TWO ACCIDENTS / ONE NIGHT
If anyone reading this thinks Two Accidents/One Night might be an unusual title, they most likely have never had the
good fortune to have teen-agers in their home. My husband and I did ………….. and we are proud to say we are counted among the fortunate parents who actually survived those teen-agers without doing bodily harm to them.
These particular incidents began late one dreary, rainy, chilly evening in Michigan. My husband was lying on the couch, convinced that he was dying. No amount of cooing and pampering would convince him that a 24-hour virus, commonly known as The Flu would truly pass in 24 hours and he would be fine once again. Being male, (and all wives know this is true), he thought he was much sicker than any other person on the planet.
Both teen-aged off-spring had ‘flown the coop’, making their escape from the germs, and of course the whining that we all knew would continue until the man of the house was feeling better. Husband, Don, and I settled in to watch the evening news, with tissue, cough drops, and thermometer nearby, when the phone rang, drowning out the hacking and wheezing for a few seconds.
The caller was a Pittsfield police officer informing us that our daughter had been in a traffic accident. She and her two passengers were unhurt but her car was not drivable. Could we come for her and her friends, was his question.
After a brief moment of panic nearly stopped my heart, I was able to answer, letting him know that we would be right there, then turned and breathlessly related this situation to Don. He gave one last blow of his nose, a painful groan, and started to struggle up from the couch. Even the most hard-hearted wife would have been moved by his misery so I told him that there was no reason for him to get out in the cold rain. Everyone was fine so I would just pick up our daughter and her friends, run the friends to their homes and be back in a few minutes.
There wasn’t even a teeny tiny bit of resistance to this suggestion, as Don laid his weary, achy body back down, and I went in search of my car keys. Less than two minutes later I was back in the family room, asking Don if he’d seen my keys. “No,” came his reply, “but the extra set is in the top dresser drawer in the bedroom. Deciding in continue the search for my own keys later, I ran to the bedroom, grabbed the extra set and out into the rain, I went.
AGAIN, in less than two minutes I was standing before the patient, this time to ask, “Have you see my car?”
“What?” came the confused reply.
“My car ….. did you drive it and park it somewhere else?”
“WHAT? What kind of question is that?” he queried as he began to show signs of irritation with me. “NO, I haven’t driven your car! And if I did I would park it in the driveway. Where else would I park it?”
“I don’t know, but it’s not there. My car is gone!” And my head started to whirl, trying to decide how I could possibly lose a CAR ….. keys, maybe ….. CAR?? NO WAY!!! Did someone steal it? Did I drive to work and then walk home? (Believe it or not, my work was very close and I’d been known to do that a time or two.)
Then, the light bulb went off above both of our heads at almost exactly the same time! Our son! Yes, our son had wanted to borrow the car earlier in the evening. Because he was already on our ‘bad side’ the answer was no. But evidently he had taken it anyway. Anger doesn’t do justice to the emotion that flooded my entire body. However, he would be allowed to live just a little while longer because right then I needed to pick up our daughter and get her home. THEN Don and I would deal with that situation.
As I grabbed Don’s keys and headed back out the door to his van, I said, over my shoulder, “Be thinking of A Plan for when I get back!”
It took about an hour to deal with the police officer, the wrecker service, two teen aged friends, and our daughter. The accident was our daughter’s fault. She had made a left turn right in front of an on-coming car. Even though it was dark, rainy, and the other car was without headlights, according to the police officer the ticket would be coming her way. Great! Her car appeared, even to my inexperienced eyes, to be totaled. Add a ticket, and a raise in insurance rates and the evening was looking really wonderful. At least no one was hurt, and all the kids got home safely to worried parents yet one more time.
As we walked through the door, my husband was on his feet, illness suddenly exchanged for rage. “We’re going to go to all of Jeff’s friends, every single hang-out, wherever we need to go. We’re going to find that car, take it and let him walk his little ass home.”
Our daughter, who I think was secretly relieved that her brother had just taken the attention away from her, went straight to her room, without a word.
