I laugh when I hear people praise God for the great things in their life, yet give the concept a pass when things aren’t so great. QB Rodgers will point to the sky when he connects with a receiver for a TD; curse his luck when a throw is intercepted by the defense. When something happens that we can’t reasonably explain, we call it “An Act of God”. When the result is fortunate, we praise; when product is unfortunate and the cause is unsure, we curse.
Either way, we steer clear of “blaming” a divine source when the outcome isn’t positive.
I had a feeling this was coming. The specter of tragedy has been hanging around my world lately, with a snide grin and a mean streak. I seemed to be adept at dodging, until today, when during a routine trip to work I encountered horribly snowy backroads and thick AM work traffic. The world was a mess this morning, but nothing out of the ordinary. I’d traversed worse in years previous. As a pizza delivery driver in Minnesota, I know winters are unforgiving and damaging to your chariot of choice. I delivered pizzas in ice storms and blizzards without a scratch.
Today, the specter caught up with me, pushing me in a wicked trajectory in a direct path with tragedy.
My friend Rachelle’s car was totaled when someone backed up over her car, and destroyed it. That was over new year’s, I hear.
My friend Kelli’s windshield was crashed last week by a errant swan that fell from the sky.
Today, I was in a car accident, an unavoidable one that could be considered an “Act of God”, an unavoidable intersection of “wrong place at the wrong time” and “slippery conditions”. I encountered a patch of slick road at the top of a hill, and lost traction during my descent down the hill. My fate was locked when I entered the intersection at the top of the hill, and became trapped by the accident. At the precipice of the accident, I had three choices: swerve into an oncoming, westbound lane to dodge the person turning left in front of me, rear-end the person turning left in front me, or smack into a vehicle that was parked directly next to the car turning left in front of me, roadkill from an earlier accident at the same place. The police had not yet removed the vehicle from the scene, and there was a Police Reserve officer waiting with the vehicle for a tow-truck to arrive. Thus, out of three lanes of traffic, zero allowed me an exit path from the helpless movement forward on pavement that had been pressed to icy glass..
A crash was inevitable. I don’t believe in a God, so I won’t categorize it as an “Act of God”. I was pushed into a slide where collision was the only available outcome–the only real choice was how extensive the damage was going to be to the area through which I was passing.
Like Rachelle and Kelli, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Dark serendipity, or the world trying to tell me something?
In that split second of decision, I saw the ricochet of the car before me as I crashed–without the ability to stop–into their rear end. The collision could’ve continued in several ways, one of which would’ve sent the car before me into the oncoming lane of traffic, causing greater damage and loss and injury. As it was rush hour during a very snowy morning, the oncoming lane of traffic was packed with cars trying to make their way through treacherous roads and up the Larpenteur Street hill. A direct slam into the back of the car before me at “free-slide speed” would’ve resulted in injury of the driver, probably damage greater than whiplash, as they were prone and waiting to turn left.
I chose to take my chance with a small opening between the car that was turning left, and the car from the previous crash that was parked along the road right next to it. The hole was slight, and the angle was difficult, given the fact that I had completely lost traction and had to slide to safety.
I almost made it. The right passenger light and quarter-panel of Rave (my 2011 Mitsubishi Eclipse) clipped the rear driver side of the parked, crashed car. It was a clean shot that destroyed the front passenger side of my car, decimating the light and quarter-panel. Luckily, I didn’t end up scratching the car turning left in front of me, and I didn’t do greater damage to the crashed car that blocked my way around the person turning left.
All things considered, the crash could’ve been a more violent accident. No one was injured, and the only damage that resulted was done to a prone vehicle that had already been in a crash. In MN, I am 100% at fault for the accident. I was not driving recklessly, nor was I distracted. In fact, the only reason the accident didn’t result in greater catastrophe was because I was coherent and focused and
As I recall the accident, I praise myself for choosing the path of least damage and resistance. The accident that resulted will probably cause thousands of dollars worth of repairs, and I was cited with a failure to “Do my Duty to Drive with Care”, which is silly because I did everything I possibly could to avoid greater damage, including directing the skid–in which I had lost most control–away from oncoming cars.
Today, I’m not filled with the fear and dread of previous auto accidents. A car accident is usually an unnerving event, one that causes stress and heartache and life tension. But I am not stressed, nor am I tense. I attacked the problem with calm that has become customary. Perhaps, I’m just wiser now, weathered by the assaults. Or maybe I’m just apathetic, having surrendered to the reality that there is little I can control. Or I’m ready for the fight, much better than I had been in years previous.
I’ve been with the same auto insurance agency for the last decade, without much to talk about, so I’m not worried from that perspective. I was able to get a rental car, a compact called a Nissan Versa. The car rental agency was half a mile away from my first apartment in the Twin Cities in 1998, down familiar Old Hwy 8, the first landing place for my ex-wife and I when we moved from Green Bay to the Twin Cities after college. In the lobby of the Enterprise office, where my path in the Twin Cities began 15 years ago, I felt an odd circle of understanding join.
Accidents happen, and God has nothing to do with it.
Nor does it care near as much as we do.