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Mr. Bailey's Word
My drivers Ed teacher was a patient old man with deep white hair, and thick silver rimmed glasses which extended from his eyebrows to mid cheek. He always wore a pair of light colored khakis and a bright neon yellow shirt with “Road-Ready Drivers Education” embroidered in two lines on the left side of his chest. His name was simply: Mr. Bailey. Everyday for a week Mr. Bailey explained to me the ins and outs of driving, and everyday for a week he hammered into his uninterested pupils how dangerous driving was, and assured us that if one of us did not drive defensively one of us would die. I think I must have been sleeping during that part, or I just didn’t care.
My first car was a 1994 green Ford Ranger pickup truck with 65,000 miles on it. The rubber like steering wheel had become sticky from wear but the rest of the car from its light grey seats to its stained vinyl dashboard to the smell of my blue pine tree air freshener was perfect and suited me completely. My goal every time I stepped into my beautiful green monster was to look as cool as possible, whether it was my “pimpin’” aviator glasses with gold frames or the thump of my cassette adaptor; which, at its best could probably rise just about the sound of a squeaking mouse. But I didn’t care about my cheap outdated stereo or my corny attempt at “pimpin’,” all that mattered was that I had a truck and I had freedom.
One night I set out in my truck to work on a school project at a friend’s house about a mile away. I had on my patented Duke Blue Devil shorts and my old grey workout shirt with red lettering. As I approached the first intersection of the journey, I was stopped by a red light. While I waited, I looked with admiration at the brand new maroon Cadillac Escalade in the turning lane to my left. It had a gleaming chrome grill and sparkling tires. I pondered how long and hard I would have to work in order to afford that beautiful piece of American engineering. I lost thought of the car as it turned and waited for the turn arrow to end. I crept out into the cross walk and as soon as the light turned green I was off. Pushing on my rubber, rectangular accelerator, I continued through the intersection. Ten yards from the other side I saw a golden flash followed by a screeching, scratching bang which pierced the deepest recesses of my ear.
I sat halted in the middle of the intersection. I opened my door with my limp arm that felt like a jello filled plastic bag. I sat in the driver’s seat stunned like I had just witnessed something profound. My jaw felt like it had come out of its left hinge, and I had to caress it just to make sure it wasn’t dislodged. The stench of burnt rubber scalded my nostrils and was so potent I could taste the griminess in the back of my throat. My body was as taut as a close line. As I looked down at my disheveled black thirty dollar floor mats which I had received as a birthday present, I contemplated what the hell had just happened to me.
I finally decided after what seemed like an eternity to get out of my car. I dropped my left leg out first and my right leg slowly followed. I put all my weight on the worn dim asphalt and begged the earth to hold me up. The terrible taste of rubber was still choking me and I was shaking uncontrollably. The entire intersection looked like a pool full of murky asphalt and millions of miniscule shards of glass. I turned back to the car because the one thing racing through my mind was the fact that I needed my phone to call my parents.
The intersection was well lit by four towering street lights. They bathed the street with a bright white light; not the yellow light that comes from incandescent light bulbs, but the kind of pure white light that can only be obtained by halogen lights. I dug my fidgety hand into my left pocket looking for my phone, but found nothing. I turned back to look into the truck to see if it had fallen out. And then I gazed upon what had happened to my gorgeous forest green baby.
The side panels had buckled on impact and now protruded out at sharp points like a cartoon. The hood was just the same. The filthy plastic covering my headlights was shattered to pieces, but somehow my lights were unscathed and still shown brightly, illuminating the millions of diamonds scattered about the intersection. I reached to the floor of the passenger side and felt around on the coarse floor mat for my phone. I found it and began to try and dial my dad. The violent, sudden, full-body spasms made dialing the hard, smooth, plastic numbers on my phone almost impossible. The digits seemed to be no bigger than the head of a pin. For a moment I didn’t think I would be able to dial the ten digits required to have direct contact with support. After some perseverance and several attempts, the phone began to ring. Two rings later I was talking to my dad.
“I just got into an accident.”
“Yeah I just got in an accident.”
“How? Where at?” He had that equivocal sound in his voice which most people would characterize as irritated, but I could tell he was worried.
“I don’t know dad…it just kind of…just happened…at 84th and Old Cheney.”
“Well I’ll be right there.” Just as the conversation was ending, I heard what I had been dreading.
“Who is it and what happened?” I had prayed that if I ever got into an accident my dad would answer the phone because my mom is no Michael Jordan and doesn’t handle pressure well. I figured I better cut my losses, and hung up. There was no point in waiting for her to pick up the phone.
By this time the police and an ambulance had arrived. I decided to take a seat on the grey jagged concrete median. I squatted like a Roman watching the aftermath of a great battle at the coliseum. Studying the carnage of the previous events, my stomach started to turn as my mind began to come back to reality and grasp what had happened. I felt a sudden fear about what would happen if the other driver was hurt. Her car looked as if it had been devoured by some kind of Herculean monster. The paramedics were circled around her car and the words of the wise Mr. Bailey echoed through my cerebrum,
“Always look both ways before proceeding through an intersection.”