Chasing Cars with Jeremy RennerFeb 10, 2023
What do Jeremy Renner and I have in common? We like to chase after cars we aren't inside. Unfortunately, Jeremy wasn't as lucky as I was in 2022. He emerged with over 30 broken bones and tons of PT time.
I ended up with a story for my book and a BIG lesson.
I am still discovering the truth about me.
Everything in this neighborhood is obnoxiously scrunched together. Cars are parked on both sides of a street initially made for horses at the turn of the century, and there's nowhere to turn around. Big cities adapt to whatever is necessary, and Seattle is no different. What a mess! I'm thankful I don't live here, on top of people like this, and I'm ready to leave.
It snowed yesterday, and I never left the house, as Seattle drivers are scarier than driving in the elements. Although the house with the Airbnb is level with the street, the entrance is down a driveway that dips drastically at a forty-five-degree angle, only to level out at a carport, fence, and back deck. The incline makes it challenging to jump into my car, and I turn on the defroster to warm it up. Noticing the retaining wall on my driver's side, I see the homeowner's car parked under a carport to the right of the driveway. I'm surprised at how hard I must push the gas to get my car to move in reverse due to the angle of the driveway. "Come on," I mutter, annoyed, and gradually, my car drives up the hill.
That retaining wall looks a bit closer than I thought. Stopping, I inch forward a bit. Reversing again, I am almost to the other owner's car in my mirror (it's parked right at the edge of the driveway), but will I be able to clear it? I stop again, pausing to think. I look side to side. How close am I to his bumper? I can barely make out his windshield. Thinking back to our conversation yesterday, I recall he told me he's completing his residency at a hospital in Tacoma, home only every four days. The last thing he needs is for me to crash into his car. I need to get out and look.
Near the top of the hill, the little wagon inside my car rolls backward and hits the hatch with a thud. Startled, I hit my brakes with force. My body whips forward as adrenaline shoots through me. That's it. I need to get out and check before that sound is his car! It's better to check than have to knock on the door and tell him I crunched his vehicle.
Suddenly, my car rolls forward and down the driveway like a roller coaster. I run to the driver's side just in time to barely touch the steering wheel but lose my grip as it moves faster. Catching my breath, I open the door and walk around my car to investigate.
Helpless, I watch as my car picks up speed and heads toward the bottom of the driveway.
There can only be a bad outcome: hitting the carport with the owner's car parked inside, smashing through the back fence, and crashing over the cliff. I'm keenly aware of the quiet as I brace for the inevitable sound of impact. At the last minute, the wheels pivot toward the carport. Crash! Rapidly, two poles bend out of place; the first bends backward, while the second jams up into the roof and back down into my windshield. It shatters into a webbed mess.
Silence. And for a split second, like a child, I think, Maybe they didn't hear it.
"What are you doing?" yells the owner, coming out of the house.
"I didn't do it on purpose," I retort like a child.
Humiliation covers me like a blanket, and I'm alone, looking at the damage I've done. What started as fear that I'd hit another car has ended with me hitting a house!
The owner says he knows a contractor who will head over to inspect the damage. I sit shivering in my car.
"Wystie, I love you more than a car," my husband reassures me over the phone. "I'm just thankful you didn't go over the cliff."
The owner says I should wait inside where it's warmer as several men, presumably the contractors, arrive to survey my damage. I watch them through the window.
My phone rings. I had texted my friend I was meeting that I'd just had an accident.
"Wystie, it's a car, and it can be fixed. At least you're okay."
I cry harder, unable to catch my breath. What if I can't get my car home to my kindergarteners tomorrow? Jazlynn was worried about me being gone, and now I'd done something dumb. I'll have to be gone longer!
"This is trauma. You know that."
Oh, yeah, trauma, that topic I've been writing about all weekend. One of the contractors moves closer to my car, throws a comment over his shoulder, and all laugh.
"They're looking at what I did and laughing at me!"
"Who cares! Let 'em laugh," he says.
Then it hits me.
"I'm just like Evelyn and the water bottle," I say.
Instantly, I'm flooded with peace. Of course, I'd been transported back to childhood without realizing I'd made the trip. Inside, we're all still waiting to be found in our complex and confusing moments. I needed comfort the same way Evelyn did sitting in the office, alone and humiliated. Emotions reveal the truths about where our identities are bound to the challenging moments in our past—moments when we felt isolated or vulnerable.
The estimation is more than eleven thousand dollars' worth of damage to my car and the carport. My humiliation is only eased by the fact that I'm eager to use the experience for good.
I see Evelyn enter the cafeteria and make her way toward me. Although she's wearing her COVID mask, her eyes tell me she is smiling. Moving her toward the wall, I slide down, and she mimics me. I hug her as my students grab their lunch cards and file past.
"I did a bad thing this weekend," I say.
Evelyn's eyes get bigger above her mask. "You did?"
"Yep. Do you remember the hand sanitizer and the water bottle?" I ask.
Her eyes dart to the ground for a split second but then shoot back to mine. She nods.
"I wrote about that in my book about Mister Rogers this weekend."
"I'm in your book a lot, huh?"
"Yes, you've given me lots of material. So, I was at the top of this big hill that was someone's driveway, and my car rolled into their house!"
"Whoa! That's bad."
"I guess I'm my mistake," I bait her.
"No, you're not. You aren't your mistake. Remember?"
I grab her into a hug she gladly receives.
"You're so stinking right! I knew you'd tell me the truth. In the middle of it, I said to my friend, 'Everyone is looking at me.'"
"Hey, just like me. You're just like me!"
"Yes, I'm just like you," I say.
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