As Don and I were backing out of our driveway, I glanced back at our house and saw our daughter racing down the sidewalk toward us. “You have a phone call!” she was shouting.
“Heather, we’ll call them back!” I yelled back at her, wondering how she could think that we were going to stop this quest to have a little chat on the phone.
“It’s the police!” she shouted back.
“It’s about Jeff.”
“Oh shit,” was the only thing that I could think of as we trooped back through the rain and into the house once again. The hacking and coughing had begun once again so I took the phone.
“Is this Mrs. Chandler?”
“Mrs. Chandler, my name is …… and I am with the Adrian Police Department. Do you have a son named Jeffrey?”
“Yes.” I answered, holding my breath.
“Well, Mrs. Chandler, Jeffrey has been in a car accident. His injuries do not appear to be serious but he has been taken to the Adrian Hospital. We’d like you to come to the emergency room to pick him up. The car is NOT drivable and he will need a ride home.”
Again, our daughter sneaked off into her room, and once more we went out into the rainy night to pick up one of our own.
It turned out that our son was driving too fast, hydroplaned on the wet pavement, lost control, and flew the car through the air. When it landed it rolled a few times and then hit a tree. Yes, it was totaled! The airbag gave him a bloody nose. As we sat with him at the emergency room, waiting for him to be released, he told us about the accident and was quite pleased with himself because he had gotten out of the car before the police arrived.
I, quite frankly did not understand why that seemed to be such an accomplishment to him. When he noticed the puzzled look on my face, he leaned over and whispered, “I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. I got out before I could get a ticket.”
Oh my goodness, gracious, sakes alive, I thought to myself. What have Don and I done? How could we have produced this sort of thinking in our own son? Maybe there was a mix up at the hospital when he was born. (And don’t even pretend that the thought hasn’t crossed your mind when your own teenagers did something beyond stupid!)
Days later, our lives were returning to normal, or at least somewhat normal when 4 drivers are all sharing one vehicle. Tickets had been paid, punishments had been meted out, insurance claims had been filed and shopping had begun for replacement vehicles that could be purchased once those insurance claims were settled.
The phone rang late one afternoon. As I walked to answer, I mentally counted how many family members were INSIDE the house. All home and accounted for, that is a good thing. The call was from our insurance company. The nice lady said she had a couple of questions about our accident of October 3rd. Did I have a minute or two to talk with her?
“Certainly,” I answered. “Which accident do you have questions about?”
There was a second of two of silence on the line before she answered, with just a touch of ‘attitude’. “Mrs. Chandler, how many accidents occurred on October 3rd?”
I ignored the ‘smartness’ in her voice and calmly said, “Two. Are you calling about the Ford Taurus or the Chevy?”
A few more seconds passed of silence before a more humble claims person continued with her questions. Then, no more than two hours later, I went through a very similar conversation with a completely different claims person regarding the SECOND vehicle that was destroyed that night. If nothing else, it seems my insurance company is well staffed.
Oh, and by the way, just a couple of additional comments. After all the paperwork and conversations with numerous insurance experts, the brand new Ford Taurus was replaced with a used car. Our settlement was hardly satisfactory, but we kept telling ourselves that something is better than nothing.
It didn’t take long though, for nothing became a reality when our insurance company canceled our policy. They evidently were short on understanding when it came to multiple accidents, on the same night, in the same family.
So, on top of everything else that was happening, we had the joy of shopping for a new insurance company. When we finally found a company that would insure us, we were required to sign a statement that NEITHER of our children would be allowed to drive our vehicles. If they did and were involved in an accident, no claim could be accepted.
But we all lived to laugh and love, knowing that our teens would manage to challenge our patience on another day. Yes, teenagers are a trial, but they do eventually grow up.
Since those years, I’ve lost my husband and live 1300 miles away from my children. My daughter is my best friend and we talk most every day. My son seems to be constantly worrying about his mother and checks by phone on me a couple of times a week.
There are trials, tribulations, and sad times but there are also happy endings.