notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Near Miss

I am a daydreamer. I come from a family of daydreamers. We’ve been quite happy being daydreamers.

I remember many years ago when my brother was in elementary school, my mother attended a parent-teacher meeting, and the teacher told my mother, “Tommy is a daydreamer.” My mother replied, “Yes, we’re really proud of him.”

Because there’s nothing wrong with daydreaming. That’s when you find creative answers to questions. It’s even where you find creative questions.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, I was daydreaming as I drove home from visiting my mother. My sisters, my brother, and I had a careful, socially-distant little lunch with Mom to celebrate the holiday.

Cars are an extraordinary place to daydream. We all do it. How many times have you driven somewhere and were surprised when you arrived that you had absolutely no memory of the drive?

But – daydreaming in the car is dangerous.

Not too far from my mother’s house, a post office truck had stopped in the street. I don’t know if it was making a delivery or waiting to make a turn. I didn’t notice. I was daydreaming.

I realized the truck had stopped way too late. I slammed on the brakes, but there was no chance of avoiding disaster. I hit the truck hard.

Fortunately, the old BMW I drive (and I mean old – 20 years and 240,000 miles) was built like a tank. Unfortunately, the USPS truck WAS a tank.

The whole front end of my car was demolished. But I was not demolished. Fortunately, I was wearing my seatbelt, and the airbag sprang out like it is supposed to. Unfortunately, the combination of seatbelt and airbag hit me like a hand grenade to the chest.

I didn’t lose consciousness. The first person to approach me was a teenage girl. I remembered seeing her, just moments before, in my daydreaming semi-attention, walking with a boy at the side of the road. My first thought was that of pure relief that I didn’t try to avoid the truck, which would have perhaps steered me into the kids instead. But there she was. Peering into my car. She was terrified; I could tell. She had probably never seen such a bad wreck take place right in front of her. But she was there. She wanted to help despite her fear. I opened the door – the car was full of smoke from the airbag propellant. I tried to speak. I managed a croak that said to her, “The airbag hit me hard, but I think I am okay.” She attempted a halfhearted smile and disappeared. 

Then there were fire trucks and police cars and an ambulance. 

Some guy – maybe an EMT – came to the car and got in on the passenger side. I had by that time turned the engine off, but I had not shifted into park. He did that. Then he tried to collect all the stuff from my handbag that was all over the place. I asked him to hand me my cellphone. I called my husband. “I’m in an accident. I’m hurt,” I said. And I tried to describe where I was. 

By this time, the guy on the passenger side was a police officer. “Can I open your glove compartment and get your registration?” he asked politely. 

An EMT was then at my door, asking me if I could get out on my own. I thought I could. It was painful, but I did it. I cried a bit as they put me on a stretcher, but not too much. I watched it all like I was a spectator. Maybe I was still daydreaming.

I caught a glimpse of the car as they wheeled me to the ambulance. 

“Oh, my poor car,” I said. Someone said, “Don’t worry about it.”

Then I remembered. I hit the Postal truck. “Is the other driver okay? Did I hurt anybody?” “She’s fine,” someone answered. 

The ambulance took me away. On the ride to the hospital, the EMT asked me how old I was. He asked me more than once. I remember thinking, This is because I look so young. He doesn’t think I’m as old as I’m saying. He thinks I must be confused. Oh yes, I am that vain.

The EMT said, “You were going 30, right?” That was the speed limit on that road. He was trying to save me in more ways than one. “Yes, I think so,” I said. And that’s what he recorded. I have no idea what speed I was going. 

The ride took a long time. I was in my home town. I have driven that route a thousand times. It is not long. It does not have as many turns as we seem to have made.

At the hospital, they put a mask on me and asked me Covid questions. Oh no, I thought, they are already overworked and now they have to deal with me.

The police officer who followed the ambulance came in with my registration. He gave me only a written warning for following too close. A Christmas gift. “That car is a 2001!” he said. “Wow. It really held up. I am going to get myself one of those!” “My poor car,” I said.  My poor husband, I thought. 

And sure enough, there he was. My husband. I have this image of him pushing his way through the corridor, saying, “My wife, my wife!” But of course, I didn’t see or hear that. It’s just that he would do that. I know.

The ER nurse could not get me out of my top to put on a hospital gown. My chest hurt too much. She said I would get a CT scan. 

CTs. Cats. And then I thought of some guys who depended on me. 

The dogs! The cats! “Go home and let the dogs out and feed everybody,” I said to my husband. He didn’t want to go. “I need you to go,” I said. “When you get back, I will probably still be here, waiting for them to take me for a CT scan. They have to do blood work first and get results.” I had been in the ER too many times with my father. Everything takes forever.

He finally left, and they immediately took me to Radiology.  Uh-oh, I thought. They will want to discharge me, and my husband will be home feeding the dogs.

But it all took a long time after all. 

Finally, the Physician’s Assistant came and said that everything looked okay on the scan. I was badly bruised, but they would give me some pain medication, and send me home. I wanted to go home. I certainly did not want to hang around in Covid Central.

My husband reappeared around then. He had a bag with him. 

“I stopped and bought sandwiches,” he said. “We could be here a long time.” Now that was truly him.

And then the PA came back. He sat down at the end of the bed. “We made a mistake on your scan,” he said. “Your sternum is fractured.”

I wasn’t surprised. I was no longer daydreaming. I knew the pain was real. (I have learned since that fractured sterna are almost always due to car accidents, and almost always happen to old ladies. But I look so young.)

The PA continued, “That’s an injury that just heals itself with time. You can still go home now.”

And so I did.

And so I have been sitting doing nothing for two weeks. 

