(Photo Credit: Hannah Caterino — Yes that is my hot rod Toyota Corolla, named “Happy”)

In less than 18 months, I was in 3 car accidents—all 3 left all drivers uninjured, and none were my fault. How do I know? Well, I didn’t pay a dime for the almost ten thousand dollars’ worth of damage.

My first accident was the most dramatic. I was stopped at the bottom of a hill at a red light. A snowstorm with bonus ice was in full fury during rush hour, and I only prevented myself from sliding down the hill and into busy avenue because I crawled in first gear. Consideration is in my bones—I am considerate of others when I am aware enough. Although there was no one behind me, I pulled to the left of the lane as possible, to make room for anyone behind me wanting to make a right onto the busy avenue.

I happened to have severe anemia at the time: there are many harsh symptoms. Anemia is a reduction of red blood cell production, and these cells carry oxygen to the brain. We need oxygen to think. When I looked in my rearview mirror at the red light, a tractor trailer sliding down the icy hill behind me only elicited a casual “oh” in my mind. (As opposed to “AAAAAAAAHHHH!!”)

The tractor was able to avoid completely ramming me into traffic because I made room for others on the road. Instead, it grazed the right sight of my car, lifting it in the air and plopping me down in a confused crunchy thud.

The truck driver was responsible, pulled into a nearby gas station on the avenue when the light turned green, and I foggily followed. Heaven only knows what kind of multiple vehicle crash would have happened if the truck driver had no room and was forced to ram the back of my car. Lesson from accident #1: Thoughtfulness and consideration can create immediately good karma. (Though we should be thoughtful and considerate regardless.)

(Despite the traffic and Nor’easter, no one was hurt.) I stood in the quickly-falling ice-flakes, wavering from a depleted brain. I shrugged my shoulders at the truck driver and said flatly: “Shit happens”.

Accident #2 happened in super-slow-motion in the parking lot of the apartment building where I lived, this time in summer. Driving through the lot, leaving for work about 7am, I was suddenly rocked to the left with a hard and loud two-part metallic crunch. A neighbor of mine, who I never met before, must not have looked thoroughly before reversing out of a parking spot.

I literally had no idea what happened. No need for coffee after that.

The other driver and I exchanged apartment numbers, planned for 6pm, and went our ways. My car was drivable, but the front right wheel was screeching. I assumed the accident was my fault. However, when I pieced it together, I realized my car had a chunk of the right side missing, and it was the back of her bumper that had a bite of my Corolla (magic) dust on it..

Oh, it was her fault! I had enough oxygen – and it still took a day of thinking—but later that evening I asked for insurance information, because of the shrieking steel next to my wheel. It turned out the insurance belonged to her boyfriend’s father, and the boyfriend was not interested in taking responsibility. His mannerisms were superficially cordial, but his words suggested I was to blame with an accusatory tone.

My voice shook when I proposed that we let the insurance companies decide whose fault it was.

Geico found me innocent, and I had a check in my hand for repairs within a week, but the boyfriend appealed the insurance company’s decision, and they almost canceled the check. (Yes, this can happen—even after money was paid for damage.)

The photos told the real story, and there was damage in the depths of Happy’s front hood to boot.

(For the record, Happy earned the name from a mechanic.)

Lesson from accident #2: Think before you take responsibility, and advocate for yourself if needed. Consult a neutral third party if possible, in the event of a conflict. (Geico insured us both in this situation.)

(Practical lesson also: Call the police for a report after a car collision.) 

(Bonus Lesson: Dark grey cars are hit more often because the color blends with the color of pavement– drivers don’t notice them as clearly as cars of other colors.)  Introducing accident #3:

Accident #3 was last week, and although I saw it coming, I couldn’t avoid it. The driver made a left turn onnto a main avenue that I was driving. Cars were all around me, and I couldn’t avoid the collision. An iridescent blue Accord drove smack into my right side, sending my hubcap on a trip (see photo). The blue car kept going.

Even though I rehearsed what to do in the event of another accident, my brain was in the frantic zone. The collision was a real “crash”, bringing people running out of their homes, offering help, just as the sky opened and rain came pouring down—practically a movie scene. Thinking the other driver fled, I spun in the downpour, refusing help from someone who said I looked like I was in shock. I searched like crazy for signs of the blue car.

I knew to call the police. I knew to take pictures. But I just spun in the rain.

The other driver eventually emerged—she had brain enough to pull into the nearby school parking lot. Her name was Chantal, and she immediately apologized and looked like she felt terrible. She took responsibility for the collision and gave me a genuine and loving hug before we parted.

The sun came out right then too, just like a movie.

Lesson from accident #3: Don’t immediately refuse help if someone is offering and you DO need help. Because this was my third accident, without injury but still jolting, my brain was not able to think clearly as I spun in the rain. A kind bystander had offered help, and I was all: RAWR NO THANK YOU. (Honestly, I didn’t realize I was in a minor shock, that I could use some guidance.)

It’s always good to be thoughtful before agreeing to receive something. Nothing terrible resulted from me refusing, but I realized how thoroughly I am wired to “do it myself”.

The bonus lesson here was that the warmth of a genuine person, and the power of a hug, can go a long way. The third time really was a charm in this case, as Chantal was a surprising delight.

Accidents often teach us lessons in hindsight. What were some of your foibles? What did you learn?