As promised, the crazy women of last weekend, Part Deux. For background, let’s quickly download the relevant details: Sunday afternoon Alison was crossing along a traffic circle with a clear right of way, when a woman (we’ll call her Hippy) looked to merge into traffic against the glare of the setting sun; Alison paused; Hippy paused; Alison proceeded … Hippy gunned it. Alison vaulted up the hood of the car, a maneuver prompting more than one “ninja” analogy from witnesses and subsequent commenters alike; Hippy drove through Alison, bouncing her up over the windshield and depositing her in a heap on the far side of the car; onlookers gasped; Alison (on her way to her feet) apologized to her friend Richard for hanging up the phone because she’d just been hit by a car, then unleashed a torrent of profanity that she later wished she could trademark; Hippy promptly lost her shit; the police came and made a report; Hippy drove Alison to the emergency room.
A few more details here (as always, told in Alison’s ridiculously entertaining style). And ignore for a moment the question of getting in the car with a woman who had just demonstrated her complete inability to drive, because hey, she’d taken a pretty good blow to the head. I woke up from an afternoon nap to find multiple voicemails, texts and even Facebook messages from both Alison and Richard saying that I was needed at the ER toot-sweet.
Tearing into town and into the back area of the ER for the second time in 48 hours, I found Alison supine on a gurney and relatively calm, while Hippy was watching me enter the room with perma-cringe. In a glance, I took in the tight pants and silver lemay puffy jacket, the bobbed cut, the puppy dog eyes. Then brushed past all of these to make sure the woman I love was functional. Alison accepted a hug with a bruised gasp, then introduced me to her attacker. Hippy is a self-professed Jewish mother, a caring soul with a “Happiness Plan” that clearly needs some modifications. Hippy looked on mournfully as Alison related the story in four-part harmony, but even through the pain, I could see a mixture of dancing amusement and irritation in Alison’s eyes. The one thing both emotions had in common was that she didn’t need Hippy there.
It’s difficult to be truly angry with someone so abjectly sorry, and once I made sure Alison was okay (under the circumstances), there wasn’t really a reason to be. So I listened as Hippy exclaimed how happy she was to meet two fellow Spartans, how she was a veterinarian because she even loves animals, as she told me how her family had come down to the accident scene to make sure she was okay. She was practically Buddhist in her inability to contemplate hurting anyone or anything. She has a “happiness plan,” which is her approach to making the world a better place. Presumably, the prius is part of her eco-yuppy approach to doing that. I told Hippy that everything was okay as long as Alison was all right, and that she should stop worrying.
But it didn’t end there.
After close to an hour of putting up with her sorrow, I pulled out the stops and said to Hippy, “Hippy, you’ve been so worried about Alison for the last several hours, but you have to think about yourself. You have to stop and realize that you’re okay. Would you like a hug?” And, enjoying Alison’s amused look as she processed what was going on, Hippy accepted and I gave her a hug. I give very good hugs, but this one wasn’t dispositive. She kept moping and talking about how good her family was to support her through this difficult ordeal.
I’ll admit, I was a trial lawyer for some time and my litigation Spidey sense was tingling bigtime at several points. Hippy was so sorry, it was like she was silently begging us not to sue her ass. I’m sure that were the roles reversed, I’d feel terrible. My mother chided me for complaining that Hippy was so needy, but here’s the thing — even as Alison is sitting there waiting for a CAT scan, she’s comforting the woman who obliged her to spend that evening in the ER. Eventually, our repeated and pointed comments about Hippy’s children at home persuaded her to go home and see to her family. I was there; her presence was no longer required. Even then, she made a point of offering Alison chocolate bars that she also made a point of having bought for her kids and husband for Valentine’s Day. Because, who knows how long we’ll be there? Needless to say, the candy went home to her family.
And it didn’t end there. We exchanged information and I made it very clear that Alison was flying the next morning to Boston, where she had her annual unmissable leadership conference. Alison’s going to be busy, I said, so contact me if you need to talk or want updates.
Just before we left, Alison realized that while she’d retained her cell phone and wallet, her keys had gone missing somewhere around the impact. We drove to the scene of the crime and spent 20 minutes peering into crosswalks and storm drains, with no luck. I called Hippy and asked her to check the car; she returned negative news a few minutes later. Alison joked, “Tell her to check under the windshield wipers.” I thought that was funny until the next morning, when we got an email from Hippy with the subject line, “Found your keys!!“:
I hope you are doing ok.
I found your keys inside the hood of my car!
I can drop them off if you wish or I can hold onto them till you return from your trip.
Oh, Alison. I shouldn’t have joked, because you were right all along. We arranged that Alison would stop by and pick up her keys when she got back to town. We weren’t going to make a big deal out of the fact that the keys showed up in the engine compartment.
But it didn’t end there. When Hippy didn’t get an immediate response to her email, she called me. A flagrantly-paraphrased 45-minute conversation:
Hippy: “Is Alison okay? I tried calling her a couple of minutes ago.”
Me: “She flew on business this morning. I think we mentioned that was going to happen.”
Hippy: “But is she okay? She didn’t answer her phone.”
Me: “I’m pretty sure we also mentioned that she wouldn’t be very reachable while on her trip. She has a leadership conference, remember?”
Hippy: “I just really need to know you guys are okay.”
Me: “It’s not both of us, it’s just Alison. She’s the one that got hurt, and I’m just the one along with you hoping that she’s okay.”
Hippy: “Well, I need to know that she’s okay.”
Me: “She’s okay, Hippy. You can talk to me if you need to know what’s going on with her, and I’ll pass along any information I have. But when Alison is on the road, she’s difficult to reach, even for me.”
Hippy: “I’m just having so much trouble getting past this.”
Me: “Well, if it helps you get over it any, try telling yourself this: You shouldn’t take the accident any harder than the victim did.” [mistake]
Hippy: “I … just … keep … thinking … what … could … have … happened.”
Me: “But it didn’t, right? We give you credit for being sorry and we’ll let you know if anything gets worse, but it looks like she got off with some bruises and a nasty knock on the head. She’s doing her thing with work this week.”
Hippy: “I’m so glad. You know, this has all been very difficult for me. I keep thinking about what could have happened.”
Me: “Yes, but it didn’t. When you went home Sunday night and hugged your husband, I bet that was the best hug you’ve had in a long time. Doesn’t the love of your children seem sweeter and don’t all the good things in your life seem better? Don’t you have a greater appreciation for this things that you might have taken for granted earlier?”
Hippy: “You guys are such good people.”
Me: “You take care, Hippy. And call me instead of Alison if you want updates or to talk you through this difficult time in your life.”
I hung up thinking I missed my calling as therapist.
But it didn’t end there. She sent multiple email messages over the next couple of days, and I spent another several hours on the phone with her over the next couple of days (simultaneously proving my boyfriend cred, and earning me Alison’s gratitude and the right to describe this quirky Buddhist on my blog).
New Rule: you aren’t allowed to take an accident you’ve caused harder than your victim, at least not to your victim.