That moment just before impact seemed to almost slow to a crawl, like a slow-motion replay, as I watched in utter jaw-dropping disbelief.
The way a spectator at an F1 race would watch as a race car suddenly goes off course and flips.
I knew what was about to happen, but I was powerless to stop it in time.
My first thought however when we hit the car in front wasn’t: “Oh no, Caleb!”
Instead, it was: “Oh no, not again!!”
That was quickly followed by “…this is so inconvenient….I can’t believe this is happening (again)…I must stay silent and admit to nothing…my family and friends will think I’m now officially a certified reckless driver!”
Yesterday was a day like many others. Except for the rain.
The kind tropical trees and monsoon canals dread. The kind motorists groan and curse at as they dash into their vehicles all soaking wet and ease out of their parking lots into the soggy roads. Where windscreens get so fogged up you can barely see beyond two vehicles ahead, as you make your way reluctantly along the congested and wet highway beside other equally disgruntled drivers.
It was my usual run every morning to chauffeur my son Caleb to school. A trip that typically takes 20-25 minutes; made longer yesterday when the weather dumped down the heaven’s equivalent of a full (and bottomless) pail of water all at once.
SPLASH! SPLASH! SPLASH!
There we were, exiting the highway to connect to another that would get us to his school. And just as I tried to make sure we don’t miss the turn, it happened.
According to Huffpost, the top 15 most common reasons for car accidents include rain and tailgating. Those were my reasons yesterday.
I should have known better, especially the tailgating part, since that explained my first car accident in 2013, which resulted in a four-car pile-up (I was Car Number 3). Then too I had been fortunate to escape unscathed.
There had been no rain then, but it was past 10.30 pm on a stretch of expressway (not far from my home) that was notorious for traffic accidents.
I had been tired from attending a long media ethics course that had just concluded on the opposite end of the country from where I live.
(‘Night driving’ by the way, is also on that list of common reasons for accidents)
But while I’m very grateful that we emerged from yesterday’s calamity with nothing more than a crumpled car front and exposed engine – and my bruised ego (the car in front barely registered any damage) – I was more upset that I had all those thoughts that I had when it happened.
Shouldn’t my priority be Caleb and how he’s doing?
True, I did take a quick glance at him to see if he was ok.
True, the impact only smashed up my car, but left Caleb and me with nothing more than a momentary shock.
True, the other party (a mild-mannered looking driver in his mid 50s, and his wife) were even tempered and didn’t cause a scene despite the potential danger and inconvenience I caused when I ran headlong into their car.
True, the setback lasted less than ten minutes, and I ended up arriving at Caleb’s school just five minutes late.
Still, as I reflect now what happened, I berate myself for not showing more immediate concern when the crash took place. Concern, not just for Caleb, but also for the other party.
Instead, I just took the necessary crash photos, exchanged identification and contact numbers with the other driver before taking off. All because I was more eager to resume my mission and plan for the morning, and get my son to school.
All of my initial thoughts when the accident took place seemed painfully protectionist and self-centred now.
Not a proud moment for a man.
Nor a dad.
For this was the first time I had a passenger. That previous time seven years ago, it was just me.
But this wasn’t any ordinary passenger. This was my nine-year old son. And I put his life in mortal danger during a wet and rainy peak-hour morning traffic condition. Not making any attempts to drive slower, despite the downpour. Instead, driving at almost the same speed I would during sunny weather.
So if nothing else, this accident has exposed the glaring hole in my inner world, one filled with self-absorption and selfish drivenness. One which seems to have little room for my loved ones when something bad like a crisis strikes.
This incident has certainly exposed ‘to the surface’ not just the engine of my car.
It has also exposed my ‘inner engine’ too!
And if it looks anything like my car yesterday, then it too is in dire need of repair, makeover and inner healing!