat. I began to cry and turned my head away from the guy who was trying to comfort me, only to catch a glimpse of a small bag in the middle of the road … which, may I remind you, is still the interstate.
By this time, the paramedics had arrived, and they’re carefully checking me out. The white truck’s driver was trying to offer me a cigarette, much to the annoyance of one of the paramedics, and the guy – the one I thought was Death – was talking to police officers, giving them the license plate of the semi that had pushed me over into the other truck. Apparently, Death was the asshole who’d been tailgating me, I later found out. But my mind at that very moment wasn’t on anything except that bag in the middle of I-40. That bag held my goddamn plums.
I absent-mindedly just … start walking toward them? Traffic had slowed down significantly due to the wreck, but there were still cars coming, and I was determined to grab this plastic bag of plums before they were smashed into the ground. This had become my mission. Damn the possible concussion I’d gotten, or the possible internal bleeding. Those plums were the only good thing in my life right then. Luckily, another EMT noticed that I wasn’t behaving rationally, and he grabs me by the waist with this “the fuck are you doing” expression on his face. And I just lose it. I mean, we’re talking bawling, shaking, unintelligible speech. Shock is a bitch.
Now, I didn’t call my mom; I actually called my friend that I was going to see. I cannot explain this, even to this day. Maybe trauma was just trying to make sense of things and connected the dots to what I supposed to be doing. Maybe I was ashamed? I honestly don’t know. I know my mom is still hurt by this decision, even now, almost 20 years later, although I did contact her a day or so later. But my friend and his mom came to help me gather what was left of my groceries, and I eventually ended up going to the hospital. Guess what I was diagnosed with: pretty harsh whiplash and a bruised knee. That’s it. And considering the EMTs were all talking about how they just knew they were going to find a dead body inside that car, that’s pretty fucking impressive.
And really, this isn’t even the last time I’ve survived something that makes people question whether or not I’m immortal. Either God really likes me for whatever reason, or it’s the Jupiter in my star chart.
Now, I actually did a whole series on my extreme bad luck with cars on my last blog, and I think I’m actually going to make that a series here, too. They’re incredibly fun to write because LOL TRAUMA, and they’re actually really good stories. So be prepared for more bad luck for the Juj.