This is a story about how to make do when a pleasurable weekend getaway turns into horror in the streets. Yes, I mean this literally. My husband and I had loaded up our brand new Ford Explorer and set out on a weekend road trip to a science fiction/fantasy convention in Georgia. It was the day before Halloween, 1998. I had spent 6 weeks painstakingly crafting a Xena: Warrior Princess costume, and it was safely packed in its own box in the rear storage area of the SUV. We made it to an intersection 2 blocks from our home, when a speeding truck ended our planned adventure and sent us on a very different path.
The Moment of Impact and Its Aftermath
There were 4 people involved: 2 in our vehicle and 2 in the truck that smashed into our right front side panel, about 9 inches forward of the spot where I sat. Our SUV rolled over, and we extricated ourselves from our upside-down wreck a few minutes later. My husband could walk, whereas I could not. In the confusion, all I could do was to crawl to the curb, where I was eventually strapped to a backboard. Meanwhile, my husband picked glass out of his arm and stared at the many gawkers. We were taken away in separate ambulances and met again much later at the bustling emergency room of the Tuscaloosa hospital. It was late afternoon on Devil’s Night, October 30. The place was hopping.
We spent about 6 hours being evaluated and treated. Mostly, we just waited and witnessed the madness of a busy ER right before a holiday. When we were finally discharged, we were wheeled out to the curb, where a friend of ours picked us up and drove us home. Unfortunately, we had been so discombobulated at the wreck site that neither of us remembered to grab the keys from the ignition of our totaled car. So, at nearly midnight, we had to reach a locksmith to let us into our own house.
Making Do: Celebrating Our Survival
The next day, my husband managed to find out where our hulk of a car was located, and he retrieved our keys and our surviving luggage, including my battered Xena costume. I refused to get upset about missing the convention. After all, we were lucky to be alive at all! I learned from some friends that our wreck had made the Tuscaloosa evening news, and the newscaster had opined that it looked “so bad no one could have survived.” Happily, everyone survived. We spent Halloween night at a local bar, where I entered the costume contest as “Xena: Warrior Princess, injured in battle” on crutches, buoyed up by a mega-dose of pain medication. I refused to be done out of my big chance to be Xena! I didn’t win. Maybe it was the crutches. But I had a great time.
Softening the Blow: Things We Did Right
- We carried a good car insurance policy from State Farm, which included not only collision but medical coverage, which we needed, as our medical insurance did not cover much of it. We were also able to replace our barely 2-month-old totaled vehicle with a brand new one for the mere cost of “drive it off the lot” depreciation. The other guy was uninsured, so we had to make all our claims on our own policy.
- We buckled up. Wearing seat belts probably saved both our lives, as we would likely have been thrown from the vehicle had we been unrestrained when it flipped over.
- We had researched the safety ratings of our new vehicle prior to purchase. The Ford Explorer Sport was our choice over the Jeep Cherokee primarily because of its higher ratings on crash tests. We didn’t anticipate conducting our own crash test, and I’m convinced our survival was something slightly more than luck. Preparation comes in handy.
- We had a lighthearted attitude towards our extreme misfortune. I actually chuckled as I lay strapped on my backboard, thinking how unlikely my survival was and how lucky I felt at that moment. It was a moment of clarity, where I realized my priorities. It made the ordeal of the ER and the unexpected last-minute plan change not only bearable but downright surreal and oddly pleasurable.
Making the Best of a Bad Situation: Be Flexible and Be Prepared
Perhaps the most helpful advice I can give to anyone who might face this situation is to look on the bright side and also to be prepared. Sure, it sucked to miss a great science fiction convention, but it would have been infinitely worse to have faced the same situation in a lesser vehicle with no insurance while not wearing a seat belt. In fact I probably would not be writing this article nor doing anything at all right now in that case.