Sometimes I have trouble sleeping. I’ll stay up reading obscure articles on my iPhone or making mental lists of my “to-dos” and “faults” or sometimes I’ll just sit and stare at the wall, thinking about all the other things I ought to be doing instead.
Inevitably, those drawn-out nights turn to day with an early morning Starbucks run. The location just down the street from me is – fun fact! – the only SB drive-thru in Boston, although I personally think that SB drive-thru is the biggest hoax ever foisted on humanity. So today, having slept not very much, it’s 5am, and I’m rolling down 1A South in unusually heavy traffic. Road work or whatever – like, who closes down a whole LANE right before RUSH HOUR, #god# – and I glance in the rearview and there is this SUV just hurtling at me from behind.
“WOOAHHF” Not the most eloquent of epithets, but it was all I could manage as the wind was knocked out of me. A half-empty can of Diet Coke can went flying across the car. My Yaris stalled out.
The driver of the SUV approached me first, a mild-faced twentysomething with a slight Hispanic accent. “I have a big favor to ask you.” He leaned earnestly near my window.
He didn’t have a license, it turned out, his girlfriend was pregnant. I don’t know the penalty for driving without a license, but I’m sure it’s no joke, and (call me racist) I worried for him if he happened to be undocumented. On the other hand, it really seemed like he slammed into me, my insurance deductible is perilously high (as are the points on my license), and I honestly don’t have the financial freedom to give anyone the benefit of the doubt right now.
It made me think of the time before college graduation where an ex-con driving someone else’s Toyota SUV backed into my Hyundai Excel at a stop sign. The damage to my car seemed innocuous, but it turned out that he’d crushed the radiator into the engine, effectively totaling the vehicle.
That time, I did not involve the police at the scene of the accident. This time, thankfully, the choice was made for me. The collision happened right next to a cadre of state troopers, on detail monitoring the aforementioned roadwork. I handed over my license and registration, and a few moments later the other driver was taken out of his car. There was much waving of flashlights, and I could see his passenger frantically making cell phone calls. I checked the weather. It was snowing.
After some time, the police moved us down the street ~~INTO THE STARBUCKS LOT~~ to finish up paperwork. The mild-faced SUV driver, who was suddenly screwed on a level I don’t wish to imagine, stood outside his vehicle, facing the headlights. Our eyes met awkwardly, and I mouthed “I’m sorry” in that weird way I often do when I’m saying something I know won’t be heard. And he nodded, like, it’s ok.
It turned out that he didn’t get arrested, which I felt good about, but the car was towed and then his pregnant girlfriend showed up, all in a tizzy. We stumbled over one another with apologies before I slunk into Starbucks to get my long-awaited dark roast and morning bun. On a whim, I also bought two small cups of Pike Place, for the unlicensed dudes in the SUV. I figured it was a bad start to a really shitty morning for them, and free coffee sometimes can make things feel a little less bleak. At least, I hope.