I was a teenager. I don’t know how old. I hadn’t been driving long. I wasn’t generally a troublemaker and I certainly wasn’t trying to do anything terrible, but it happened. It wasn’t that big of a deal, really, but what I did in response was, well, not very responsible.
I’m driving in my white 1998 Ford Focus in my small town. There isn’t much traffic, but I’m talking to the passenger I have with me. We are laughing or talking, possibly slightly distracted. That’s when it happens.
I lightly, I mean super duper lightly, rear-end the lady in front of me at a red light. <gasp>
Here’s what I do.
Yep, I just sat there in my car like nothing happened. I looked at the passenger next to me, and we just ignored it together. Locked eyes and just mentally thought it was a good idea to not get out of the car.
Well, the mom in front of me did get out of the car.
She saw I was a teenager.
She saw I was not taking responsibility for what had just happened.
This is what she did.
“You just rear-ended me. Let’s trade insurance information.” Okay, I think, easy enough. And then…”I have a baby and an elderly woman in the car and I’ll need to make sure they are safe and don’t have whiplash or anything.”
That’s when I mentally start freaking out. “Okay,” I barely whisper as I give her my insurance info and we swap numbers. We both went on our way.
For days I was sure something was going to happen. And then days turned into weeks and then it eased from my mind as I realized she wasn’t going to call. It wasn’t until years later, when I become a mom, that I really understand what she had done for me.
She reminded me to take responsibility for my actions no matter how small they are. Step up and own it. I will tell you this, that moment of freaking out made a huge impact on me.
There were no marks on our cars, it wasn’t even a terrible ordeal, and thinking back there was no way anyone in the car was remotely harmed.
The fact remains: I should have gotten out of the car.
To that anonymous mom who freaked me out, thank you! You are a wonderful mother and passed on an important lesson I am already teaching my kids. (And, no, I have never rear-ended someone again!)