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!”