Never Underestimate the Kindness of Strangers

–I crashed into their cars but their empathy never waned.

Wednesday was a gorgeous day here in the Chicago area. Thus far, Autumn has been grand, just like it’s supposed to be, but often isn’t. The temperatures have been balmy, the colors, glorious and for once, all felt right with the world.

Until I got into a car accident and even now, I’m not quite sure what transpired, or how long it lasted. It could have been ten seconds, or twenty. I don’t know. Extreme shock will do that to a person.

With the glow of a rare good mood upon me, I climbed into my Fiat to run some errands. My last stop was to be at a Fresh Market for some shrimp. Now, this particular market is about three minutes from our house and I shop there frequently.

Let me segue for a moment and share an experience I had with my car, last winter, I believe it was.

Once again, I was shopping for groceries and was pulling out of my parking space at Jewel/Osco when my car accelerated on its own and literally zoomed out of the space. Luckily, I was able to stop and no cars were behind me. It scared the living shit out of me, though. I must stress that there was no ice or snow on the ground, so I didn’t “skid.” This happened a couple of times before I realized that it wasn’t my error, i.e., I didn’t hit the wrong pedal, and that my car had somehow turned on me. My first thought was that there was an issue with the gas pedal, that perhaps it was sticking, so I brought my “Chocolate Kiss” into the shop where my husband and I have trusted our cars for years. They couldn’t find anything wrong with it and unfortunately, I didn’t request any further exploration. So, I put it out of my mind, as one does when one would rather believe that the shit isn’t going to hit the fan at a later date.

But it did, friends. Boy, did it ever.

As much as I’m trying to avoid it, I need to get to the “incident.” I pulled into the Fresh Market parking lot and spied a space next to the cart caddy, which is curbed on both sides. As I SLOWLY made the right turn into the space, as I know how to park a car, BOOM! The engine revved, the car accelerated like nothing I’ve ever experienced and before I knew what happened, my car slammed into the car NEXT to the car across from me. I’ll just call it the “white car,” as it sustained the worst damages. And that car hit the one next to it, as well as the one in front of it.

Yes. You read that right. Three cars. I’m not entirely certain, but I think my car bucked like a stallion and hit the white car twice. Most of the impact hit the middle and right front fender. In short, it was f#%ked up.

And so was I.

I wasn’t hurt, but was in such a state that one of the kids who corrals the carts called an ambulance. In fact, two came. Although I couldn’t catch my breath and was hyperventilating, I managed to squeak out that I didn’t want an ambulance. The EMTs stuck their head in the car, just to make sure I was alive, I guess, and backed off. They hung around for a while, though because as I said, I was in a state.

Thank goodness that the owners of the cars involved weren’t in their vehicles. In fact, they were still shopping, soon to have their days ruined.

Nothing like this has ever happened to me. Oh yeah, I’ve had a fender bender during my many years on the road, but I have an excellent driving record. No less than the State of Illinois told me so when they renewed my license! Sure. I had my renewed license but did I have my updated and flimsy paper Geico insurance card? Hell, no!

Frantically, I tried calling my husband who was on errands of his own, and guess what? I couldn’t figure out my phone. I was that messed up. Finally, I got in touch with him and crying, shrieked out that he had to find the card, which I thought I’d left on the dresser in our bedroom. Do I have to say it? Not there. There was an expired card there, but not the one I’d recently received in the mail.

My husband said he was on his way to me and ended the call.

At the point when I was wondering if things could get even more f#%ked up, the police arrived. Of course, they did. It wasn’t a “they,” though. It was a “she.” A cutie who looked to be around twenty-one with bright, green nails and a pert ponytail.

At this point, the owners of the other cars were outside inspecting their damages and I wanted nothing more than for a very large hole to open up and suck me in.

I stuttered to the cop that I had just received my updated Geico cards but had misplaced them. She was very kind and waited in her black and white while I tried to get the company on the horn to verify that I was indeed covered. As far as Geico’s performance, I never had to deal with them in any way after signing up, but the gal I spoke with did her best to calm me down and emailed my cards so I could verify my coverage.

Keep in mind that while I was sort of functioning, I must have looked as if I was on my way to a massive coronary or stroke because the people who I’d hit — no, rather my car had hit — were more concerned about me, than their own cars. As I write this it’s difficult for even me to believe but it’s true. When my husband arrived, they asked him several times if I was alright. And, when I was able to communicate between sobbing gasps, they assured me that everything was “okay.”

“Cars can be fixed,” one woman said. “That’s what insurance is for.” Another told me, “As long as you’re alright, don’t worry about it.”

I could barely fathom what I was hearing. Not one nasty comment. Not one, “what the f#%k did you do?” And, no stinkeye. Nada. Most likely, these folks were as stunned as I was, but for different reasons.

Thinking about this, I can only thank the Universe that no one was in their vehicles at the time of the crash and that some hapless shopper didn’t take a shortcut and walk in front of the “white car” as, well, I don’t even want to imagine that. That car had to be towed, by the way, while mine was still driveable. That said, I drove my husband’s Toyota home and he drove the Fiat. We were only minutes from our home, thankfully.

Now, as all claims have been filed, my next hurdle is taking my car to the Geico-vetted shop for an estimate and repairs. That happens Monday morning and I’ll probably white-knuckle it all the way. My hubby can’t go with me to drive me home, so I’ll probably call a Lyft. I said “no” to a rental car, for the time being until I find out how long I’ll be without my car.

Of course, that won’t be the end of it as I have to find out what the hell happened and do whatever is necessary to ensure that it doesn’t happen, again.

SIDENOTE: I just attempted to drive myself to the market which is a couple of minutes from here and my car isn’t safe to drive. It started to rev itself up again and the “have engine checked” alert came on. VALIDATION!

As clarification, my experience is called “unintentional acceleration.” It’s occurred in Fiats, in the earlier models, especially, and other makes. Trust me, I’ve done my homework. And, no, I didn’t step on the gas by mistake. I’ve gone over this in my mind ad nauseam and I’m certain that the car took off, jerking and bucking, on its own.

I hope this never happens to you as it’s going to take me a minute to get over it. Hopefully, once the repairs are underway, I can start to put the images behind me.

One thing I don’t want to forget is the empathy the other drivers displayed that day. For a cynic like me, their actions did indeed prove that human kindness still exists. Even in a world, and country, fractured by greed and discrimination, and sheer evil.

Even, now.


Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn
Sherry McGuinn is a long-time, Chicago area, advertising/marketing writer, blogger and, for the last fifteen years, screenwriter. A big-time dreamer and proud of it, Sherry has had two short films produced, one in L.A., the other in New York. Both won several awards and screened at festivals but she is still "fighting the good fight," in order to become a full-time, working screenwriter. A passionate straight-shooter who never rests on her laurels, Sherry writes about damn near everything because how do you encapsulate…life? Unflinching in her determination to “just tell the truth,” Sherry strives to educate, engage and inspire others to follow their dreams. A lifelong animal lover and advocate, Sherry resides in a Chicago suburb with her husband and their three fabulous felines.

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