But now I am finally feeling better.

I am painting again – with more rest breaks than usual, but painting. And I am cooking dinner sometimes. My husband is walking the dogs – and I am surprised at how much I miss that. But honestly, they are horrible on leash – I could never handle it if they pulled me hard. But soon.

I think of this accident as a Near Miss.

Oh yes. I didn’t miss the truck. But I missed the kids.

And it was a near miss of MY LIFE.

I totaled the car. I didn’t total myself.

I will always be a daydreamer. But not while driving. If I so much as turn on the radio, or take a sip of coffee, or reach for my sunglasses, someone please yell, “Post Office Truck!”

24 Comments

  1. Great to hear you are ok and will be back to normal in the near future. Normal without daydreaming while driving!

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  2. Flora

    Thank goodness for well built cars. This I fear will happen to me. Mind wondering mind.

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  3. Driving is something we do all the time so it’s easy to let our minds wander. I’m so happy to know that you will be ok and that no one else was hurt. An important reminder for us all.

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  4. I’m glad you’re okay. Thank goodness for sturdy old cars. They’re designed to stake the impact instead of you. I find that I come to grief when there’s something major I’m trying NOT to think about. So if there’s something bothering me, I try to pay extra attention to everything I’m doing – driving, walking downstairs, taking things out of the oven… Doesn’t always work 😦

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  5. Dawn Allison

    Thank you for mending and for having the clarity to explain your accident. You have just shared a public service announcement, in your own terms.

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  6. Glad you are ok. My brother fractured his sternum in a car accident. I had to put lidocaine pain patches on his chest for a couple weeks but it did heal and he was 88 at the time.

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  7. Kathleen Zurcher

    Oh, Nancy. I am so glad you are improving. I have daydreamed while driving. But your close call will be my close call.

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  8. Wow – so sorry this happened to you. But glad you didn’t have worse injuries, and no one else was injured. Take care….rest and heal!

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  9. So glad you are all right, Nancy!!!

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  10. I am a day dreamer too and also have had a few moments of what the hell Jo-Anne pay attention while driving.

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  11. Deb

    Take care Nancy. So very glad it was not any worse.

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  12. Glad to know you’re OK Nancy. Take care. All the best for 2021

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  13. So glad you came out of it okay. Must have been terribly scary. I will keep your story in mind the next time I feel my mind drifting off into “daydreamland” as I’m driving! Take care.

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  14. About 7 years ago my SUV slid on a patch of ice and I did a double roll down a hill sideways. I wasn’t really hurt but it was like in slow motion. And it never really hit me how close I was to death. I am so glad you are alright. Let the aftermath run through you and move on. Which you are doing. Glad you can write about it!

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  15. Oh my goodness! I am so glad you are feeling better, but sad about your car. I had a crash very similar. I wasn’t day dreaming, but it was raining and dark, and there was a crash at an intersection, the car I saw was over in the right ditch. I moved into the left lane to avoid anyone wandering around. There was a police car with lights on near it and I couldn’t see all that well so I slowed down. I never saw the other car from that crash which was in the lane I had just moved into, without lights or flares. I totaled my car too. This was before air bags, and before seat belts were required, but luckily I had my seat belt on, though I don’t remember putting it on. The policeman at that crash ended up driving me home, against protocol because I had no family and it was late. He apologized. I know how terrifying that is…so I’m sorry it happened to you.

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  16. A real horror story but thank goodness you recovered and noone else was hurt.

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  17. Harrowing experience! I’m glad it did not turn out worse and that you’re ok.

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  18. lydiaschoch

    How frightening!

    I’m glad you’re doing better now. May your sternum heal quickly.

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  19. Oh, Nancy! I am so glad you are safe. I bet you thought your Christmas was going to be uneventful this year?
    Those older cars that are built like tanks really are life savers.Years ago, I rolled my old Volkswagen Gulf end to end and that car saved my life. I was battered and bruised and had a back injury but it saved my life.
    Sometimes daydreaming is the only release we have but we I will take heed and try to keep from doing it behind the wheel. Feel better soon, take care of yourself.

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  20. Christine S

    I am so glad you will be ok. Thank you for sharing. I am a day dreamer too.

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  21. I’m so sorry! I’m glad that you weren’t badly hurt and that the postal worker is okay too. I know airbags save lives, but I know that they also hit with such force that they often injure the people they are supposed to be protecting as well. I’m hoping maybe we’ll figure out a way to make better ones. In the meantime, sending good thoughts your way for healing and peace! (And as a fellow daydreamer, I understand. And I will now make an extra effort to make sure I don’t daydream in the car!) Take care…

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  22. heyhehiloveyoumrwordpree

    You’re national

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  23. pohuakawa

    I’m glad you’re okay, but I understand
    the trauma of an accident and how painful your fracture would have been.
    I experienced an accident where my chest was hurt and collar bone fractured from the seat belt. It took some years to go through the same intersection where the accident occured with out feeling nervous and very careful to watch out for what other traffic was doing. I had been hit by a man who just didn’t see me as I was turning right. I think he had a medical incident. He was more severely injured than I was poor guy. However later I realised it had been his fault he’d been going ahead instead of turning right. He was in a right turn lane. I’ve got almost full use of my shoulder back I wasn’t day dreaming but was quite anxious because I was running a bit late for work. I also had a cry after because I thought it could have been my fault and I was in shock. I guess these thing are all learning experiences! My car by the way, was a write off by the insurance company!

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  24. Oh not! I read this while holding my breath ~~ it could have been so much worse. But that doesn’t lessen the PAIN and FEAR that accompanies such an accident ~hope you’re healing well and fully. MJ

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