“Sure, it’s paid for!” I said. You’d think by now I’d have learned.

It wasn’t like I didn’t get it at home. My mom used to tell the story about when she’d been married for just two months, and one evening found herself saying “I hope it rains so hard tonight that I don’t have to teach school tomorrow!”

The following day would be remembered for the infamous Fort Worth flood of 1949, which Mom forevermore considered all her fault.

Now, I’m not quite that bad – but I have noticed whenever I think I can just stride across a room I will inevitably trip on the carpet. And so, as I saw the blur out of the corner of my eye, it wasn’t my life that flashed before me. It was those words.

“It’s paid for”.

Jim Croce was right. You don’t spit into the wind.

Granted, my truck isn’t brand new. I’ve done brand new. If I can avoid it, I’ll never go into debt over anything on wheels ever again – unless Fiona and I decide to start selling candles while roaming Montana or join the renaissance festival circuit. Besides, we’ve just learned where proclamations get me – haven’t we?

But, seriously. Long ago I bought a really expensive car out of pure ego, and thereafter spent so much time upside down you’d have though I performed for Cirque du Soleil. Two weeks after I bought that money hole a lady slammed on her brakes twenty feet in front of me. I had no idea how long it takes to get the paint on one of those German cars right. For me, getting that Ram paid off was a thing.

Which is why I couldn’t be mad. Sometimes I almost hear God inject, “Now, as you were saying?”

Oh, yeah, there’s that split second when you’re spinning around when you think if this doesn’t kill me someone is gonna get it. Starting with city engineers, who surely must have noticed over the decades that this particular intersection is a disaster. Nary a week goes by that I don’t hear emergency vehicles racing toward it. From the light where I waited, you can only turn left or right – and drivers routinely sail through the protecting red. Partly because many have their heads over their stupid phones, but often because there are so many shrubs near the light on the corner that the only visible signal is above the roadway – and they can’t look up in time to react.

At the last second I gunned it, and thought for thislong that I’d managed to get clear. Then came the whomp! Under the passenger compartment in the middle and she might not have walked away, and I might have ended on my roof. Jumped far enough to avoid that, but not quite far enough.

My foot was still on the gas as I spun, and somehow I power-slid into a perfect job of parallel parking along the curb. I’m quite sure anyone who saw it thought how in the world did he do that??? It wasn’t intentional. My knee and neck hurt stepping out, but not badly, and there was nothing leaking from either the truck or me. Okay. Check on the other driver.

I don’t know about you, but walking up to a vehicle containing a terrified, sobbing young woman about the age of one your children is not a fun thing. Neither is hitting a truck at 40 miles an hour. Thankfully her vehicle’s safety engineers earned their money, and we hit in a way that probably kept things from being worse. But unlike my truck, her sedan would have to be hauled away.

Once it occurs to you how easily it all could have been much worse bent metal doesn’t seem like much. What a hundred other drivers do at that intersection every day happened to catch us in a frozen little lousy moment, and it was hard to imagine how anyone could ever feel worse than she obviously did.

Honest to goodness, my general view of trucks is they are supposed to be beat up. It’s probably just me, but tricked out luxury on a truck is like a cup holder on a saddle. It makes no sense. When you use a truck for what trucks are for, dings and dents are part of the package. Between thinking she’d nearly killed us both and seeing the actual damage, “shattered” wouldn’t be too strong a word. And then she says she’s just moved back home to get married here this spring. It’s her parents’ car. Some bags are in the back. Her fiancé is on his way. Words are pouring out. What would he say? What would they do? How could she face him? I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

If Dad Jody hadn’t already kicked in, that did it. I’m currently in the process of teaching my daughter how to drive. In fact, we use that very intersection as an example of exactly why you never pull into an intersection immediately when the light turns green. Yes, I texted Madi a picture of the scene – and said, “Remember how we talked about…?”

So, what can one do but laugh? Anyone feeling that low does not need a lecture. Comfort and calm are important to instill. No point feeling bad at that stage anyway. What’s done is done.  “Well,” I offered. “I needed to get the turn signal back there fixed anyway.”

Thankfully, she smiled.

I think I was 16 when I first brought home a busted automobile. I inadvertently tried to take my Pop’s ’70 Malibu over a concrete curb at right angles. Ewell Fuel needed five months just to straighten the frame. That wasn’t the last one, either. The guy who nailed me head-on near TCU that year I was headed to pick a Colonial badge. That time I got clocked leaving the radio station on the way to a remote. I ended the day with a concussion when I really only intended to get my car washed. That dumb TV show I was even more stupid to be on, backing right into a Marine just home from deployment. You can’t make up stupid like that. And even though we’re all guilty of establishing our own brand of brain-dead, when you’re 26 it can seem like the end of the world.

I think by the time we shared all the insurance and contact information, she felt better. I sure hope so.

The long and short of it is that everyone is fine, insurance will figure it all out, Madi knows in ways I never could before have taught that we all need keep our radar on, and a lovely couple is still planning a spring wedding. I think I may be invited.

And I’m getting the turn signal fixed.