Today was a good day. A “let’s make you chairwoman of the board” day (seriously, this happened). A “we want to pay you for that thing you wrote” kind of day (this happened, too). A “here’s a way to turn something into gold with no fine print” kind of day. I’m afraid to look a good thing in the eye, afraid that my felix felicis potion will run out, so I’m going to tell a quick story of a day that wasn’t so good, at least on the surface.
Junior year of high school. Winter. End of the school day. We had an ice storm the night before and a two hour delay into school that morning, and by the end of the day, the temperature had risen enough for the snow and ice to melt and then refreeze after I got out from play practice (I was that kind of nerd).
Norah Jones blasted on my car speakers as I rolled through the stop sign at the end of the school’s driveway, directly into a passing car. Neither of us was going faster than fifteen MPH, but the impact slowed everything down to the beat of Norah Jones croony voice.
The lady was frantic. It was my fault. I couldn’t stop because of the ice, but she had the right of way. I took her in as she yelled at me: short, short-haired, and older (I realize that she was probably five years older than I am now, ouch). If I were a dog, I would have rolled over and shown my belly, but instead, I cried. At least five inches taller than her and I cried. She snapped at me to get my insurance card, and when I slid back to my car, I realized that I had
Who does this? Just me, obviously. I didn’t even have a phone with me to call my dad to help me figure a way out of this mess, and this woman just looked me up and down and then, looked her car up and down. No damage, except to my ego.
“C’mon,” she said. “I live just up the road.”
She put me inside of the car I had just hit and truly, she did just live up the road.
(Side note here that future me is yelling at past me as I write this: she could have been anyone! but past me was the kind of me who got lost in a mall as a five year old, had a stranger help reunite me with my grandma, and then spread the gospel of “DO talk to strangers”. Nowadays, with kids of my own, I’ve eaten from the tree of knowledge and newspapers and it is a bitter fruit.)
At her house I called my dad, and flabbergasted just about describes his reaction. The woman made me tea and didn’t snap much more at me while we waited. I remember being afraid to drop the mug, afraid that one more thing would make her call the cops like she should have at the scene anyway.
My dad did come and they exchanged some insurance information “just in case.” He drove me back to my car, spare key in his hand, and let me inside. “Be good,” I think he said. Or he should have. Or he said it with his eyes, and I tried to.
And no, nothing earth-shatteringly bad happened that day, but the deep-down sense that someone’s laughing at you didn’t leave me through the whole thing, even with the taste of Sleepytime tea in a stranger’s mug dripping down my throat. I guess I didn’t know that it was future me, on a good day, thinking back and being grateful that at least time does pass, good or bad.